Treating Ourselves Well in Japan

Strawberries are in season here, so patisseries all over are filled will strawberry shortcakes as well as other delights right now.

It’s not the first thing you think of about Japan, but one thing done very, very well here are sweets and other treats. It’s not hard to find incredible desserts here, as well as tasty cookies, crepes, cakes, and other delights. Starbucks Japan does flavors you can’t find back in the U.S. Best of all is that portion sizes are smaller than are found back in the States, and treats here contain far less sugar than American sweets while remaining incredibly tasty. Add both of those to the amount of walking that’s done here, and it’s OK to indulge once in a while.

Here are some of the treats we’ve been enjoying:

Raisin sandwich cookies, filled with a sweet creme and raisins, are one of my all-time favorite Japanese sweets, but while they were very popular years ago these days they’re somewhat harder to find. So, when we discovered some at the Daimaru department store in Tokyo Station this week, we bought a box of five. For three evenings I enjoyed one with a cup of coffee after dinner (Brett and YaYu had the other two). The cookies were quite small, about 1.5″ x 2.5″ in size, but just as delicious as I remembered them.

Bird cookies! We bought a simple bag with 10 of the delicious, Kamakura-made Hato Sabure for Brett and YaYu to enjoy, as well as a couple of smaller gift packs to send to Meiling and WenYu after we get home. I had a bite of Brett’s crisp, buttery cookie (and it was wonderful), but otherwise I’m planning to avoid them, or will at least try because I could easily eat the entire package without blinking an eye.

Our son suggested an afternoon break at Mr. Donut while we were in Yokohama on Wednesday. Donuts in Japan are smaller than what you find in the U.S., and far less sweet, but still very, very tasty. I was hoping for a green tea donut, but they didn’t have any at the shop we visited so I chose a blueberry and cream filled donut instead (delicious!). Our grandson had one of the pink and white ones seen in the middle of the case, a strawberry creme-filled ring, and Brett and our son both had ones with chocolate. Mr. Donut also sells savory donuts, but they kind of scare me.

While we were in Yokohama we visited Chinatown, and stopped at a bakery to pick up five of the area’s famous almond cookies to enjoy later. They are only minimally sweet, but so good. Just looking at this cookie in the wrapper has me rethinking my resolve to avoid carbohydrates.

Starbucks Japan has introduced a new spring Frappuccino flavor: Sunshine Mandarin-Mango, with coconut and mango puree on the top. Can I just say it was amazing (and I don’t even care all that much for Frappuccinos)? YaYu tried one the other day, and after Brett and I each had a small sip we all decided that we wanted one at Narita for our last Japan treat before we board the plane to come home. They’re that good.

All the above treats came from the food section of a Muji Lifestyle store (where I could easily drop some serious money – it’s like a Japanese IKEA that also carries clothing). The very affordable, and all-natural, snacks we purchased, which include a variety of cakes, cookies and miniature chocolate-filled cream puffs, are all for YaYu’s school lunches. YaYu bought her own big bag of savory snacks there as well to share with her friends. The cake flavors above include lemon, chocolate, strawberry, banana, sweet potato, orange and cherry blossom.

And, no trip to Tokyo is complete without having a fabulous crepe on Takeshita Street in Harajuku. Yes, I indulged. There are several shops selling crepes, but my favorite is Angel Heart Crepes, a small shop that offers nearly 100 different varieties of filled crepes in every flavor combo imaginable, with some including an entire slice of cheesecake.

I failed to get a picture of an amazing dessert YaYu bought the other day: a strawberry and whipped cream “sandwich,” with the “bread” made from angel food cake. The sandwich was packaged and looked just like any regular sandwich you’d find for sale at a deli or supermarket. When YaYu saw what it actually was, she said she had to try it and it did not disappoint. Only in Japan.

And, of course there are the KitKats. We visited a KitKat “chocolatory” at Tokyo Station earlier in the week and found four new “Tokyo-only” flavors: strawberry-maple, pistachio-raspberry, butter (yes, butter!), and green tea-kinako (roasted soy flour). We’re not sure what to expect from that one, but will give it a try. We found some dark chocolate KitKats at the Daiso store in Harajuku, but will wait to look for more flavors at Narita, where souvenir shops offer lots of different flavors for travelers to take home with them.

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19 thoughts on “Treating Ourselves Well in Japan

  1. tpol1 says:

    Oh my! Now you got me wanting something with cream and strawberry. I am also amazed at the Kit Kat flavors the Japanese have. I think we can find the dark chocolate kind over here too.

    I am glad you are indulging a little bit in sweet and savory things. I wouldn’t torture myself to be “good” while traveling either. Keep having fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      I knew I would regret it later if I didn’t let myself indulge once in a while. Plus, we have been walking so much I figured I was covered from that as well. I think I’m finally at a stage in life where just a little of something goes a long way.

      Fingers are crossed that we find a few more flavors of KitKats at the airport before we leave. We’ve gotten eight different flavors so far (five are new), but are hoping for a couple more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jen says:

    Hi Laura! I love seeing your fun experiences during your trip to Japan! I, too, lived there, and my husband worked at Atsugi from 2011-2015. Thanks for the great pictures of Japan! Such an amazing country! Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      We lived at Atsugi from 1989-1992! The house we lived in off-base was torn down and rebuilt, and same for the house we lived in on-base. There’s one of the big high-rise apartment buildings there now. I know that area well, but I’m sure things have changed greatly. I wish we had time to go out there and check it out again.

      I’m always going to carry a soft space in my heart for Japan. It is an amazing place – we are having a fantastic time!

