As sad as it is to admit, I used to feel that being Japanese made me kind of uncool. My go-to lunches of (delicious) grilled salmon bentos and (also delicious) onigiri weren't always a hit with the cafeteria crowd. You wouldn't know it these days, though, with the proliferation of trendy Japanese cafes and a Western cultural awakening to delicacies like mochi, red bean, and black sesame. (Can I get a holla for natto, yet? No? Okay!)
All that's to say that it has warmed my heart (and my belly) to see things like online Asian grocery stores and taiyaki ice cream shops hitting it big in cities and yes, on Instagram. Another 2021 discovery of mine: Bokksu, a monthly subscription box that delivers a curated bounty of authentic, hyper-locally sourced snacks from various regions of Japan. Their upcoming seasonal offering is the Moon Festival Box, for which the signature Bokksu orange packaging got an after-dark makeover, and in its honor I tried the assortment of curated artisanal snacks to see if they're the real deal.
When I first heard of Bokksu, I immediately assumed it would be shilling mass-produced Japanese snacks that have made it big in the States: Matcha Kit-Kats, Pocky, chocolate-covered mushroom-shaped biscuits (just roll with it!), and maybe some savory shrimp chips. (Nothing wrong with those, as they're all fantastic — there's just a lot more to Japan than that.) Upon unboxing my own Bokksu, I was proved delightfully wrong. Even as a Japanese person, I have to admit that I only recognized half of the goodies inside — which honestly made me ecstatic. The box changes every month, but there's always a balance of sweet and savory treats, plus a tea pairing for each collection. This month's tea was a hojicha (roasted green tea) latte mix, which was incredible, TBH. To guide you through your culinary journey, Bokksu also includes a booklet with pictures and detailed descriptions of your snacks — including the people and places your snacks were sourced from. (Think of it as your Bokksu sensei, if you will.)
I have to say, there was a lot of joy happening as I perused my box's treasures and picked which snacks to sample first. A chocolate-covered, freeze-dried strawberry first spoke to me, as did a black sesame-speckled shortbread from a long-standing confectionery store in Osaka. On the savory end of things, chili oil-spiced potato chips from Okinawa certainly beat out any Lay's variety I'd ever had. My family is originally from Tokyo, but I'm very lucky to have traveled throughout Japan to eat many of these snacks from their places of origin; Bokksu mimics those experiences, minus the very expensive, very long plane ride(s).
If all of this is sounding pretty good to you, here's a breakdown of the many subscription options Bokksu offers: If you're ready for 12 months of Japanese snackin', you can get a year's worth of boxes for $479.40. (That's the best value available, with each month priced at $39.99.) Six-, three-, and month-to-month plans are also available (for $257.70, $134.85, and $49.95, respectively), and you can skip boxes whenever you like. If you're not ready to commit to a plan yet, you can also shop a limited supply of past boxes à la carte. Bokksu also has a very impressive (i.e. Japanese person-approved) online shop where you can buy things like teas, snacks, kitchenware, and more.
Is it expensive? Well, yeah. But if I received Bokksu as a gift, I'd be 11/10 delighted — that's how good it is. (I sent some snacks to my dad, and even he was impressed.) Whether you're seeking an authentic snapshot of Japan's extremely strong snack game, or you're like me and treasure the nostalgia of your favorite Japanese treats, Bokksu has something to offer any palate open to the possibilities of gooey mochi, senbei rice crackers, and dried seaweed tempura.
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