Back in October I tried out Japan Crate, a service that ships boxes of mysterious Japanese snacks to your door once a month. I liked it, mostly, but you don't really know a subscription service until you've subscribed for a bit, so I went two more months.
Japan Crate, like many newish business with the word "Crate" in the name, is a service that delivers boxes of random things to your door each month. In this case, the random things are Japanese snacks — candy, chips and drinks. There are many services like it, but it's the one I saw first, so here we are.
While my first shipment from Japan Crate was satisfying enough, there were a couple of what I called "lazy additions" that soured the overall experience a tad. I was looking for weird Japanese exclusives, and strawberry Pocky and a Street Fighter-labeled energy drink made in Boston just didn't cut it.
So I gave Japan Crate another two months to see how the whole subscription bit of the service paid off.
Month Two — The Box That I Barely Touched
Much of the contents of the second month's crate remain a mystery to me, thanks to a relative being home to get the mail that day instead of me. Faced with a box of strange snacks with no means of knowing what was inside, she opened each one and ate its contents.
What I did manage to get my mouth on was quite lovely and Japanese. The box contained Kit Kats of a green variety, which I devoured hastily upon finding them at the bottom of the box — I'm a huge fan of Japanese Kit Kats.
There was quite a lot of gum, which once again tasted sublime but did a real number on my dental work — Japanese gum is unforgiving when it comes to such things.
Ramune, the Japanese soda with a subdued sweetness and the little glass ball up top to play with, is one of my favorite things. Unless it's the ginseng flavor, which tastes like drinking an ashtray. Not a pleasing experience, but I'm pleased to have had it nonetheless.
Calbee potato chips — they taste like potato chips.
Do It Yourself kits were set aside for their own separate article.
Panda Pocky — it's Pocky. Pocky goes in my mouth. Especially Pocky that isn't widely available in the States. Much love.
Month Three — Jackpot
My favorite of the three boxes I've received from Japan Crate so far, which bodes well. Since a late shipment had the company in a rush to deadline, they provided this handy table of possible items arriving in my December premium crate.
And here is what I received.
Let's take the items one-by-one, shall we?
Arare Nori — Rice Crackers
Handmade rice crackers wrapped in bits of nori seaweed, granting them a distinctively fishy flavor that I personally cannot abide. It's not that I don't enjoy fish — I just prefer things that taste like fish to be fish, if that makes sense.
My wife will love them.
There are 46 calories in a tube of sour grape-flavored Spray Candy. I have no idea where those calories come from. Each spritz offers a fleeting sweet-and-sour jolt before teasingly fading.
That said, I enjoy spraying snacks into my mouth in aerosol form. Can't believe I missed these back when they were big in America.
Puccho is the greatest fruit-flavored candy I've ever had. A relatively standard fruit chew infused with burst of flavor in the form of little gummi balls buried in each rectangular piece. I am seriously in love with this candy. I may have ordered several different flavors online in order to ensure I am never without it again.
These are Japan's answer to Smarties, those slightly-chalky candy discs sold in tubes here in the States. They are supposed to fizz like soda (hence the name), but they don't really. What they do however, is taste amazing and dissolve readily in my mouth, which makes them my friend.
Naruto's childhood friend. Pretty tasty.
Okay fine, it's not Naruto's childhood friend. It's a light biscuit coated with chocolate (which is filled with a thin layer of chocolate syrup) with a layer of green tea on top. One makes for an incredibly lovely little bite. The eight included in the box here make for 261 calories worth of I probably should have saved a couple of these. Oops.
Yokai Yokayoka Cola Gummis
Cola gummis with a pop culture aftertaste! They smell more cola than they taste. In Japan they don't need flavor, because they have Yokai Watch characters on them. Here they could use some flavor.
Watering Kissmint Gum
Curse your wonderful flavor, Japanese gum!
This particular flavor of Watering Kissmint is grape. Grape and mint, two flavors I didn't see working together, yet here they are, partying down. They are not kidding about the watering bit. I have so much saliva in my mouth right now I could do something incredibly gross I should probably not mention.
Bikkle Bin Ready-To-Drink Milk Tea
I am not drinking this.
I am, quite honestly, terrified of whatever is inside this bottle. And that's a good thing, because I'm getting these boxes as part of an ongoing snack adventure, and what's an adventure without a little mild terror?
Another one for the wife.
Saving these for their own little article. My last attempt at doing one was an unmitigated disaster. The next time will be tightly mitigated.
The Verdict — Part Two (and Three)
After a bit of a slow start, Japan Crate really stepped up its game for months two and three. Each new box was an excellent mix of Japanese classics and strange new items. They're leaning a bit heavily on those box-filling do it yourself kits, but those of you who enjoy playing with (or building) your food should appreciate the challenge.
Would I continue the Japan Crate service? As of this very moment, certainly. I've yet to be let down by an assortment, and feel like there's plenty of Japanese candy out there to keep things fresh for months to come.
Then again, I'd drop them in a heartbeat for a service that sent me huge boxes filled with nothing but assorted Puccho every month. It's their own damn fault.