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A Mini Guide To Japan’s Seasonal Drink And Snack Ingredients

I’m sharing my love of limited edition snacks and drinks with A Mini Guide To Japan’s Seasonal Drink And Snack Ingredients.

I’m a HUGE fan of limited edition seasonal stuff and am always on the lookout for the latest products. Honestly, if my life were a hashtag, it would probably be, “I’m addicted to limited edition things” (#期間限定に弱い/kikan gentei ni yowaii).

When it comes to shopping for seasonal drinks and snacks in Japan, be on the lookout for these phrases:

  • 新発売  — shin hatsubai | new release 
  • 期間限定  — kikan gentei | for a limited time only  
  • 春季 — shunki | spring
  • 夏季 — kaki | summer
  • 秋季 — shuuki  | autumn
  • 冬季 — touki | winter

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Sometimes snack and drink makers throw a curveball and release products that are completely unrelated to the season. With that said, let’s dive into the wonderful world of limited edition snacks from Japan!

A Mini Guide To Japan’s Seasonal Drink And Snack Ingredients

Spring (春季限定 — shunki gentei)

 

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Early spring is prime time for strawberry picking. Tochigi Prefecture is Japan’s largest producer of strawberries while Fukuoka is famous for its wonderfully sweet “amaou” variety.

Right around Valentine’s Day, Starbucks releases its sakura collection. From then, lighter flavors replace the rich, intense taste of chocolate, especially after White Day. (White Day, by the way, is March 14, when men return chocolates to women).

Fun fact: Why do spring flavors like sakura (cherry blossom) come out in early February? Because February 4 is risshun (立春), the start of spring. The day before, February 3 is setsubun (節分) which literally translates as “divide the seasons” AKA the day between winter and spring. #themoreyouknow

Flavors to try:

  • Japanese plum (梅/Ume)
  • Cherry Blossoms (桜/Sakura)
  • Peach (桃/momo)
  • Chocolate (チョコ/choko)
  • Strawberry (苺/ ichigo)

Summer (夏季限定 — kaki gentei)

 

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Summer in Japan means beach fun, fireworks, and festivals (祭り/matsuri). Lots of fun, right?

But, summer in Japan, especially its urban areas, is notoriously hot and humid. Nearly every day on the news there’s a segment dedicated to the number of heatstroke victims across the country.

Because of this, you’ll find plenty of soft drinks and throat lozenges enhanced with electrolytes in an attempt to help combat heat stroke.

Gardening in the early morning or evening and not having high schoolers play baseball when it’s 35 degrees out might help reduce the number of heatstroke victims… but what do I know?

At any rate, these snacks are a delicious way to cool down, but if you need more tasty inspiration, check out: 5 Delicious Ways To Stay Cool In Japan This Summer and 50 Must-Haves For Summer in Japan.

Flavors to try:

  • Watermelon (スイカ/suika)
  • Lemon (レモン/remon)
    • Preferably from the Setouchi (瀬戸内) region encompassing Hyogo, Ehime, Kagawa, Yamaguchi, Tokushima and Hiroshima Prefecture.
  • Salt (塩/shio)
  • Tropical (トロピカル/toropikaru)
    • Think mango, dragonfruit, pineapple, etc from Japan’s sunny southern regions of Kyushu and Okinawa
  • Mint chocolate (チョコミント/choko minto)
    • Chocominto is a very divisive, hate-it-or-love-it flavor, and mint chocolate lovers across Japan proudly declare themselves as chokomin to (チョコミン党), where “to” is the kanji used in Japan to denote a political party. In other words, #mintchocolateislife

Fall (秋季限定 — shuuki gentei)

 

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Autumn is perhaps the best time to experience Japan, its culture, and cuisine (IMHO). Once summer vacation is over, there are less crowds and more seats on buses, planes, and trains.

Plus, the weather is pleasant and mild, you’ll want to go out everyday.

I go on about the awesomeness of autumn in this post, 10 Reasons Why Autumn is the Best Time to Experience Japan. But, let me just go over a few ways to have fabulous fall fun.

I really recommend staying at a traditional Japanese inn (旅館/ryokan). That way, you can experience the wonderful world of kaiseki ryori (会席料理). Kaiseki ryori is a course meal that that can best be described as edible art. Of course, you need to hit the convenience store before you go for snacks to eat on the trip there!

Flavors to try:

  • Grapes (ぶどう/budou)
  • Japanese sweet potato (さつまいも/satsumaimo)
    • Sweet potato picking, or imo hori,  is an activity in the fall that daycare and kindergarten kids do. It’s a  flavor that most definitely brings back wonderful memories for some.
  • Chestnut (栗/kuri)
  • Mushrooms (きのこ/kinoko)
  • Pumpkin (かぼちゃ/kabocha)
  • Houjicha (ほうじ茶)
  • Persimmon (柿/kaki)

Winter (冬季限定 — touki gentei)


For some reason, winter sweets seem to be heavy on flavor – and loaded with calories!

Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day comes one right after another. so, basically, winter is an endless parade of chocolates, Christmas cake, and even more chocolates!

Plus, you can’t forget all the wonderful hot drink concoctions that warm you up even on the coldest of days.

Flavors to try:

    • Mandarin orange/mikan (みかん/mikan)
    • Apple (りんご/ringo)
    • Strawberry (いちご/ichigo)
    • Christmas cake (クリスマスケーキ/kurisumasu ke—ki)
    • Chocolate (チョコ/choko)
    • Berry (ベリー/beri-)

For more on the wonderful world of Japanese snacks, check out my collaboration with Bokksu!

A Mini Guide To Japan’s Seasonal Drink And Snack Ingredients

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