We Sampled 12 Random Japanese Snacks & Tried To Guess What They Were

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Japanese snacks, like all Japanese food, have a reputation for being awesome. Flavors, shapes, and even colors we'd never see on our prepackaged delights are commonplace — from the 7-Elevens found nearly everywhere (there are around 17,000, twice as many as in the U.S.) to the equally ubiquitous vending machines.
So, on a recent trip to Japan, I decided to load up and bring back as many snacks as I could carry for my coworkers. Rather than just share my spoils as gifts, I enlisted their help see what (if anything) we could figure out using just our five senses. Afterwards, I used the internet (and Google Translate) to see how close (or far) we were from getting it right.
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Ahead, 12 of the stand-outs that surprised us. As it turns out, marinated cod roe might not be immediately obvious.
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What We Thought: While no one expected this gummy to be actually Fettuccine flavored, we had no idea what to expect. More sour than a lot of American sour gummies, we decided it was blue raspberry with a slightly savory flavor — maybe basil?

What Was Really Going On: Whoops, wrong. Turns out it was actually soda-flavored, and the fettuccine-shaped gummies come in all sorts of varieties.
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What We Guessed: These savory, crunchy nuggets definitely tasted like some kind of savory sauce, but we couldn't quite pin the flavor. Kind of like really beefed-up barbecue chips.

What Was Really Going On: UFO is one of Japan's most popular instant Yakisoba noodles. The savory BBQ-esque flavor we tasted was, in fact, Yakisoba sauce, sort of similar to oyster sauce.
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What We Thought: I turned out to be embarrassingly bad at using visual cues on the snack packaging, and, our growth editor, Amanda Johnson, turned out to be very good. She immediately knew it would be chips cooked in, or flavored with, sesame oil. The flavor was great, but we all wished the chip had slightly more crunch.

What Was Really Going On: Based on a quick investigation on Calbee's site, this is a limited-edition chip flavor that was, indeed, flavored with Kadoya sesame oil, considered the gold standard.
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What We Thought: Chip Star's mild salt flavor is delicious — imagine a slightly thicker, crunchier Pringle. But this flavor was a mystery — except for the fact that it was probably a fruit. Once again, Amanda did detective work I couldn't, explaining that it was umeboshi plum, something she'd randomly learned about from a challenge in an early cycle of America's Next Top Model. The flavor was a little sweet and tart, though trending food writer Olivia Harrison noted that it "wasn't any weirder than pizza Pringles."

What Was Really Going On: There wasn't any information on this flavor on Chip Star's website, which means this is probably another limited-edition treat. (Japan's love of limited-edition sweets is one reason the country infamously has so many Kit-Kat flavors.) One English-language article explained that umeboshi, actually a kind of pickled plum, starts appearing in limited-edition treats around spring when plum blossoms begin to show.
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What We Thought: While there are about as many varieties of Pocky as there are days in the year, we only tried one. The peach was intriguing because of the words "Squeeze" on the cover — alluding to the possibility that there might be some kind of liquid core inside. As it turns out, it was just a very, very peachy flavor.

What Was Really Going On: "Really peachy flavor" was spot on — the outer chocolate coating was 70% peach juice, and the cookie stick was also flavored with peach as well.
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What We Thought: Big Katsu appeared to be a reference to tonkatsu, a popular (and delicious!) breaded pork cutlet. But it was sold at room temperature, so it probably didn't have real pork? When I explained to my coworkers what the heck this probably was, they grew concerned that I'd accidentally brought back something that required refrigeration. But, as it turned out, there wasn't any pork (at least that we could taste). It was kind of like eating just the exterior of a fried dish.

What Was Really Going On: Well, it wasn't just fried crumbs. It actually contained dried fish surimi, a kind of fish paste. That explains what the thin, chewy white thing in the middle we kept wondering about. It was mild enough that we really had no idea.
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What We Thought: It's hard to not know what to expect here, but the tiny size of the chips actually surprised us. It was kind of like a mini-Dorito, but also apparently brunch-flavored?Could a chip, of any size, possibly taste exactly like the beloved brunch dish? As it turns out, not really — we mostly got notes of smokey ham.

What Was Really Going On: This again appears to be a limited-edition flavor. If you're really curious about what it tastes like, this eBay seller is more than happy to help you.
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What We Thought: This was going to be shrimpy — and it was. Like, very, very shrimpy. Dried seafood, which basically takes the seafood flavor up several notches, is something our Western palates couldn't handle.

What Was Really Going On: No wonder these tasted so shrimpy. The snacks, from Kameda Seika, are 20% more prawn-filled than their predecessors.
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What We Thought: We truly no idea what to expect from this, since the maniacally gleeful cartoons on the front didn't give a hint to it's flavor. When we opened the up, we discovered, much to our surprise, what looked like one giant puffed Cheeto. The purple one tasted like a basic cheese flavor, and the red one tasted strongly like nori.

What Was Really Going On: As it turns out, that basic cheese one that we all loved was far from basic. It was really mentai, or pollock roe. The one with the nori flavor was takoyaki, or fried octopus balls, often toped with dried seaweed and bonito flakes.
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What We Thought: Even though everything in Japan is so kawaii, when I grabbed this foursome of puffed corn snacks, I worried I might have actually selected something marketed exclusively at children. The rounds, which were relatively flavorless, dissolved quickly when we ate them. "I'd feed this to a baby," one taster observed.

What Was Really Going On: Yep, this is a food packaged for kids. The smiley face on the bag is Anpanman, a super hero with a bean paste-filled loaf of bread for a head. There's even a line of toys you can buy that feature Anpanman.
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What We Thought: With all the loud flavors we'd been sampling, this unassuming little cheese straw at first tasted like nothing. However, after a couple bites, it had a very mild flavor we couldn't quite place — not cheesy, but still savory and a little vegetal.

What Was Really Going On: That flavor turned out to be shiso, a popular Asian herb. Similar to basil, it is also reminiscent of mint. Who knew a snack hawked by a giraffe could be so fancy?
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What We Thought: We had no idea what to expect from Big Choco, other than that it was big. The first bite was a surprise — rather than caramel or nougat, the inside was basically a giant, unflavored, unsweetened Cheeto. Texturally, it was fun. And, since so much of it was air, it was easy to eat the entire big bar.

What Was Really Going On: Yup, that was puffed corn — plus, mysteriously, peanuts, something none of the taste testers picked up on at all.
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Looking to explore Japanese culture even further? Take a trip with us to Osaka, one of Japan's most vibrant and exciting cities.
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