In comments recently, Kelly, who runs the snack blog Sweet Pursuits, asked me if I felt that my tastes were "American" and if that influenced how I reacted to Japanese snacks. The interesting thing is that this thought had been on my mind quite recently while I was reviewing the Tyrant Habanero Anbiriba rods. However, my thought was not that my tastes were so American, but rather that I wondered if they had drifted so far from that of an average American's that my responses to various foods might be quite atypical now. In regard to the habanero rods, I was wondering if Americans, who have a lot more choices when it comes to very hot and spicy foods flavored with hot peppers (due to Mexican cuisine influences) might find the Japanese habanero snacks tame by comparison.
There are several reasons why I think my tastes may be different from those of my fellow Americans. I have been in Japan for 20 years so I've been eating food that has been altered for the Japanese market for nearly as long as I have spent eating American food. I left the U.S. when I was 24 years old, so I'm closing in on having spent as much of my life here as there. I have to imagine I've grown accustomed to the way in which food is presented for Japanese tastes.
When I first came to Japan, a lot of staples seemed to taste very strange to me. In particular, milk tasted very "off". To this day, I'm not sure why milk is so different in Japan than in the U.S., but I think it has something to do with the fact that Tokyo gets a lot of heat treated dairy products which are meant to last on the shelves far longer than milk back home. And, please note, that "back home" for me means rural Pennsylvania where cows are everywhere and the very freshest milk is never far away. Your mileage may vary.
These days, I only occasionally notice anything amiss in the milk products here, and generally those are the ESL (Extended Shelf Life) products which are probably radiated, boiled, and processed into a new incarnation of "dairy". Now, Japanese milk tastes "normal" to me. The same applies to butter. Japanese butter is far less sweet and creamy than American butter, but this is something I'd forgotten completely until quite recently. The butter shortage in Japan afforded me a chance to taste imported U.S. butter again for the first time in nearly two decades and it was amazingly good.
Also, after Kelly's question got me thinking, I looked back on my reviews. My reviews of Japanese snacks or those based on traditional Japanese cuisine (except the Oshiruko KitKat) like sembei, bean cakes, etc. are generally quite favorable. That means I actually tend to like Japanese traditional snacks. I think that I tend to be the least pleased with Japanese adaptations of any food based on cheese products or lame implementations of foreign foods or their concepts. Since I rarely eat Japanese processed cheese (and 95% of Japanese cheese is processed), this is probably one of the areas where I have had zero acclimation to this particular food as it has been modified for the Japanese market. Almost all of the cheese I eat in Japan is imported, mostly from Australia, New Zealand, England, and occasionally America. I haven't forgotten what real (and good quality) cheese tastes like, so I have a very low tolerance for the processed or artificial nature of related products.
The bottom line, however, is that all tastes vary among individuals regardless of where they live or what foods they grew up eating. One of the reasons I link to reviews of the same snacks on other blogs at the bottom of some of my posts is that I think there is value in different perspectives on the same product. No one can speak to or for the taste buds of other people. They can only speak for themselves. The best I can hope to do is explain my feelings about something well enough to help others understand what has shaped my perceptions so that they can consider if their response might be the same.