While Easter isn’t widely celebrated in Japan even as a commercial holiday, they do produce and export a wide variety of interesting chocolate and candy that is happily available to us in Toronto. If you’re looking for last-minute Easter sweets and can’t bear the sight of another Allan-brand bunny, try some treats made by long-standing and well-respected companies like Meiji and Morinaga, the latter of which “offers good health with delight & taste.”
Both Morinaga and Meiji are ancient by any standard. Morinaga was founded by Taichiro Morinaga in 1899 upon his return to Japan from the United States, and Meiji began a bit later in 1916. Both started by producing Western confectionaries like caramels and moved into milk chocolate in 1918. Almost a hundred years later, they’re still developing new products that satisfy tastes both in Japan and abroad.
Of the extensive array of Meiji products, the classic solid milk chocolate bar is the most historically significant; it’s been their flagship product ever since its release in 1918. The packaging is plain and simple, reminiscent of the traditional Hershey bar—itself developed at the turn of the century.
If you like nuts, the chocolate-covered almonds and especially the white chocolate–covered macadamia nuts are amazing. Macadamia nuts, imported from Hawaii, are popular in Japan, but may just be the highest calorie food on earth. It’s a “sometimes” food.
On the slightly crazier side, Meiji makes chocolate-covered gummies with various fruit centres packaged in a convenient rainstick-like tube. One of the newer Meiji products on the shelves is the “Glucose & Chocolate” whose packaging says: “replenish energy for thinking” and “concentration switch on!”
Sanko carries a few Pocky-like Morinaga items called “koeda”—small branches. Unlike Pocky, which have a pretzel centre, these sticks are made of pure chocolate mixed with crisp rice and cream-based flavours.
Several years ago during the outbreak of SARS, Morinaga made the unfortunate move of releasing DARS, a milk chocolate candy with a fruit yogurt centre.
If you don’t have a sweet tooth at all, Glico—the company that makes Pocky—also produces Pretz, savoury pretzel sticks with chip-like flavours. “Salad” is the name of an actual marketed flavour in Japan that tastes somewhat like Cheez Whiz. The tomato ones have a sort of nacho/tomato soup character. The giant Canadian maple-syrup ones are proudly labelled as “Canada Pretz.” Canadian maple syrup is well-loved in Japan and available just about everywhere. Is anyone else feeling insecure that the Canada ones are super-sized?
In the downtown core, you can find the largest selections of Japanese snacks at Sanko Trading Co. and T&T Supermarket. Sanko is keeping regular hours throughout the long weekend (Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) as is T&T (9 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily). How can we turn down an offer of good health with delight & taste? Happy Easter!
All photos by Ayngelina Brogan.