Do You Want to Hear About This Japanese Snack Box I Got?

Well, you’re going to anyways, so strap in and come on this voyage of exciting flavors from across the sea with me!

I, being me, subscribed to yet another subscription box. Though this one is very different from all my other ones, because it is a snack box! Specifically a Japanese snack box, called Sakuraco.

Sakuraco is a company that wants to bring the experience of afternoon tea to others, and provide delicious snacks that aren’t really known outside of Japan. Their boxes contain 20 different Japanese tea time goods. So while most of the items are snacks, there is also tea and a home good, like ceramic dishware or chopsticks or something of the sort. The snacks range from castella cakes to senbei crackers to mochi.

So, I got my first Sakuraco box last week and today my dad and I tried it, and I’m here to give y’all the review.

The March 2021 box is their first ever box! This month’s theme was sakura (coincidental that it’s called Sakuraco, amiright?), so a good portion of the snacks were sakura flavored, which is cherry blossoms! So almost all of the packaging was super pretty pink and floral and totally adorable.

First up, we tried the Mini Sakura Senbei, which was one of the few savory snacks in the box.

These cherry blossom shaped rice crackers were soy sauce flavored, and they were a strong start to our tasting experience. They were crispy, light, salty, and addicting! The guide booklet provided with the snack box actually had a “maker highlight” page featuring the company that makes these, and it says that the Sakurado Confectionary is based in Niigata, which is the rice capital of Japan, and they only use rice from that region to make their snacks. So that’s pretty neat!

Up next was a Strawberry Dorayaki.

I’d never heard of dorayaki before, but it’s basically just a castella pancake! This particular one had a red bean and strawberry jam filling inside, which was a great flavor combination. The pancakes were definitely a different kind of texture than what I’m used to, but it was soft and sweet and quite enjoyable. I personally maybe would’ve liked a little more filling in it, but overall it was very good!

Next on our list was the Yoshino Kuzumochi.

This little bowl of kuzumochi (a gelatinous dessert made from kudzu vines) came with a packet of brown sugar syrup and a packet of roasted soybean flour (called Kinako), which is the brown powder you see on top of it in the picture. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, so I only added a sprinkle on top rather than a mound.

I have always loved mochi, but this was so different from what I was used to. I couldn’t get past the texture, and I almost couldn’t even swallow it I detested it so much. The flavor was fine. The brown sugar syrup wasn’t nearly as sweet as I would’ve expected, and the mochi itself was largely bland. My dad liked it, though, and said he didn’t mind the texture at all. Texture bothering me is such a rare occurrence, I like almost everything! So for me to not be able to eat something due to texture was surprising to me. The packaging was totes adorbs, though.

Moving on, we tried another castella type cake, this one being Strawberry Castella.

This little cake was a bit of a disappointment. It was dry, and my dad and I agree it felt like we were eating foam. And there for sure wasn’t enough filling, which didn’t really help the dry aspect of the cake. There was actually two of these in the box, but we didn’t eat the second one because it really was not very good.

The next thing we tried was the Sakura Strawberry Crepe Roll!

This was a big improvement from the strawberry cake we had before it. It was very light, since it’s just a thin crepe roll. The description said it’s coated in strawberry filling and that sakura are “worked into the crepe batter to give it the aroma of cherry blossoms.” I wouldn’t say it smelled strongly of cherry blossoms, though, but it did taste a little floral.

Japanese sweets are very different from American sweets in the way that they don’t punch you in the face with cavity-inducing sweetness. Japanese snacks tend to be much more subtle in sweetness, and focus more on flavors, whereas American snacks are like “YOU WANT EXTREME SOUR ACID COATED CANDY? YOU GOT IT.”

These were a perfect example of such thing, where they weren’t overly sweet, and had that delicate floral, strawberry flavor coming through. It was nice.

Following the sakura trend, we tasted the Sakura Madeleine next.

These sweet little muffin looking things were pretty good! The madeleine follows pretty much exactly what I just said about the subtle floral flavors and whatnot. It was a very mild, slightly sweet cake that was definitely pleasant and seems perfect for tea time.

After that we tried another one of the savory snacks. This one is a Sakurasen Cracker.

What we have here is another rice cracker, though this was one less crispy and more just kind of hard. The description says it has a mellow flavor, with sakura as an ingredient to give it the scent of cherry blossoms, but my dad and I agree there was no trace of cherry blossom going on in it. It had such a strong umami flavor, probably because it contained squid, so it was pretty salty. This cracker was deemed by us as “just alright.”

