Dagashi: Japan's Fun Snack!

Dagashi: Japan's Fun Snack!

Dagashi: Japan's Fun Snack!

Let's dive into the delicious and colorful world of dagashi—Japan's cheap and playful treat! Dagashi isn’t just sweets, it’s a tiny, affordable treasure packed with culture, flavor, and fun! It even brings back childhood memories for Japanese people. Here’s everything you need to know about this Japanese treat that has tickled taste buds for generations!

  • Japanese name: だがし (pronounced “duh-guh-shee”)
  • Food type: Cheap candies and snacks
  • Fun fact: Different regions of Japan have their own popular dagashi!
dagashi 

 

WHAT IS JAPANESE DAGASHI?

What is Japanese dagashi

Dagashi is a fun and inexpensive treat from Japan that comes in many forms—candy, chocolate, gum, chips, or even dried seafood! From sweet and sour, to sometimes bizarre flavors, dagashi also comes in many flavors. Think of it as a cousin of regular candy with a unique and whimsical twist. It usually comes in bright, colorful wrappers, and often includes a small toy or surprise prize to attract kids and adults alike.

 

WHAT MAKES DAGASHI FUN & SPECIAL?

What makes dagashi special

Dagashi candy snacks are well-loved in Japan for many reasons! First, they’re incredibly low-priced, usually costing 10 to 100 yen (less than a dollar) so kids can buy them easily. These snacks last a long time too, so you don't have to worry about them spoiling, even in hot weather.

 

fue ramune 

Moreover, it’s not just the colorful wrappers that make dagashi exciting. These candies and snacks can be interactive, too! Some dagashi snacks can be played with before eating, like “fue ramune,” which is a candy you can blow like a whistle. Plus, sometimes you can find a prize inside, like another snack or a little toy. With all these fun features, it's no wonder dagashi is loved by kids and adults alike!

 

WHAT DOES DAGASHI MEAN?

What does dagashi mean

The term “dagashi” is a playful word in the Japanese language, coming from “da” (meaning futile or negligible) and “kashi” (snacks). This essentially translates to "cheap snacks." However, don’t let the name fool you. While they may be budget-friendly, the delight they provide is anything but negligible!

 

DAGASHI’S COLORFUL HISTORY

dagashi history

Now, let’s get to know how dagashi started and became popular. It all started in the Edo period (1603-1868) when people made candies from cheap ingredients like brown sugar and starch. This was the commoner’s version of the more expensive jogashi, a premium confectionery made from white sugar. The inexpensive candy was called “zogashi,” and it’s said to be the origin of dagashi.

 

dagashiya

Later in the 19th century, the name “dagashi” first appeared in Kyoto and Osaka. More varieties of dagashi were made, and it became super popular after World War II, especially during the Shōwa period (1950s to early 1980s). Kids loved to visit dagashiya, which are special stores full of dagashi, after school.

 

However, due to changes in social circumstances, the dagashiya has become fewer and fewer, as some of them changed their products or became replaced by convenience stores. Today, you can still find dagashi in some traditional shops, convenience stores, or even online. Sometimes, Japanese culture expos have displays of dagashi, letting everyone enjoy a sweet piece of history!

 

WHAT IS DAGASHI MADE OF?

What is dagashi made of

Dagashi ingredients can be as diverse as their packaging. From the simple rice puff bars coated in chocolate to gummies in a dizzying array of shapes and flavors, there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe. Ingredients commonly used include glucose, corn syrup, and less expensive substitutes for higher-priced snacks, keeping them affordable and irresistible.

 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DAGASHI

types of dagashi

Dagashi is not limited to candy – it includes a wide variety of both sweet and savory options! While there are classic dagashi types that have been around for ages, there are also many new types of dagashi that have been introduced in Japan. Let’s look at some common types of dagashi!

 

Anzu-bo

Anzu-bo

“Anzu” means apricot in Japanese, and “bo” means stick. Simply put, this candy is a dried apricot stick. It’s best enjoyed frozen on a hot summer day!

 

Baby Star ramen

Baby Star Ramen

A no-cook, crispy noodle snack? That’s Baby Star Ramen for you! This dried noodle snack is from the Japanese food manufacturer Oyatsu. It has a crispy, crunchy texture and a rich savory flavor. It’s like a pack of ramen noodles that you don’t have to cook to enjoy!

 

Big Katsu

Big Katsu

This Japanese dagashi looks like a breaded pork cutlet but is actually made from shredded surimi or fish paste. You'll find all sorts of varieties at convenience stores and snack shops, but the star of the show is the original Big Katsu from Kadō, a fan favorite since its debut in 1987.

