The pen is there to show you the size of the cookie. It's about 1/3 of the length of an average ballpoint pen.
There are some types of snack foods that will always get a sampling no matter how many times we try a Japanese version and find it lacking. For my husband, maple is one of those things which is irresistible. He's probably sampled most of the maple cookies, pastries, and cakes available at one time or another in Japan and found very few of them to be repeat purchases. Of course, sampling "all" of them isn't saying much. Maple is not something you see included in most foods in Japan.
Dare makes the most sinfully tasty maple cookie he's ever had in Tokyo and they are available on occasion in Japanese shops which carry imports. However, they are expensive and the bag is rather big. It's not the sort of thing you want to leave lying around the weak-willed and hungry. The purchase of a bag of Dare Maple Leaf cookies almost always is followed by a night of regret and physical discomfort.
When something new pops up touting maple flavor (and if it's maple, there's always a maple leaf on the box), I pick it up for my husband to sample. I'm not a huge fan of maple, but I do find it appealing at times. When I saw the tiny box of "Natchel" maple bran cookies pictured above for about ¥150 ($1.40), I tossed them in the shopping basket. The name is clearly meant to bring the word "natural" to mind. The Japanese characters for the word "natural" are rather close to the name of the product.
The box contains three 5-packs of tiny cookies. And when I say, "tiny", I'm talking about a cookie roughly half the size of an Oreo. The description in green on the box mentions that there is bran in the cookies. You can see little flecks of bran in the biscuit. The cookies themselves are reminiscent of digestive biscuits in terms of their thickness and density and graham crackers in the coarseness of their texture. The cookies smell weakly of maple though the box goes out of its way to tell you that they contain 1.6% maple sugar. The sweet smell of maple really hits you though if you take the sandwich apart and expose the filling.
The biscuit has a hint of an earthy feel and taste from the bran. They strongly remind me of a maple breakfast cookie sold in Japan which I've had before. It's possible that the breakfast cookie was made by Glico (which makes these Natchel cookies) and the basic recipe wasn't modified all that much. They crunch just like a digestive biscuit. The maple filling seems to taste as much of caramel as maple, though the overall sweetness and flavor of the filling is relatively muted.
Though they do have bran in them, these cookies can't be mistaken for something "healthy". Each packet of 5 cookies has 161 calories and one could easily polish off an entire packet as a snack. Fortunately, the way in which they are packaged discourages one from opening up another and scarfing down more than 5. In my case, I managed to drop two on the floor from the first package we opened so we were spared some calories through my clumsiness. The main ingredients are (in order of concentration) flour, margarine, sugar, shortening, bran, brown sugar, dextrin, milk sugar, maple sugar, and salt. Since maple sugar comes in just before salt, you can see there's not much of it in there. Also, there are a lot of different sugars in the mix.
I asked my husband if he'd buy these himself if he was in the mood for a cookie and he said he would. They're not Dare Maple Leaf cookies, but they are pleasant and the size and packaging are very helpful in curbing over-indulgence.
Note: There is also a blueberry version of this cookie according to Glico's web site. However, blueberry is very resistible and my local market didn't carry that flavor.