Following the disappointing rice cracker was the Sakura Monaka.

Here we have sakura scented red bean paste filling in between an oh so thin and crispy monaka wafer, which I had never heard of before. The crispy outside was a great contrast to the soft, jelly-like inside, and the flavor was super yummy!

Red bean paste is something I quite enjoy, and have liked since the first time I tried, but my dad says it was something he had to get used to, and didn’t exactly enjoy the first time he had it. I think it is definitely an unusual flavor. Again, it’s one of those things that is common there but kind of wild here. Like, BEANS as a dessert? Who would’ve thought.

So, yes, these were very good and one of my favorite things in the box! Though they did make a bit of a mess because the wafer layer totally falls apart when you bite into it.

Next up was the last of the savory snacks, the Sakura Shrimp Senbei!

This flower shaped rice cracker was actually very tasty, and tasted strongly of shrimp. It was salty, airy, crispy, and overall quite good! I could’ve definitely gone for a whole bag of these instead of just one, but I’m a bit gluttonous when it comes to snacks.

After this one was something I have always dreamed of trying, Red Bean Taiyaki.

This fish shaped dessert is about as far as you can get from the real thing, thankfully. The sweet bread is filled with red bean paste, which again is something I find super tasty, but it’s not for everyone.

Taiyaki is something I’ve always wanted to try because I saw so much in anime when I was a teenager. Almost every anime has that one episode where there’s a school festival or a celebration of some kind where street food is involved, and the characters are always shown eating taiyaki or those tri-colored dango. It always looked so good and I wished so badly I could try it someday. And while this version is just a packaged snack kind instead of one I got from a festival, I’m still happy I got to try it.

I was shocked by the next item, which was the Uji Matcha Castella.

I was surprised because basically the whole box is sakura or strawberry or a combination of the two, but this ogre-colored cake stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the pretty pinks. It’s green tea flavored, and has some red beans in it, so it was a whole different flavor profile from the rest of the box. I was glad for the change though, and it was a very tasty cake! It was moist and flavorful, definitely one of the best items in the box.

Made by the same company is this almost identical White Peach Castella:

Same soft consistency as the matcha cake, and same great moistness. This cake tasted like a toned down version of peach rings, and was another favorite amongst me and my family. Both cakes were great, I just prefer peach to matcha.

After these pillow-y sweet cakes, we decided to try the Sakura Mochi Monaka.

Another monaka wafer treat! Just like the other monaka snack in the box, it was also filled with red bean paste and sakura petals, the only difference is this one was salted sakura instead of sweet. This made for a very interesting sweet and salty combination. Though the pleasantly crispy outside didn’t taste like anything, the flavorful filling more than makes up for it. It has a perfect amount of the filling, too, so that’s nice. This one, though good, was more intriguing than anything.

Nearing the end, we have the Peach Sandwich.

Though they look pretty dang tasty, these overly peachy sandwiches were not very good. It was so odd, it almost felt like I had something gritty in my mouth, and my dad agreed that the texture was definitely like sand. These tasted so strongly of peach it was overwhelming, and overall they were just unenjoyable.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Sakura Konpeito.

You like rock candy? You like these.

These flower shaped sweets are literally just balls of hardened sugar. They have no flavor, despite the variety of colors, they are just pure, delicious, addictive sugar. We chose to eat these last because it was the only candy in the box, so it felt like the right note to end on. They were so tiny! They’re very cute, but again, they’re just sugar with no flavor, so a bit underwhelming overall.

The only food item in the box that was not tried was the Sweet Sakura Tea.

I do not like tea (though I wish desperately I did) and neither does my father, so we skipped this one entirely, plus I didn’t feel like putting it in the effort of boiling water and yada yada yada. Very aesthetically pleasing, though. I think it’s nice they include a tea considering it is all about providing the experience of tea time.

Aside from the food, this box came with a super duper cute ceramic plate with cherry blossom print!

It’s just a tiny little tasting plate, but it’s the perfect size for your afternoon tea time snacks and confectionaries! I love it.

You may be wondering, wasn’t that only 17 items and not 20? Well, little loophole there, there’s one extra of the strawberry castella cake, the sakura mochi, and the sweet sakura tea. So you don’t get 20 different things, you just get 20 things total. Though 17 is still a lot of different things to try, but I wish they would mention that some of the items are repeats.