 

Bisco

Bisco

This biscuit sandwich is manufactured by Glico, the creators of popular snacks, Pretz and Pocky. It contains lactic acid and dietary fiber so this yummy dagashi is considered a healthy treat!

 

Botan rice candy

Botan Rice Candy

Wrapped in edible, melt-in-your-mouth rice paper, this candy is a fun Japanese treat. It’s soft, chewy, and citrus-flavored. Sold as dagashi, Botan rice candy has been a favorite since Seika Foods created it in 1924. It comes in colorful packages with cool stickers or prizes inside!

 

Butamen

Butamen

Also from Oyatsu, Butamen is a mini instant ramen snack from Japan. It comes in a tiny cup and is perfect for a quick snack. Just add hot water, wait a few minutes, and enjoy the delicious, savory noodles. It's super popular with kids because it's yummy, easy to make, and comes in fun flavors.

 

Cabbage Taro

Cabbage Taro

Don’t let the name fool you—there’s no cabbage in this snack! Known in Japan as Kyabetsu Taro, these crunchy corn balls from Ibaraki Prefecture are flavored with bits of nori and yummy Japanese brown sauce.

 

Calpas

Calpas

Proving to be a big maker of dagashi, Oyatsu made another snack called Calpas. It’s a bite-sized dried sausage treat that’s perfect for a quick snack anytime.

 

candy cigarettes

Candy Cigarettes

Candy cigarettes are playful treats that look just like real cigarettes but are made out of sweet stuff like chalky sugar, bubble gum, or chocolate. Some of these fun candies even have powdered sugar inside, so when you blow on them, a little puff of sugar "smoke" comes out! They're all wrapped up in paper and packaged to look like tiny packs of cigarettes, making them a cheeky and nostalgic treat for kids and adults alike.

 

Choco Bat

Choco Bat

This yummy treat is made by Japanese food manufacturer Sanritsu, the same company known for their Genji Pie pastries. It's a chocolate-coated snack stick that looks like a mini baseball bat, which is where it gets its fun name.

 

chocolate candy

Chocolate Candy

Dagashi stores in Japan are also full of chocolate candies! They come in different shapes and are usually wrapped in fun-looking foil. They can look like gold coins, soccer balls, and sometimes even your favorite character! Some also come in foil trays that are shaped like numbers.

 

fue ramune

Fue Ramune

Another fun dagashi is fue ramune, which is similar to a ramune candy, but with a twist. Each candy has a tiny hole in the center that lets you whistle through it, making them not just tasty but also super fun to play with. Japanese confectionery Coris has a big collection of fue ramune!

 

fugashi

Fugashi

The main ingredient of this dagashi is fu, a bread-like Japanese food made with wheat gluten. It’s coated in sweet brown sugar syrup and dried, while the inner part is light and spongey.

 

fruit no mori

Fruit no Mori

Translated to “fruit forest” in English, these dagashi are cubed-shaped gummies that have a fruity taste. A pack of Fruit no Mori usually comes with a wafer bowl and a toothpick for picking the gummies!

 

Gabrichu

Gabrichu

This soft candy has a unique texture and fruity flavor that makes you want to chew and chew! The most popular one is Meigum’s Gaburichew, but other Japanese candy manufacturers like Coris also have their own version.

 

ikasomen

Ikasomen

A pack of dried squid cut into long and thin strips, this snack looks like noodles! It’s easy to eat and often served with alcoholic drinks like beer and sake.

 

kabayaki-san taro

Kabayaki-san Taro

Although “kabayaki” usually refers to grilled eel, this snack from Japanese food manufacturer Yaokin is made with walleye pollack, a different kind of fish. It’s thinly baked and seasoned with soy sauce, sweet mirin, sugar, and a touch of Shichimi Togarashi spice. And the texture? It’s tough and chewy, just like jerky.

 

kinako-bo

Kinako-bo

A beloved Japanese treat, kinako-bo is sure to bring back some sweet memories! It’s a soft, chewy candy stick made with roasted soybean flour, called kinako. It has a distinctive, mildly savory, and sweet flavor that’s a bit like a mix of mizuame (a sweet syrup) and roasted soy flour.

 

konnyaku jelly stick

Konnyaku Jelly Stick

This treat is not only delicious, it’s also fun to it! Perfect for kids, it’s a wiggly and jiggly jelly stick with a fruity flavor. It got its name from “konnyaku” or konjac, a root crop that’s also a main ingredient of this dagashi. You can refrigerate a konnyaku jelly stick before eating to cool down on a hot day!

 

konpeito

Konpeito

Konpeito is a colorful sugar candy that looks like tiny stars and comes in all sorts of flavors. Originally from Portugal, the Japanese people made it their own by using a coarse sugar center called “zarame.” Now, konpeito may be a dagashi, but some konpeito specialty stores make it with premium ingredients so it can also be a luxurious gift! To learn more about this tiny treat, check out our konpeito blog!

