Taste Umai with Umaibo!
Umaibo is a snack like no other! This inexpensive puff corn snack from Yaokin and Riska has been an important part of Japanese food culture ever since its launch in 1979. Featuring a cute cat mascot similar to Doraemon, Umaibo comes in so many, many different flavors. Umaibo is so popular in Japan that there are so many different Umaibo merchandise like fun stationery, apparel, gift items, and more. It's an iconic snack that's a big part of food culture in Japan!
- Japanese name: うまい棒 (pronounced oooh-mai-bo)
- Number of flavors: Over 60 different flavors
- Mascot nickname: Umaemon, Doyaemon, Umai Boy
- Sister snack: Umai Wa from Riska
- Fun fact: Umaibo is a redesigned version of another corn puff snack, Umaimai Bar
SO, WHAT IS UMAIBO?
Imagine this: a delicious, crunchy, cylindrical corn puff snack bar, each individually wrapped with love and coated with a myriad of flavors. It’s puffy, crispy, and it makes you say “Umai!” (which means delicious in Japanese). That, my friends, is Umaibo.
Born in Japan over four decades ago, this mouthwatering munchable has become a nationwide sensation, embraced by snack enthusiasts of all ages! Not only is it loved by children, but it’s also loved by adults who grew up eating these umai-licious puff snacks.
WHAT IS UMAIBO IN JAPANESE?
In Japanese, Umaibo is written as うまい棒. The word "Umaibo" is a combination of "Umai", which means delicious in Japanese, and "Bo", which stands for stick. So literally, Umaibo means "Delicious Stick", a pretty straightforward yet perfectly fitting name for this lip-smacking treat.
UMAIBO, THE PRINCE OF DAGASHI
Dagashi are cheap candies and snacks sold in dagashiya stalls in Japan! These treats are meant to be affordable and alluring to children and the children at heart. Maintaining a stable price of 10 yen ever since it’s launch (well, that was until January 2022 when Yaokin decided to raise the price to 12 yen), Umaibo has been a fan-favorite among Japanese snackers.
MEET THE UMAI-LOVING ALIEN, UMAEMON!
Umaibo has its very own mascot, Umaemon! This cutie looks a whole lot like Doraemon with its cat-like features and its earless head. Unlike Doraemon tough, Umaemon isn’t a robot. No, he’s an alien from outer space! Umaemon has a couple of other names like Dorayemon and Umai Boy. He does a lot of things in the packaging of Umaibo - sometimes he’s seen singing, cooking, going fishing, and what-have-you. Did you know his hobby is to cosplay?
SNACK TOGETHER WITH UMAMI-CHAN
In 2017 Yaokin decided to give Umaimon a sister named Umami-chan. For some reason though, Umami-chan doesn’t look like a cat at all. Instead, she looks like a cute human girl with long silver hair and a cap that oddly looks half of a stick of Umaibo. She’s also a V-Tuber (virtual YouTuber) with her own channel on YouTube!
WHAT IS UMAIBO MADE OF? IS IT HEALTHY?
Umaibo is mostly made of corn turned into flour. Like every corn puff snack, it’s also mixed with a bit of vegetable oil and salt to help it puff up. Don’t forget the seasonings! That’s what gives them flavor. You don’t have to worry about eating Umaibo if you’re on a diet! These stick snacks aren’t too calorie dense. Each stick is only about 34 calories!
HOW IS UMAIBO ACTUALLY MADE?
Now you might be wondering, how is Umaibo made? While Umaibo is being sold by Yaokin, the company that actually makes Umaibo is Riska (which is also known for its Umai ring snacks). The process that Riska uses in making Umaibo is quite simple but ingenious really.
First, corn is ground into fine flour which is then mixed with oil, salt, and water to create a dough. This dough is then extruded under high heat and pressure. The sudden drop in pressure causes the dough to puff up, creating the light, airy texture that Umaibo is known for. It's then cut into its distinctive stick shape and flavored with seasonings specific to each variant! Yum!
WHAT ARE JAPAN'S FAVORITE UMAIBO?
So what are the most popular Umaibo flavors in Japan, you ask? Well, Cheese, Corn Potage, Mentai, and Takoyaki tend to top the charts with children and Japanese snackers munching on them left and right. However, it's a testament to the power of individual taste buds because everyone seems to have their own unique favorite!
HOW MANY FLAVORS OF UMAIBO ARE THERE?
