Packed with Japanese snacks the Tokyo Treat box is curated and despatched directly from Tokyo, Japan.
I usually start to miss Japan by the time my plane has touched down back home. By that point, the reality is settling in that it’s going to be a bit of a wait before I get back again to do those things I didn’t get around to. The little crinkly bag I boarded the plane with that contained my carefully selected drinks and snacks for the flight home is already empty and I’m starting to mentally note down things I want to include in our next trip.
When we flew back into Brisbane after our late spring visit in 2019 no one had any idea what was to come, that borders would be locked down and 18 months later none of us would be any clearer on when we’d next get to swipe our PASMO card or watch the bonito flakes dancing on piping hot Takoyaki.
By this point, it’s fair to say, I am really missing Japan. So when Tokyo Treat reached out and asked if we’d like to receive their next subscription box to relive some of our travel memories and revisit some favourite Japanese snacks, of course, I said yes please!
Delivery of the Tokyo Treat box
Late Friday afternoon I got the tracking confirmation from DHL that my shipping label had been printed and my package would soon be picked up in Tokyo, one of my favourite cities, and be on its way to me here in Australia. By Tuesday lunchtime it was at my door.
I think most of us now get way more excited at the sight of a courier van stopping in our driveway than we ever thought possible but I was particularly enthusiastic about this one. It was going to transport my taste buds to somewhere I loved but could be right now.
What is the Tokyo Treat box?
The Tokyo Treat box can be ordered as a subscription box for a period of time or a single box can be ordered for yourself or as a gift. Inside the box the treats are all edible, they include both sweet and savoury and in the premium box, there is also a drink.
In designing the service the Tokyo Treat creator noted that Japanese snacks sold internationally were quite different to those you buy in Japan. In the west, they use the same popular flavours like chocolate, strawberry and pumpkin spice over and over again. In Japan, the snack consuming public are constantly looking for something new and different. If the products and packaging aren’t changed up regularly then sales taper off dramatically.
I have sometimes been disappointed while travelling in Japan that I can’t find a snack or drink that I’d loved on a previous visit only to discover it had inevitably been discontinued. The constant search for new flavours does sometimes result in some unusual combinations and not all appeal to my tastebuds but most of the time I just soak up the uniqueness of it all and give everything a go, finding some tasty snacks along the way.
I’ve learned long ago in Japan not to go by the description and never to say I don’t like something until I try it. I mean cabbage pancake doesn’t have any appeal at all but I do love okonomiyaki and who would have thought battered octopus balls would become my favourite festival food, I mean who doesn’t love takoyaki?
Each monthly box has a theme, it might be a season, a Prefecture or a celebration. The October box we received was a Halloween theme. While Halloween is not traditionally a Japanese holiday, like Christmas they have picked up and adopted aspects of it. For Christmas, it is KFC, strawberry sponge cake and date night, for Halloween it is about cutely packaged treats that would be perfect for the trick or treat basket.
Tokyo itself, particularly Shibuya with its strong cosplay community, has got more into Halloween than many other parts of the country with a street parade and party. Like many other celebrations, the snack brands are also fully engaged with specially themed packaging and flavours and that is what we found in this month’s curated selection.
Who would enjoy a Tokyo Treat box?
The box would be ideal for anyone like us who regularly spends time in Japan and is missing it. They would also be fun for anyone in the process of planning a trip or perhaps someone who had planned to travel in the past year but has had to postpone their trip for a while.
I think this would also be a great treat or reward for a student studying Japanese. What a great study aid as they get ready for the end of year exam to work through deciphering the kanji on the packaging. KitKats of some unusual flavour are usually included in the pack and these have a special meaning for students in Japan. The name KitKat sounds a lot like “kitto katsu” which translates to something like, you will surely win so they are often gifted to and between students around exam time.
For those who don’t read Japanese, there are apps for your phone such as Google translate where you can select the camera option and get a rough English equivalent or the words and phrase you select. We use this app quite a bit in Japan on signboards when hiking or even just on menus and packaging.
The type of snacks is similar to what you might pick up in a Japanese 7-eleven or at the train station before bordering the Shinkansen. They are current release, mainstream packaged products, fun and oh so reminiscent of days spent in Japan. However, if you avoid all colourings, sugar and artificial flavourings or exclusively buy your snacks for mom and pop specialty stores that’s not what this box is.
