Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Five: Flavours in Japan

Two years ago, if anyone had told me I'd soon be ordering sweet potato flavoured ice-cream of my own free will, on multiple occasions, and totally loving the taste, I would've  probably gagged just at the thought.

There are a lot of unique flavours in Japan, most of which I had never even heard of, let alone tasted, before I came here. There are also some flavours which I had tasted before and didn't like in NZ, but for some reason I love them here in Japan! I may have sworn that anko (red bean paste) should not qualify as a sweet, but now it's one of the first sweets I'm always drawn to. There's a whole new world of food to enjoy in Japan, so for today's Friday Five, I'm going to recommend 5 flavours you should definitely try whilst in Japan!

6. Kinako

Kinako is roasted soybean flour. It has a dry powdery texture, and a somewhat nutty taste. It's often dusted on Japanese sweets, such as dango, where the mochimochi (chewy) texture of the sweet stops the kinako from drying out your mouth.

My favourite way to enjoy kinako!
Try this: Sprinkle kinako over vanilla ice cream. Then, drizzle some kuromitsu (black sugar honey) on top. One of my absolute favourite desserts in Japan! My brother thought the taste resembled a snickers.

4. Sakura

Of course sakura (cherry blossom) flowers blooming in spring are one of the most beautiful symbols of Japan, but did you know sakura is also a delicious seasonal flavour? Most sakura trees do not actually produce fruit, so the flavour isn't a cherry flavour at all. It's actually the flavour of the flowers and leaves themselves. They have been used in traditional Japanese sweets, such as sakuramochi, for hundreds of years. These days the flavour is incorporated into all kinds of sweets such as cakes, macarons, and even kit kats and haagen-dazs ice cream. The flowers/leaves are often pickled when used in traditional sweets, giving them a very strong, salty flavour. For more modern food, they usually give off a lightly sweet, floral flavour.

I tried one of these sakuramochi recently, but the pickled leaf flavour was too strong for me to enjoy it :(
This year Starbucks Japan will sell a "Caramelly Sakura Chocolate Latte". I'm intrigued!
Try this: Starbucks in Japan releases a seasonal range of drinks based on sakura flavour every year. Stock often runs out fast, so be in quick to try them! Last year's sakura frappacino was my favourite limited flavour of the entire year!

3. Tochiotome

How could I call myself a Tochigi-an without promoting the pride of our prefecture, tochiotome? Tochigi is Japan's #1 producer of strawberries, and produces 16% of all strawberries in Japan, so you'd better believe these guys know what they're doing. Farmers in Tochigi bred a superior tasting strawberry called tochiotome. To me, the taste is stronger than regular strawberries. It's slightly sour, but mainly sweet. It also has a very strong scent - I can always smell them in the supermarket when they're in season!

Big strawberries usually don't have so much flavour, but even these big tochiotome had a great flavour.
Try this: Nothing beats fresh strawberries, so why not have a fun day strawberry-picking with friends? There are a number of farms (or parks such as romantic mura) which allow you to pay to pick and eat as many strawberries as you like. They'll teach you the best way to pick them, and then you can go crazy!

2. Matcha

It's time for a break in the sweet flavours. Matcha is powdered green tea which is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Like sakura, matcha is a traditional foodstuff which is now popularly used as a flavour in many modern and western products. The taste is usually a little bitter, which is why matcha tea is usually served with a traditional sweet during a tea ceremony. Higher-quality matcha can be slightly sweet.

Try this: Matcha flavoured kit kats have to be one of the best novelty treats to share with friends from other countries. There's nothing like seeing a bright green kit kat! The taste hasn't been popular with most of my friends, but it's fun to try.

1. Yuzu

Imagine a cross between a mandarin and a grapefruit, and you've got (only slightly arguably) the best Japanese fruit ever - yuzu. It's got some kick to it for sure, but it's well worth trying on its own, as a flavour in other foods, or as a bath accessory. Yeah, you read that right. It's possible whenever yuzu are in season, but traditionally on the winter solstice (December 21/22), Japanese people will float whole yuzu in their hot bath as they relax. It gives off a wonderful aroma, is said to ward off colds, be good for the skin, and...let's face it, it makes a unique bath toy. As a flavour, yuzu is especially common in drinks (both alcoholic and as a tea), and dressings/seasonings.

Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Yuzu Eau de Toilette.
Try this: Personally, if I see yuzu-flavoured anything at a bar, it'll be my first choice, and should be yours, too! But if you're not in Japan and would like to get an idea of yuzu, I have another fun recommendation. Elizabeth Arden released a new fragrance, Green Tea Yuzu, about one year ago. It's a lovely refreshing citrus perfume, perfect if you want something light and unique.

Have you ever tried any of these flavours? Why not tell me some of your favourite foreign flavours or foods in the comments below?

Thanks for reading!

- Annabelle.


  1. So the green tea kit kats are a good thing to share with friends if you want to share something they probably won't like? :P

    1. Sure, it's an experience! Haha. I think my friends haven't disliked them...they just haven't exactly gone crazy for them :P

  2. I love the idea of the Sakura drinks at Starbucks - they look pretty.

    We tried the matcha tea at a tea house in Kamakura. Yuck - LOL but a fun experience :-)


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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:


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