Umaibo's tastes are as diverse as the nation it hails from. With a staggering lineup of more than 60 flavors, Umaibo brings everything from the savory goodness of Cheese and Yakitori (grilled chicken skewer) to the surprising delight of Natto (fermented soybeans) and the sweetness of Chocolate. Each puff has a distinct, full-bodied flavor that immerses your senses in a delightful Japanese food fair! You can learn about all the different flavors in our other umai-licious blog post!
IS UMAIBO VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN?
In today's diverse culinary world, the question has to be asked - are Umaibo snacks vegetarian or vegan-friendly? The answer is: sometimes. As with many snacks, it largely depends on the flavor. While some like the Vegetable Salad or Corn Potage can make plant-lovers rejoice, others like Teriyaki Burger or Takoyaki are decidedly meaty. So if you're following a specific diet, make sure you check the ingredients before diving into these delicious sticks of joy!
DOES UMAIBO HAVE PORK?
Most of the time it doesn’t really. Umaibo is a corn puff snack made of corn dough, bread crumbs, and seasonings. But Umaibo does have porky flavors like Tonkotsu, a Japanese broth made from pork marrow. It also has a lot of other meaty flavors like Teriyaki Burger, Gyutan, Takoyaki, and more.
WHAT DOES NATTO UMAIBO TASTE LIKE?
It seems like a lot of Japanese snack enthusiasts are curious about the Natto Umaibo flavor. Why wouldn’t they? Though it’s loved for the Japanese for its nutty taste and its healthy benefits natto (fermented soybean) is notorious for its slimy texture and its smell. Unlike the dish though, Natto Umaibo seems to be pretty well-loved. Snackers enjoy the delicious soybean flavor of the stick snack!
UMAI-FILLED UMAIBO COLLABS!
Seeing how loved Umaibo is, it comes as no surprise that a lot of other companies would want to work together with the delicious stick snacks from Yaokin! In 2020, Yaokin teamed up together with the Puzzle & Dragons mobile game to create an all-new Dragon flavor for Umaibo. It was pretty well-loved by PAD (Puzzle and Dragons) fans who appreciated the new snack they could munch on while gaming!
Nissin also worked together with Yaokin in 2021 to create a fun line of cup noodle-flavored Umaibo sticks. In 2022, The London fashion brand Silas also collaborated with Umaibo to create stylish Umaibo apparel. Of course, these aren’t the only Umaibo team-ups around. These are just some of the few examples of fun collabs that Umaibo has!
UMAIBO STARS IN ANIME!
Like Pocky, Umaibo makes occasional appearances in anime. It’s one of the iconic snacks that appears in Dagashi Kashi, an anime about a girl trying to help out her family’s dagashiya which has been standing in the countryside for nine generations. Umaibo even has its own promo in the second season of the popular anime Monogatari!
GET YOUR FILL OF UMAIBO MERCHANDISE!
Did you know that Umaibo is so popular that there are a whole lot of goods showcasing the snack? That’s right! From Umaibo merchandise like Umaibo stationery items, Umaibo socks, and other sorts of fun little knick-knacks. Japanese snack enthusiasts have a lot of different Umaibo gifts and goodies to choose from.
LET'S PLAY WITH UMAIBO TOYS!
There are also toys specially designed for Umaibo! Not only do they cut up the Umaibo sticks into manageable pieces, some also cut them up so you can place two different flavors together and eat them all at once. It’s a umai-filled fun fest for children and parents!
THE UMAIBO STORE IN OSAKA
Umaibo fans now have a place to visit in Osaka for fun Umaibo souvenirs! In 2022, Yaokin decided to open an Umaibo specialty shop in the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka. Not only does it sell all kinds of flavors of Umaibo, but it also carries fun Umaibo items and keepsakes that you can give as gifts to your friends. Isn’t that neat?
WHERE ELSE CAN I BUY UMAIBO?
As mentioned earlier, Umaibo is a dagashi that’s often sold in dagashiya, small stores made to sell cheap candies and snacks for children. Umaibo can also be found in Konbinis (Japanese convenience stores) and in Japanese groceries. If you want to have a taste of Umaibo, you can check out our Umaibo collection on Japan Candy Store!
There you have it, fellow snack connoisseurs, a crash course on the wonderfully addictive world of Umaibo. Today we learned about what makes Umaibo one of the best dagashi snacks. We hope you had fun learning about the umai-filled corn puff snack stick from Japan!
If you're a fan of Japanese pop culture, this iconic snack is a must-try. After all, a true love affair with Japan isn't just about anime and manga. It's also about embracing the thrilling flavors of their snacks, especially the irresistible and unmatchable Umaibo. Itadakimasu!