Taking a look inside the October Tokyo Treat Box
The snacks are packaged within a sealed flip-top box. Inside the treats are efficiently placed to sit neatly, exactly fill the box and not get crushed. There is no external packaging or internal padding used. I’m guessing the packaging team excel at Tetris in their time off as you couldn’t have fitted one extra item in the box and nothing got crushed.
Sitting on the top as you open it is the monthly leaflet which is written in English but printed in Japanese style read from right to left, so you start at what would be the back in Australia.
The booklet gives a bit of information on a few supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore including Tengu who I’ve mentioned watching out for as you climb Mt Takao in Tokyo and Mt Misen in Hiroshima.
This is the premium box and it includes all the same items as the classic box plus a drink, KitKat multi-pack and 3 additional items.
It’s quite a decision on where to start, some items stand out for their uniqueness but several trigger memories of fun travel memories across Japan.
A couple of brands first that most people will recognise. The KitKat item is a packet of 12 individually wrapped double mini sticks. This is the format we usually pick up when in Japan when we spot something new that we haven’t tried before or one that particularly appeals. This one is a limited release item in Halloween packaging, the flavour is fall-themed, apple and cinnamon with a twist, the white chocolate coating is purple.
Then there are pocky sticks, there are two individual packs inside the box, they are crushed strawberry flavour on a cacao biscuit stick.
One of the more unusual items, a treat for me but perhaps some would be surprised, is the mentaiko flavoured crunchy puff corn snacks. Mentaiko is cod roe, a rich salty flavour which we first tried fresh at a small restaurant in Asakusa, it has a kind of pasty texture fresh so not everyone loves it but it is one of my favourite onigiri fillings for a fast and convenient picnic lunch when travelling in Japan.
The box is balanced with 8 savoury snacks, 8 sweet snacks and one drink.
The drink in this months Tokyo Treats box is from Asahi Breweries, yes the same one as the beer and I think most visitors to Japan try at least one of the Calpis drinks, if for no other reason than the way many people say it sounds like cow piss, not the most auspicious start but the original drink is a light cultured milk drink that is supposed to be good for you and I enjoy.
The one in the box though is a soda version so it’s got an added fizz and is a distinct grape flavour. It doesn’t have a milky mouthfeel to me but it’s an unusual cloudy consistency for a soda. As someone who searches every drink vending machine as we pass for something different to try, I would definitely have pushed the button on this one if I saw it. It’s another fun memory trigger from those trips and the good and sometimes unexpected discoveries we’ve found in vending machines.
I’m not going to take you through a full taste test of the entire box so just two more sneak peeks. One I had to try straight away was the Maple Butter Beer Ramune Candy. A few things made this one jump out at me, the little character in a wizard hat and cloak on the packet was super cute and Halloween themed and ramune candy is very characteristic of Japanese candy to me.
It’s similar but different to what we are used to. It’s a small sweet of compressed sherbert or ramune soda like what’s inside those little soft drink bottles with the marble in the top. As soon as you put it in your mouth it fizzes and disappears. A western sweet that lasted just a few seconds would be unlikely to catch on but these are really popular in Japan, often in interesting packaging and deliver an intense flavour hit.
These particular ones are flavoured with Butter Beer and as the last place I tasted Butter Beer was a warm cup of the famous brew outside Hogwarts Castles at Universal Studios in Osaka I might be hoarding the rest of these for when I need a little escape to take me back to that fun day.
Finally DIY sweet kit’s are really popular in Japan, I guess they are designed for kids to be scientists in their own kitchen and the October box included one of these too. The kit includes 3 mixers plus the spoon and tray you need to assemble it. Each candy mixer is a different colour and flavour and you’re encouraged to add and taste them one at a time and discover what flavour and colour each combination creates. As the packaging is in Japanese they include English instructions in the booklet but honestly that would be cheating, you’ll figure it out from the pictures on the packet.
If you are deeply missing your own Japan adventures feel free to share your own favourite memories with someone who totally gets it in the comments below. In the meantime, I’m heading back into my Tokyo treat box to see what other memories it will dredge up for me.