Yes Halloween Candy!
It's October and if you come from a country like the United States, it's the time of year where you start the downward spiral of eating way too many sweets. This lasts until New Years day or even potentially Valentines Day.
Children get giddy at the thought of collecting candy for Free! There are unspoken contests about who can collect the most candy and some children fill pillowcases. Nevermind those pesky plastic buckets – too small! After the collecting is done, the sorting process begins, and trades ensue, to confirm the largest possible quantity of well-liked candy. Most of the time the results of this much candy are frequent sugar rushes and sugar crashes, sometimes lasting for the remainder of the year. To the chagrin of parents and dentists all over America, limiting to one piece (or even three) of candy a day rarely happens.
Er, Japan didn't quite get it right.
I see a lot of effort though, much more than a few years ago. The costumes and halloween parties are caught-on in Japan. I don't imagine going to the neighbors' for some free candy will ever catch on in Japan. It's a bit intrusive to our privacy and also just seems rude. Even in America, I've always thought it was a strange custom, but hey, free candy?
Oh the sweetness, it's a bit more intense in the US. Maybe it's the high fructose corn syrup, the artifical colors and flavors, the sheer quantity... It makes for some good crazies and sugar addictions. In Japan it seems a lot more mellowed down, but still satisfying.
Candy bars are not such a big thing in Japan. In the US I feel like we have candy bars and granola bars (which are the slightly healthier version) everywhere, and these pass for valid nutritious snacks for when you're hungry between meals. Anyway, besides the odd Snickers or Black Thunder, the main candy bar I see in Japan is the Kit Kat.
But, Kit Kat in Japan is so much better! It's almost always seen in the mini (teeny tiny) versions, in bags unless you're at a convenience store. And the flavors! In the US I think there's an option for milk or 'dark' chocolate now, but that's about it. A standard in Japan is Matcha Kit Kat, anywhere from about 200 yen at discount supermarkets to 400 yen at Kaldi Coffee Farm for a mini-pack of 11 or so. Exciting seasonal flavors are usually available for a short time only, for example, sakura, pumpkin, and sake flavored Kit Kat. Whee! Jealous much America?
Snacks. Just Halloween snacks.
One thing I see tons of this year are Halloween themed seasonal snacks and Halloween packaging for things that are exactly the same. Entertaining flavors like “Yogurt Cheetos” which doesn't sound appealing or like a seasonal flavor just confuse me. White Cheetos would be white cheddar flavor in my world... yogurt... hmmm. Then there's the Oktoberfest "curry werst."
One thing Japan gets so right is seasonal foods.
Pumpkin / Kabocha
Obviously, we must have the pumpkin flavored things in fall. Starbucks probably has their pumpkin spice lattes, I know Tully's and other places have similar pumpkin lattes. No pumpkin Jamba juice, but we can find kabocha Haagen Dazs. Pumpkin pudding snack sandwiches anyone? I remember being able to find yummy Pumpkin pudding all the time before, but I guess that's not a thing in Kyushu. Pumpkin roll cake was just meh. I've seen teeny pumpkin tarts but haven't tried one yet and I'm guessing pumpkin pies are available at Costco?
Seasonal "maple custard cookie" Haagen Dazs sounds exciting and even maple granola is available now. My Canadian friends would agree, maple is awesome, year round. Kaldi Coffee Farm has amazing maple cream cookies, maybe all year.
Persimmon / Kaki
More orange food please! I usually see persimmon flavoring high end treats like yokan, maybe dried pieces in granola, but not much for other sweets. I guess it's just really good fresh so there's no need to eat it any other way. It has a mild flavor, but I wouldn't mind trying persimmon flavored ice cream if someone made it. Hint hint.
Chestnut / Maron / Kuri
Another fall favorite! These are also used for high end sweets, to autumn - up anything possible. I haven't seen so many candies with chestnut flavor and it's not as popular in the US, at least on the west coast. Images of roasting chestnuts over an open fire seem more like a Christmas tradition in the UK that Americans don't usually bother with. Still this time of year kuri-gohan is really nice. Plus being one of the foods we can gather up ourselves makes chestnuts special.
Sweet Potato / Imo
Yams and sweet potatoes are something we see often on the Thanksgiving table (candided yams covered in marshmallows) but not so much in candies in the US. In Japan we can find yaki-imo sold by street vendors and in every supermarket. Of course there are imo flavored Kit Kat and granola too! I've heard of sweet potato pies in the states, but here it's more sweet potato pound cake.
Slapping a Jack o' Lantern face on just about anything makes things festive, but I dunno. I like the seasonal fall flavors available in Japan more than American sugar overload. Did I miss one of your favorite fall flavors?