 

Marukawa gum

Marukawa Gum

Marukawa is a Japanese manufacturer that’s well-known for its unique selection of gums! Colorful little gumballs, color-changing gum, and fruity gums are classic favorites! 

 

Orion mini cola ramune candy

Orion Mini Ramune Candy

While ramune candy is already popular in dagashi stores, this variant is extra special and fun! The mini ramune tablets are enclosed in a plastic packaging that’s shaped like a mini soda can! This treat is from Orion, a Japanese company that manufactures fun and unique candies like the candy cigarette!

 

Namaiki beer

Namaiki Beer

Despite its name, namaiki beer is not a grown-up drink but a fun, non-alcoholic soft drink for children. Inside the pack, you'll find two candy-like tablets that you drop into water. Watch them fizz and dissolve, turning your drink into something that looks just like beer!

 

Neri-ame

Neri-ame

This dagashi is a DIY candy! To make it, you scoop up the clear and water-like base candy with chopsticks and then start kneading it like dough. This process is called “neri,” which means kneading in Japanese. After a few seconds, the candy becomes soft and stretchy, and its color changes from clear to translucent. That’s when you know it’s ready to enjoy!

 

Ninjin

Ninjin

A cute and crunchy Japanese snack, Ninjin is a puffed rice snack. This dagashi got its name from its plastic packaging that’s shaped just like “ninjin” or carrot. It’s filled with light and crispy rice puffs that give a satisfying crunch with every bite.

 

ramune candy

Ramune Candy

Ramune candy is a fun and tasty Japanese treat that's as refreshing as a sip of soda! It comes in little tablets or balls that fizz and pop in your mouth, just like the famous Ramune drink from Japan. These candies come in lots of fruity flavors and usually have a bottle-shaped packaging. Head over to our Fizzy Facts about Ramune blog to read more about this refreshing drink!

 

Sakuma drops

Sakuma Drops

These little drops of happiness from Japan are colorful candies that come in a cute tin, and they're famous for their sweet and fruity flavors. These candies have been loved by people for generations, making them a classic treat for all ages.

 

Sakura daikon

Sakura Daikon

Made from radish slices pickled in brine with cherry blossoms, this dagashi has a unique pink color that resembles sakura flowers. It's a fun snack to munch on when having a hanami picnic!

 

Senbei

Senbei

Senbei are traditional Japanese rice crackers that are crunchy, flavorful, and totally addictive! They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors, from savory to sweet. Whether you like them plain, coated in soy sauce, or sprinkled with seasoning, there's a senbei out there for everyone.

 

Sukonbu

Sukonbu

A chewy, sour snack from Japan, this dagashi comes from seaweed or kelp. It’s usually sliced into thin strips and marinated in vinegar before being dried. It can be served as a side dish or enjoyed on its own.

 

Tirol choco

Tirol Choco

A type of chocolate dagashi that comes in cube paper packaging, Tirol Choco is a delightful Japanese treat! It comes in all sorts of yummy flavors like strawberry, matcha, and caramel. It’s perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings and sharing with friends.

 

Umaibo

Umaibo

This puffed corn stick made by Yaokin is both yummy and affordable! There are lots of Umaibo flavors from savory like takoyaki and cheese to sweet like cocoa and caramel. They even introduce new and unique flavors and we’ve listed them in our blog about all the Umaibo flavors!

 

ume jam

Ume Jam

Often spread on a milk cracker, ume jam is a pickled Japanese plum that’s soaked in sour, red sauce.

 

Yan Yan Tsukebo

Yan Yan Tsukebo

This tasty dagashi treat has been delighting taste buds since 1979, thanks to Japanese confectionery Meiji. The package looks like a cup with two compartments—one with crunchy biscuit sticks and the other with creamy frosting for dipping. And guess what? You can choose from dipping flavors like chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla!

 

Yocchan ika

Yocchan Ika

Yocchan Ika is made from squid, but don't worry, it's not slimy or squishy. Instead, it's dried and seasoned with yummy flavors like soy sauce or vinegar. These little squid snacks are perfect for munching either whole on a stick or cut into pieces.

 

Young Donuts

Young Donuts

Last on our list of common dagashi are miniature donuts called “young donuts.” They’re small, fluffy, and come in all sorts of flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.

 

DAGASHI VS OKASHI: ARE THEY THE SAME?

Dagashi and okashi might sound similar, but they're quite different! Okashi is actually the general term for Japanese sweets and snacks. It originally referred to fruit, but it expanded to include other sweets like pastries and cakes. Now, it even includes savory snacks. On the other hand, dagashi is a special type of affordable sweets and snacks, as we’ve explained above. With that, we can say that dagashi is under the category of okashi!

