Japanese snack subscription boxes have exploded in popularity, and with good reason. Japan produces the most wonderful (and sometimes weird!) array of delicious munchy things. Not only is there remarkable choice, but the package designs are brightly coloured and extremely attractive. You can also get some unique versions of familiar sweets and chocolate bars.
Anyway, this particular box is from Freedom Japanese Market, run by an expat family. It contains an impressive variety of snacks and candies. They have three box sizes:
Puchi Pack – 5 to 8 full size and sample snacks $14.99 p/m (£11.55)
Original Pack – 12 to 16 full size and sample snacks including 1 DIY candy kit $24.99 p/m (£19.25)
Family Pack – 24 to 32 full size and sample snacks including 1 DIY candy kit $45.99 p/m (£35.42) Two of everything – double the snacks without double the price.
Longer subscriptions are lower price.
Shipping is included in the price. Also in the box is a handmade piece of origami!
I was sent an Original Pack. While the box takes 10 – 20 days to arrive (which coming from Japan with no extra shipping costs is bloody good) it arrived in perfect shape.
I love the illustration on the box!
This is what I saw when I opened the box. Sitting right on top is the origami piece, which is katana (Japanese sword) -shaped. Here’s a closer look.
The insert page is a printout with their family picture (cute!), a little blurb about what’s in this month’s box, and on the other side, their menu.
The menu is awesome because, of course, I can’t read Japanese. Not only does it mean you can decide how brave you want to be for potentially unusual items, but it means you can keep an eye out for allergens. The Caramel Corn contains nuts, which aren’t a problem for me, however the Umaka contains seafood, to which I am spectacularly allergic. So those will be finding a good home far from me.
On the the individual items.
Above we have one of the classic puffed corn sticks, Premium Umaibo. This one is Mozzarella and Camembert flavoured. I just love these corn sticks, though I’ve not tried this one before. Imagine a big crunchy stick, the texture being a cross between a Wotsit and Monster Munch, but entirely different flavours. For some reason I hate Wotsits but adore these.
Underneath is Ume Paper, which is very thin pickled plum. It’s a crazy combination of sweet and sour, one of these totally unique flavour sensations.
Yay, more Umaibo! On the right is Teriyaki Umaibo and on the left Pizza Umaibo. The pizza one is another new flavour to me, but I just love the teriyaki burger one. Crunch crunch yum yum.
Time for some sweet treats. On top is a bonus item, Chewing Straw Candy. This is chewy straw-shaped grape gummy stuff. I always associate grape flavour with American candy, and I really love it, so I’m happy this is included.
Under is a Caplico Mini. These are really cool. It looks like a little ice cream cone (you can also get big ones), but instead of ice cream you have bubbly strawberry chocolate, rather like an Aero in texture. Delicious.
Another strawberry candy, this tmie a little bag of crunchy corn-puff stars, covered in that lovely strawberry chocolate.
This is classic kawaii Japanese packaging. This gorgeous little animal-shaped box is called Un-Choco, and contains tiny grape flavour chocolate balls. So cute, I don’t want to open it up!
In the middle is Mix Fruit Mochi, mini apple and pineapple-flavoured pieces of sweet mochi (rice cakes). Perfect if you want just a nibble of something sweet.
On each side are UFO Ramune. These are individually wrapped candies flavoured with Ramune, which is a popular Japanese soda. Fun Fact: The name Ramune is derived from the English word lemonade transliterated into Japanese.
Kabuki Cracker. This is a rice cracker stamped with famous kabuki (Japanese dance-drama) emblems. Delicious and culturally elevated.
These are Umaka!, which are ramen chips. This is basically dry crunchy ramen. This versions is flavoured like champon, a Nagasaki noodle dish made from seafood and vegetables. I love a bit of crunch, but as I said above, seafood is bad news for me so no personal test. However I’m sure they taste pretty damn good. Plus I love the picture on the package; it’s pretty appropriate because I really hate not being able to eat seafood so it reflects my feelings exactly.
More savoury crunch in this bag of Nagewa. These are kind of like thin Hula Hoops, flavoured with beef consomme. There is not a single person alive who doesn’t put these on all their fingers before eating them.
I’ve saved the best for last…
Tohato Caramel Corn! I only discovered this recently, when I started reviewing Japanese boxes, and I’m totally in love. The face on the bag is basically my face when I’m eating them. They are a bit like knobbly Wotsits, and come in various delicious flavours,. The company has a standard caramel flavour in a bright red bag, and also produces special flavours at various times of the year. This one is a limited-edition cheesecake flavour and, oh wow, it’s amazing. I’m kind of glad you can’t buy it in the supermarket, because if I had easy access to this stuff I would weigh 300 pounds and have no teeth left.
So there you go, a box full of Japanese deliciousness.
Here are my thoughts. First of all, I think this is great. There is a nice mix of sweet (nine items) and savory (five items). They have clearly thought about having contrast between the different flavours and textures, and having three different Umaibos is heaven for me.
Value-wise, longer subscription periods are always a better deal, which is pretty much the same across the market. Considering all these items come from Japan, there’s no extra shipping cost, and you can’t get many of them outside Japan, this box is very good value. Personally, I think while the Puchi Pack is the cheapest you don’t get many items, so the Regular or Family Packs are the way to go. The Family Pack basically doubles up everything in the Original Pack (though the price is less than double) and may well avoid arguments about sharing. But if it’s just a little too much to pay out then the Original is, in my opinion, more than acceptable.
It’s very reassuring that all these items come straight from Japan, and most are sold there exclusively. They also contain limited edition items, which are always fun.
While it’s perfectly possible to buy Asian snacks and sweets in the UK they are often made specifically for foreign markets, and having spent a long time in a shipping container their use-by dates are extremely short.
They have a good system for gifting, as subscribers can also send extra packages to friends and family, or even as corporate gifts. This would be a really fun way to gather stocking fillers or Secret Santa during the holidays, and would make a lovely and unusual gift for whatever reason!
I really like that this is a family-run business, and Ken, with whom I’ve exchanged emails, is super-friendly and helpful. He is also really, really good at packing those boxes efficiently. His wife is clearly a whizz at origami; the addition of a little origami item is a beautiful personal touch.
There are many subscription boxes of Japanese snacks out there, and this is up there with the best.