Alright, so, like I said this a subscription box, and most subscription boxes have an option to pay for more than one month upfront at a cheaper bulk cost. If you choose to pay monthly, it’s $37.50 a box. A three month subscription is $35.50, six months is $33.50 a month, and a year is $32.50. So, the more you spend the more you save or whatever.

I went with the three month option because I think three months is the perfect amount of time to test any subscription box. One month isn’t enough in my opinion to know if a subscription box is actually good or not, because what if you get the one box that’s just a total miss, but every other box is awesome. You have to be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves.

So, it was basically a hundred bucks for a three month subscription. This was a smidge of a high price in my opinion, but whatever, because where else am I going to find all these Japanese snacks?! So, I was fine with a hundred. Then, when I went to check out, my total was suddenly almost $150. The shipping on the three boxes costs almost $40. Each box’s shipping was like, $12.50! I mean, I know it’s coming from literally all the way across the globe, but those dozen dollars stack like a motherfuck. Shipping was almost half the cost of the price! Kind of wild, honestly.

So is the snack box worth it? If you really like Japanese snacks, then yeah, I’d say so. If you’re not a big fan of trying new snacks and sweets from different places, then I wouldn’t recommend dropping the (roughly) fifty dollars a box.

I am excited for next month’s box. April’s theme is “Matcha”, so instead of everything being pink I’m sure a lot of it will be green! Stay tuned to see what comes next month. And have a great day!

-AMS

26 Comments on “Do You Want to Hear About This Japanese Snack Box I Got?”

  1. Ah, the rice crackers (senbei or sembei) bring back memories of my childhood. My best friend’s mother, a wonder Japanese woman, would always have them around the house.

    I preferred the savory to the sweet – and now I need to go down to our local international grocery to get some.

  2. Interesting!

    As it happens, I subscribe to a different, less expensive service called Bokksu, which delivers me a variety of Japanese snacks every month. I’m in for the yearly subscription, which is a total of $292 or so each year including tax and shipping. It tends to a variety of small snacks, along with a little bag of tea, which I’m not that quick at drinking, so I’ve got a little bowl of unused Japanese tea. :)

    I really enjoy the service and trying out unusual snacks.

  3. This was a fun little taste test of snacks I’ve never tried until I saw the price tag & then the whole thing turned on me instantly into a cringe-worthy experience. Your penchant for trying something new from a different culture is wonderful though and I think I’ll try to do the same on a fractional budget. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. The kuzumochi was my favorite thing in the box! It’s soooo hard to find that stuff outside of Japan.

    The Strawberry Castella was probably such a disappointment because of the timing you ate it, assuming you only just received the box this week instead of earlier in the month, it was probably already stale when you got it. I received my box at the beginning of March and we didn’t eat everything immediately. The first Strawberry Castella we ate right when the box arrived and it was very soft and fluffy. The second one got saved until about 3 weeks later and it was very hard and dry at the point, and no longer very good. It apparently gets stale fast and the quality drops significantly once stale. I think the same thing was the issue with that peach sandwich. I also didn’t think it was great, but I saved it and ate it after the box was sitting around for a while and I think it did not age well like the Strawberry Castella. My main lesson from my first box was that trying to make the food last is a mistake, you should eat it within a few days of getting each box.

    I also found the shipping painful, but they have to ship it DHL in order for the box to arrive within a few days of shipping. They could ship it much cheaper but then it would take weeks to arrive instead of days and the food quality would deteriorate before you received it.

  5. You might want to check out Japan Crate – same idea, basically with Japanese junk food.

    JaWarlock on YouTube does unboxings of them if you want to check them out.

  6. I am very lucky to live about 1/2 mile from a Japanese grocery. Thank you for giving me some items to look for!

  7. Oh btw, thought I might add:

    If anyone reading this review is especially interested in trying just 1 or 2 specific items from the box, SakuraCo has a sister site called ‘JapanHaul’ that sells most of the items individually with no need for a subscription. A few of the items from the March box are sold out now, but some are still available. It also carries stuff that was in the TokyoTreat boxes, which is a more junk food/grocery store style snack food subscription similar to the bokksu and Japan crate subscriptions mentioned in other comments.

  8. Wow, I’ve never been interested in this topic, and you made it mouth-wateringly intriguing! I might have gone for it, if you hadn’t warned of the price. Still considering…
    But I’d like to hear more – I have enough enough stuff for a lifetime, but food will always be necessary.

  9. You may or may not have one near you, but my local Costco is selling packages of individually-wrapped red bean dorayaki, and they’re pretty delicious. I had no idea what they were, but I also like red bean flavors, so I took a chance when I saw them. Totally worth it.