 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DAGASHI AND WAGASHI?

What's the difference between dagashi and wagashi

Another term you might get confused with dagashi is “wagashi.” These two are both under the umbrella term “okashi,” but they have their differences. Wagashi is a traditional Japanese snack that can be paired with tea or served during celebrations. Contrary to dagashi’s bright colors and cheap ingredients, wagashi is intricately made, with a gentle taste made with seasonal ingredients.

 

WHAT IS A DAGASHI SHOP?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, a traditional dagashi store is called “dagashiya.” It’s usually a small, family-run shop where kids love to hang out after school. This shop not only offers dagashi, it also sells small toys and may have coin-operated game machines or gachapon. Though there’s a decline in number, dagashiya can still be found in Japan, and it’s frequently found in vacation towns.

 

HOW MUCH DOES DAGASHI COST IN JAPAN?

how much does dagashi cost in Japan

One of the biggest selling factors of dagashi is its price. Ranging from 10 to 100 yen (about $0.06 to $0.64), these snacks won’t break the bank. Even kids with little school allowance can afford dagashi! It’s the perfect way to snack, save, and savor the quirky side of Japanese snacking culture.

 

WHAT IS THE OLDEST DAGASHI?

What is the oldest dagashi

Among the classic types of dagashi, the oldest are konpeito, sukonbu, and kinako. Konpeito is little colorful sugar candies that look like tiny stars; sukonbu is a sour snack made from dried kelp; and kinako is a type of soybean flour that usually covers a mochi candy. These snacks have been around Japan since the 16th century and are still loved today!

 

DAGASHI IN POP CULTURE

Dagashi isn’t just a tasty treat—it plays a big role in Japanese pop culture! Even though traditional dagashiyas are becoming less common, dagashi has become famous again thanks to being featured in anime. With the release of the anime Dagashi Kashi, dagashi and dagashiyas have gotten more attention. The anime is set in a countryside dagashiya and talks about all kinds of dagashi, from super popular ones to obscure kinds!

 

Fushigi Dagashiya Zenitendo

Another anime that features a dagashiya is Fushigi Dagashiya Zenitendo which started as a children’s novel series. It’s about a mysterious dagashi shop that only lucky people can find. The woman who runs the dagashiya can recommend the perfect candy to cure a person’s worries! With animes that feature dagashi, even younger generations can appreciate the dagashi culture.

 

DAGASHI’S COMEBACK

Even though dagashi used to seem old-fashioned, it’s now becoming popular again, with some cool new trends. Many adults love the nostalgic feeling dagashi brings. Some Japanese people living overseas are even sharing dagashi to people in foreign countries with dagashi reviews on YouTube, making this treat famous around the world!

 

Dagashi festival

Additionally, there are new stores with a retro feel and fun places called “dagashi bars,” where you can enjoy old snacks with a drink. You can also find dagashi shops at school festivals and even at weddings as fun gifts. Even though there are fewer dagashiya today, Japan is keeping the dagashi culture alive!

 

Dagashi pens

That’s not all! There are fun and unique non-food items that feature some iconic dagashi packaging. Now, you won’t just enjoy dagashi as a treat, you can liven up your desk with snack-themed stationery or make your outfit interesting with dagashi-inspired accessories and dagashi-decorated apparel!

 

DAGASHI STARS UNITE!

Dagashi Japan

The big names in the world of dagashi—Umaibo, Tirol Chocolate, Black Thunder, and Baby Star—teamed up for a big dagashi collaboration! This is called “Dagashi Japan,” and it’s a project that was lead by Beams Japan, a company that promotes the charm of Japan. Dagashi Japan sold limited-edition goods like Umaibo Clear Bag, Tirol Chocolate Necklace, Black Thunder Sacoche, and Baby Star Bandana. Even Beam Japan’s store in Shinjuku was decorated with a dagashiya theme! 

 

WHERE TO BUY DAGASHI

Where to buy dagashi

Not in Japan? Not a problem! You can still find this tasty treat! Some Asian grocery stores in your country might have a small section for Japanese snacks, including dagashi. Moreover, there are online stores that sell dagashi and can ship them to where you are. Take a look at our dagashi collection on Japan Candy Store. We’ve got brightly colored and inexpensive treats that are waiting for you!

 

Dagashiya

That’s a wrap! Whether you’re a long-time fan of Japanese pop culture or new to the game, exploring the world of dagashi offers a delightful peek into the playful side of Japan’s tasty snacks. Why not let your taste buds go on a little adventure? Share your favorite dagashi in the comments below!

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