Friday, September 24, 2010

Variety Friday: Eating Outside the Box and Dagashi

Part of the dagashi bins at a local convenience store. It includes asparagus bicsuits, Heart Chiple, fake potato snacks, and mini KitKats. Everything is 30 yen (35 cents). Click this smaller picture to see a bigger one with more detail.

Yesterday completed my "two weeks of weird", and I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment and enter the contest. I will be announcing the winner tomorrow on a special Saturday posting. Note that I didn't reply to any of the comments because any comment I write messes up picking a random numbered comment as the winner. I really enjoyed all of your answers!

The two weeks of weird was motivated by something I have started to notice as a result of blogging about Japanese snacks for a few years now. That is that there are patterns of release and limits to the variations in the types of snacks being put out with few exceptions. Things like the very obscure Pepsi or Coke releases happen only once or twice a year, so that sort of weirdness is infrequent. While Japanese KitKat variations are released at regular intervals, most of them are variations on the same themes and truly interesting ones come about no more than a handful of times per year. Most of what is "new" is actually what is old being repackaged or folded into new presentations. 

As autumn rolls around (by calendar if not by weather), I'm seeing a repeat of all of the same themes: sweet potato, marron (chestnut), and chocolates which are too easily melted in warmer weather as well as the reintroduction of some snacks that were temporarily gone and are making a return. Though I love a lot of the flavors (especially at this time of year), there is only so much to say about sampling the umpteeth sweet potato chocolate or cookie.

I chose the "weirdness" theme to force myself to sample food that is "outside the box" for me. It's all of the things that I've been seeing for decades now but passing by on my way to the more familiar territory of salted snacks, soft drinks, chocolates and cookies. While I can't say it's been a "good time", I can say that I'm glad I did it and that it has been educational both as a writer about Japanese snack foods and as a person who wants a more rounded understanding of culture and tastes in the country in which I currently reside.

One of the things I've learned is that a lot of the foods I've sampled which are for children fall under the category of "dagashi". These are cheaply made foods which used to be greatly more popular when children had less money than they do these days. Most of them sell for 20-30 yen (23-35 cents), and they are usually very poor nutritionally and aren't expected to be enjoyed by adults. Many Japanese people have a sense of nostalgia about them much in the way Americans of my generation (born in the mid 60's) may feel about penny candy. There's a very good multi-part article on dagashi here. Though I probably won't dive so deeply into these offerings again, I will try to sample them on occasion in the future just to keep expanding my experience base.

Thanks to everyone who read, and especially to those who took part in the contest!

1 comment:

Hideric said...

I am crazy about Dabashi! It must be healthy :)