  10. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to go for a box full of surprise foods, but your pictures and descriptions make me want to try some of these (and maybe avoid a few others)! I’m going to have to check out the related options mentioned in the comments, though. And I have to say, I currently have about 10 varieties of loose leaf tea and at least 5 varieties in tea bags, so that may be the most intriguing part of the box for me :)

  11. I love the way you write about food! You aren’t an old hand food critic, so many things are exciting and new to you, but you do have a good understanding of how to write about flavor and texture and visual appeal.

    I grew up in Ohio, but at your age we really had to forage to find anything more than classic American foods. My Dad grew up in Europe, so was always looking for some of those treats. We spent a lot of time at the Westside Market in Akron or at Lou and Hy’s deli! He also discovered the only Japanese market (tiny) in Akron so I could buy wonton wrappers and rice noodles. Where he worked as a chemist was quite international, so I also got to try Indian and Chinese foods whenever he had friends over.

    I’m so glad you have many more snack options than I did!

  12. “This little bowl of kuzumochi (a gelatinous dessert made from kudzu vines)”

    IIRC, kudzu is an invasive plant in the south (as well as gracing the cover of R.E.M.’s first album), so perhaps ecologists and food processors in the south needs to look into this.

  13. Red bean paste is definitely a dessert flavor! It’s also a very easy DIY pastry ingredient, and I strongly recommend that you try making it. Sweet buns with red bean paste are a bad addiction….

  14. My wife is a sucker for international snacks, so I got her a subscription to Universal Yums for her birthday. Each month she gets a box of treats from a new country. We have really enjoyed it so far.

  15. Based on my experiences traveling in Japan, the taste of every Japanese “snack” eventually comes to be indistinguishable from every other Japanese “snack.”
    On the other hand, the texture of each Japanese “snack” is also indistinguishable from every other Japanese “snack,” but this is the case from the get-go.

  16. I’m a huge Japanese tea fan. When you say you are not a fan, I wonder if you’ve tasted Japanese tea or just put off by the Lipton tea bags we get here?

    Traveling in Japan is such fun. Those types of snacks are wonderful surprises when you buy a random sample. Giving gift snacks from famous places is a wonderful custom in Japan.

    Enjoy your adventure.

  17. “…because where else am I going to find all these Japanese snacks?!”

    –>I used to go to a very high-end Japanese bakery/pastry shop in New York (they have a few stores around the world) called Minamoto Kitchoan.

    Their website is easily googleable (I didn’t know if dropping links in the comments is okay). Not cheap, and not “snacky,” but omg I now need to mail order mochi and cakes.

  18. Minamoto Kitchoan is the best!! I highly recommend, it’s a must stop for me when I’m in New York.

    There is also a tea house in the Village called Cha-An that is amazing. One of my favorite places to eat ever. It’s really worth checking out if you like Japanese tea or mochi and other tea associated foods.

  19. What a nice review of something I would never try. It reminded me of my young adulthood in Portland OR where I would go to Chinatown to get steamed buns with sweet bean paste filling. I tried to learn to pronounce the name of them but was assured by the proprietors that I had it wrong, would never have it right and just to point.
    I’m a total tea drinker. I hope you have tea-drinking friends to pass the tea along to. I expect the drier snacks go well with the tea.

  20. So I went to my local upscale supermarket today and this inspired me to buy some red bean mochi. And it was…okay? I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I really kinda thought it didn’t taste like much of anything. I don’t regret the $3 I spent but I don’t really see buying it again unless my wife (who liked it rather more than I did) wants to.

  21. I love red bean paste! I wasn’t sure about it when people talked about it. But obviously I had to give it a shot when I was in Japan and – YUM. Sweets made from beans is a slightly weird concept, but also, I’m a pretty big bean fan, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I enjoyed it so much!

  22. The Japanese are truly the masters of snack food! Unfortunately, one of the big drawbacks of the whole quarantine thing has been not being able to go to my local Asian market. I do love red bean paste (or at least the things made with it, dunno that I’d spoon the stuff out of a bowl). The rice crackers are also wonderfully addictive.

    I also like mochi… back in my college years there was a kind of mochi that came as boards or pucks of what looked for all the world like plastic (and seriously, you could use those boards as a cutting-board), but stick the pucks, or pieces of the board, in the microwave and they’d puff into nice little mochi rolls. Alas, I haven’t seen that stuff in 20 years.

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