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Good Snackin’
By Audrey Goh

Japan is not a country that believes solely in the power of ghosts, the art of Zen or the ancient tradition of tea ceremony. They also appreciate the joys of snacking. You will find a gold mine of strange exotic munchies at any corner market. If you want to buy an Omiyagi (gift) for family members or friends back home, do consider Japanese snacks.

Japan has the cutest and oddest snacks available. They are almost considered a cultural aspect by the people of Japan. Schoolgirls share their packets of cookies, drunken businessmen munch on snacks while drinking cups of sake, young monks with shaven heads have their arms laden with goodies for the Friday night binge; I’m sure you get the picture!

My fascination with Japanese snacks lured me to several “delicious” web sites on the Net. These are only some of the more popular tidbits.

Choco Snacks. I discovered that POCKY sticks (chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks) are the most common. The original of all POCKY sticks is the basic milk chocolate variety but other flavors have been added such as nut dipped, dark chocolate, strawberry, custard, melon (although I heard this is rather yucky tasting), and vanilla swirl. You can even buy the giant Pocky one-foot tall boxes found in special vending machines only. Recently the Japanese even added a fancy flavor called “men”, which is meant for the “intelligent connoisseur who enjoys the finer points in life." Ahem!

Fake Choco Snacks. Of course, popularity always gets imitated. These POCKY sticks (mind you, they have “deluxe version”) uses wafer cookies with a soft center instead of the usual pretzel stick. There is also a salty version of POCKY-a complement for beer or sake. Interestingly, they come in a variety of flavors such as beer, salad, and butter.

Cute Choco Snacks. This cute variety is a favorite with my nephew. His personal ‘fav’ is the one shaped like koalas. Another favorite is the one shaped like a popular cartoon character called ANPANMAN (a sweet bean bun man) along with his friends and foes. Other choco snacks are shaped like tree stumps, mushrooms, and of course, the highly-popular superhero Ultraman (for boys only).

Adult Snacks. Although there is nothing obscene about these cookies, they are meant only for adults. Snacks in this category include OREO cookie bars that are gooey berry-filled or extra ‘caffeinated’ for those long 80-hour weeks. Some cookie bars have stranger flavors such as PRUNE or BOURBON (real alcohol).

Strictly for the Kids. If there are snacks for the adults, then there must be some for the kids. These are candies that are too nauseatingly sweet for anyone but the young. But adults do buy them for that cute hair clip or charm that come with the sweets. Other freebies include a hologram sticker of your favorite cartoon character or a cheap locket. Amongst them are POWER PUNCH (sweet sour cotton candy in sheets), jelly beans, and YAN YAN TSUKUBOO (cookie stick that you dip into two sugary concoctions).

Hard Candy. These hard candies are like super sour balls that explode in your mouth. The SUPER ORANGE and SUPER LEMON are sure winners in contorting your face into something unrecognizable. Other candies include little gummy bits in lemon, ume (plum), or mint called SUPER KICK. DEW DEW DROPS are actually boring fruit-flavored drops but the name does amuse me.

Japan is a snack haven. I have only mentioned a few but there is always something for everyone at any time of the day. Do enjoy snackin’!

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