Dagashi are cheap candy and snacks, inexpensive enough for children to buy with their allowance. Those created by Osaka snack and candy manufacturers are conspicuous for their uniqueness. Alongside the small toys sold together with snacks or candy in sets known as shokugan (candy-toys), which evolved from the free toys often given away with dagashi, they illustrate the service mindset and fertile imagination of Osaka people.
We put together a collection of dagashi made in Osaka. Among them are some that don't even look like candy, or which pale beside the toys given away with them as free gifts, and all are interesting and full of ideas!
We asked Ms. Yoshiko Danda, an Osaka-based food writer, what's so special about Osaka dagashi.
“They might be shaped like mobile phones, whistles, or glasses, so children can play with the candies themselves as toys. That's what makes Osaka dagashi special. What's unique about Osaka is that it's not enough for dagashi to taste good as snacks or candy—they have to be fun, too.”
For example, it's said that many ideas for snacks and candy from manufacturer Orion are dreamed up when employees go out drinking on the way home from work.
“Osaka people have a sense of humor about everything, and they take the initiative for themselves in having fun.”
At the root of this lies the service mindset of manufacturers who want their customers to be satisfied, and who are happy if children are enjoying themselves.
“But Osaka people aren't smug about this commitment, instead, they belittle themselves with self-deprecating statements like ‘We make trashy products, don't we?' I find that Osaka temperament really appealing.”
Ramune candy (soda candy) are sold in packages that look just like real items such as canned drinks, disposable cameras, and mobile phones. Kids like copying adults, and they really love these. The mobile-phone-shaped packages are also decorated with popular characters (©1976, 2002 Sanrio Co., Ltd.). (All products by Orion.)
This product from Furuta Confectionery contains chocolate candies packaged in the form of a figure 8. Passing a rubber band through the holes at right and left turns it into a pair of glasses! The ramune candy and gum produced by Coris make a sound like a whistle when you put them to your mouth and blow through the hole in the middle. They are the top candy for playing with before eating.
This sembei, soy sauce flavored rice crackers with a hint of sweetness and a delicate crunch, are commercialized versions of what was originally a snack consisting of glutinous rice crackers baked and sold by individual households. They're a treat familiar to every Osaka resident. Today they are sold all over Japan, with one product alone accounting for over two hundred million yen in annual business. This product is produced by Matsuokaseika.