Dagashi, Japanese candy 駄菓子
Dagashiya are often modelled in the original Showa-era style
An assortment of dagashi, ranging from hard candies, umaibou, chocolate and dried noodles.
A traditional dagashiya is usually a small shop often run by an old lady, where you can stop to buy candy.
Sweets, movie posters, wooden decor and stacks of toys... this is the atmosphere of a dagashiya.
Memories of the Showa era
It's not just ramune that evokes the image of childhood and summer in the Japanese. Dagashi are also part of the Japanese food culture.
Originally, dagashi were candy, snacks and drinks sold in shops during the postwar period. These treats were often the only sweets available for the majority of the population. With just a 10 yen piece, children in the 60s would flock to buy a few sweets. Dagashi shops, called dagashiya, were the place to go for neighborhood children after school. Many Japanese now in their fifties reminisce fondly about that time.
Today, dagashiya have mostly disappeared. However, we are currently witnessing something of a renaissance, driven by a wave of vintage nostalgia. Department stores are opening their own dagashi chains, while the few surviving shops are also experiencing a revival. They often play up their retro image by recreating the atmosphere of the market stalls of the Showa era.
There isn't just one kind of dagashi but rather hundreds, all very diverse. From ramune flavor candy to lesser-known treats. Among the most successful are the Big Katsu, slices of fried and dried crispy squid, and the Morocco Yoguru, a kind of sweet yogurt that actually has nothing to do with Morocco. Or the kinakobon (soybean flour candy), the umaibou (puffed corn snack), mizuame (hard candy), chocolate cigarettes, bags of cotton candy, ume (plum) jam, and many more - the list is almost endless.
What all these dagashi have in common are ridiculously low prices, as well as tasting great, to appeal to children. Dagashiya are now often equipped with gaming consoles to retain their new young customers.
You will also usually find some dagashi on supermarket shelves and in konbini, but try to find a real shop like the old Edoya on the island of Odaiba or Kamikawaguchiya, the oldest Dagashiya in Japan, around since 1781.
It won't cost you much, except maybe a few cavities!