      Like

  3. M'Shell says:

    Oh my goodness, everything in this post sounds amazing! I love anything almond and would love to try that cookie. And that crepe – Wow! Looks delicious. Those bird cookies are so cute (and I’m sure super yummy) I had a friend go to Japan and brought back some KitKats. He let me try one. I can’t remember the combo but it had strawberry in it. Definitely different than what I was used to but I liked it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      The almond cookies from Chinatown are the real deal. They’re barely sweet, but so delicious so I was thrilled to be able to get some. I actually had half of one last night (shared with Brett) and it was a good as I remember. Half a cookie was just enough too.

      We gotten strawberry cheesecake KitKats this time, but I know there are other flavors with strawberry. I’m hoping we can find the cherry blossom flavor at the airport – so good!

      Like

  4. Vivian Gibson says:

    My mother would love to try the raspberry-pistachio version. Her two favorite things.
    Are they expensive and can you order them online? Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      You can order a variety of flavored KitKats from Amazon! Not sure about the price though.

      The raspberry-pistachio were unfortunately not available individually – we had to get them as part of the “Tokyo Variety” box.

      Like

    • Laura says:

      Thanks! Tonight YaYu said “the Japanese do everything right!” She had a melon soda float for dessert, and wanted to know why we don’t have melon soda in the U.S. They really do have wonderful treats here.

      Like

  5. Jennifer Eldredge says:

    I just looked at the photos again–are those Red Delicious Apples in the display window? Are they imported and an expensive delicacy? I am curious as to what prices are like in Tokyo? What is local and cheap and what is expensive (besides steak and gas, which I know are expensive!). Don’t want to give you a “job”, but please answer if you are in the mood. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      At first I thought those might actually be cakes that are made to look like apples, but more likely the cakes behind them are made with apples. Now you make me wish I’d looked at them a little more closely, but I was mesmerized by everything made with strawberries.

      Frankly, everything in Japan is expensive, especially when compared to what we pay for comparable items in the U.S. But, Japanese don’t consume at the levels we do in the U.S. so it’s all relative. Foods we take for granted, for example, like cheese or milk, are not eaten daily here or are consumed in smaller amounts, so you only buy small amounts. Same for meats or prepared foods. The donuts we had were around $1.40 – $2.40 each, but no one here eats donuts regularly – they’re a special treat. The quality of goods here is also consistently high, and is expected to be high by consumers. The strawberries we bought while we’ve been here were expensive ($4.75 for a small package) compared to what we’d pay in the U.S. (even in Hawai’i), but each strawberry was perfectly ripe, and tasted sweet and freshly picked. You just don’t get that kind of quality in the U.S. We’ve bought four packages throughout the week, and each package has been equally good.

      The same is true for clothing – people own fewer items, but will pay for good quality. It doesn’t mean people don’t look for bargains or enjoy a sale, but that they are willing to pay for something that will last. Also, there is a strong cultural preference for new items versus anything used. We’ve walked past several small, exclusive boutiques while we’ve been here, but I’ve never seen anyone shopping in them. But, they must be selling items because they stay in business. We’ve seen Lambourginis, Maseratis, Rolls Royces, and other luxury cars driving around town, so there’s money to be spent, but the owners may live in small (or tiny) condos or apartments.

      The biggest expense here is housing – it’s ridiculously expensive, but that’s because space is so limited. People put up with horrifically long commutes in order to own a home out in the suburbs or beyond, because Tokyo prices are so high.

      Anyway I hope this helps.

      Like

    • Laura says:

      Sweets here are noticeably less sweet than comparable items in the U.S. but after a while you get used to it. Actually, I personally think the flavors taste better because they’re not so dependent on the amount of sugar. And, you can indulge more without feeling quite as guilty as you might back in the States.

      I guarantee you will find plenty here to satisfy your sweet tooth!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. flavoradventuresblog says:

    I am sorry if you’ve already answered this question elsewhere – but I do need to ask how difficult it is to make it around Japan without speaking Japanese! The more I see the more tempted I am to add Japan to our travel list – but I attempted to learn Japan quite awhile ago and learned very quickly that it would take me a long, long time and a lot of study to pick up even the basics.

    Thank you for sharing your travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      First of all, Japanese is difficult, especially for English speakers. There is no way around that. But, even a little Japanese can go a long way here.

      That being said, I have been impressed/amazed by how much more English is available these days, especially on the trains and in stations. It has been quite easy to find our way around and get to wherever we need to be. For example, yesterday we went to Asakusa to visit the Sensoji temple. We picked up a train/subway map so knew where to change trains, at which stations to which lines, and it was very well-marked in the station with directional arrows. Announcements in the train were made in both Japanese and English. When we got to Asakusa there were loads of signs directing us to the exit we needed to use to get to Sensoji. We stopped to eat at a ramen restaurant near the temple, and the manager brought us an English menu! Prices, etc. are well-marked as well, so it’s pretty easy to figure out what to pay (always place your money in the small tray provided, but change will be handed back to you directly. Do not count your change – it’s very rude and insinuates the shop is trying to cheat you.) Wherever you stay, whether it’s a hotel or AirBNB, you can get a card with your address printed in Japanese that you can show to taxi drivers or others if you need help.

      Anyway, I guess I am trying to say that it’s not all that hard to get around Japan on your own if you prep yourself, know when to ask for help, and come with a sense of adventure.

      Like

    • Laura says:

      LOL – you should see what’s going home in our suitcase! Lots and lots of treats, although most of them are for the girls, either YaYu’s lunchbox or to send to Meiling and WenYu.

      We will miss it here – we’ve had a GREAT trip!

      Like

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