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Guest Review: Packaged Snacks at Mitsukoshi in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

Welcome guest author Eric (aka Galloping Gourmand) with a review of traditional snacks from the Japan Pavilion in Disney World’s Epcot! And let’s give him a round of applause for going beyond our favorite Pocky sticks and trying the more unique eats too!

Tucked way in the back of the Japanese pavilion at Epcot, through the heavy doors, over the bridge, and beyond the display of toys… in the left hand wing of the back of Mitsukoshi Department Store lies a little food shop.

Mitsukoshi - Exterior of Store

Atmosphere

Most Epcot pavilions have these areas. They are often dedicated to regional foods and candies.

Most of the Japanese store is like this. You can find tea and many different candies; but tucked in the very back of the store is some of the more unusual fare.

The shelves are usually surrounded by gawkers walking by and saying “I don’t think I would eat that,” or, as one person said while I was browsing… “ewwwwwwwww.”

They said that after picking up these little guys:

Dried Crabs

Eats

But more about them later. My goal was to buy and sample some of the interesting foods and candies. A young woman who had spent some time in Japan and was browsing the food became my helpful guide. She suggested I try these:

Rice Crackers

The package calls them Iso Maki, although I couldn’t tell you if that was the actual Japanese name.

Maki is a type of sushi roll that includes seaweed nori rolled around rice. Here, it’s a rice cracker rolled with a small piece of seaweed.

The ingredient list is very short and healthy: rice, soy sauce, seaweed, sugar, and tapioca starch. With such a simple list it has to live and die by how well its flavors work together and the quality of the cracker.

You can taste each and every ingredient. The cracker is hearty and quite substantial for a rice cracker. The seaweed wrap gives it a nice light fishy flavor. When you take a bite, the fishy flavor is what you get first, then a light hint of soy sauce, followed by the slightly sweet cracker. Note: This picture was difficult to take because my cat kept trying to lick the cracker! ;-)

Rice Cracker

They were very good, but you have to like the fishy seaweed flavor, which lingers a little on your palate. And I do. In fact I liked them so much they almost derailed my taste test because I couldn’t stop snacking!

Next up was this Rice Candy. Again, a very simple ingredient list: glucose syrup, sugar, sweet rice, lemon flavor, orange flavor, and red no. 40. I’m surprised how few artificial ingredients there are in these foods compared to American ones.

It’s very mushy and sticky; to eat it you unwrap the outer wrapper and eat the inner wrapper.

Botan Rice Candy

At first the cellophane-y feel of the internal wrapper was strange, and I wondered if I had eaten it wrong; but as it dissolved it was very pleasing and melted into the sticky candy.

The flavor was a light orange. This was very tasty, not sweet, and something that I would have a hard time not selecting as an impulse buy in the checkout line.

It also comes with a picture of… um… a golfing… I’m not sure what that is really. ;-)

Rice Candy Sticker

Two for two so far.

It’s time for my next treat, these Koala’s March crackers! I feel a little annoyed that they were made in Thailand, but they are apparently very popular in Japan and were everywhere you turned in the store.

Inside the big package was a smaller package that was half full with these little crackers. The strawberry flavor was slightly artificial and quite strong to start but vanished quickly.

Compared to the simplicity and great natural flavor of the other food, I found these to be a disappointment. Not bad, just a letdown. (This picture was easy to take as my cat sniffed the air and walked away!)

Koala Crackers

Ok, now back to those little crabs. These are listed as Tamagogani on the package. They are exactly what they look like – little dried crabs.

They are coated in sugar, starch, soy sauce, and mirin. Mirin is an essential Japanese condiment made with a lot of sugar, often used to ease the fishy flavors in foods. While usually a touch of mirin is used with foods, these guys needed more. A lot more.

Squid and Crab Packages

Immediately when I opened the package a strong smell — not unlike an old fish tank or low tide in a salt marsh — filled the room. I’m sorry, I know we try to be positive here on the DFB, but these things… well they taste like they smell. You eat the whole crab, shell and all. The shell is crunchy, and of the two I had one of them broke into little shards in my mouth. Not sharp enough to damage but definitely not a good texture.

The crabs tasted dirty. Have you ever smelled an old fish tank? It tasted sort of like that smell.

Overall

While simplicity paid dividends in the rice candy and crackers, the lesson I learned is that sometimes a dried crab is just a dried crab.

Next time I’m at the Japan pavilion I’m definitely trying the dried squid though. I’m strange like that.

Have you tried any of these snacks from Japan in Epcot? Let us know your favorites from the Japan pavilion in the comments below!

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35 Comments

  1. Jill D says:

    POCKY!

  2. Pudge the Fish says:

    Wow that ended like an episode of Fear Factor. Thanks for taking one for the team. My local Wegmans has the koala crackers in strawberry and chocolate. Their taste has grown on me.

  3. Miranda says:

    What a brilliant and original idea for a review! It was so interesting and entertaining, huge round of applause for the Galloping Gourmand here! Not sure I would have been brave enough to try those crabs :-)

  4. Prof. Brainard says:

    How would you say these snacks compare to the taste of a fried, soft-shelled crab?

  5. Sandy - winnieatepooh says:

    I LOVE this post! What a fun exploration of my favorite store in all of Disney World. Thank you for braving those silly little crabs – I think I will try the rice/seaweed crackers on my next trip, though!

  6. Nerak says:

    So..next time you’re going to try the squid, right? :c)

  7. Pardonmyfrench says:

    I have the rice crackers at home and love them. I also always get the shrimp chips which the whole family loves. Both are weird but tasty and we always buy. I tried the dried crabs the dried squid the dried fish -all three are how you described. Weird smelly and nasty. I never bought them again but we had fun sampling them.

  8. marcellina says:

    What a fun review! Even though the crabs got a bad review, I’m actually curious to try them. I think on my next trip I’ll buy a bag for my family to sample. Even if I throw them away it will still be a fun experience. The rice crackers look like something I’d love too! Thanks!

  9. Kristina says:

    What an interesting post! I love when the DFB broaden our horizons on all there is to eat in WDW.
    I hope my family will indulge me in some exploratory food tasting on our next trip!

  10. Asuka says:

    I tend to stick to the sweeter things myself. I love the Koala snacks. I’ve found that they are easy to find in a lot of regular stores. Pocky is a staple of course. One thing I love is Ichigo Daifuku. Basically, a strawberry flavored sticky rice dumpling. I got a package at Mitsukoshi in Epcot and have yet to try them. I think I may have to open them up tonight.

  11. Auntie Sue says:

    We bought the crabs for my nephew as a gag gift. Did they upset your stomach?

  12. lebeau says:

    A friend of mine is running a poll to force him to do unpleasant things on his next trip. Right now, the Bag of Crabs is a favorite. He leaves in 2 weeks. He won’t be happy to read your review.

    If anyone wants to vote for the crabs, here’s a link:

    http://lebeauleblog.com/2012/11/12/please-help-ruin-daffystardusts-disney-world-vacation/

  13. Janet says:

    We have eaten the rice candy for years. You can usually find them in Pier One and/or World Market type stores. Yes, you have to explain the outer wrapper vs inner wrapper to “first timers”.

    We used to attach a box to each our our nieces & nephews Christmas presents as an unusual alternative to candy canes or bows. How many candy canes does one kid need anyway….and they really didn’t care about the bows.

  14. Arianna D. says:

    I tried the panda cookies similar to the koala ones and really liked them

  15. AJ says:

    Jill D. — Ha ha! I love that stuff, too.

    Pudge — I know, right? I feel the same and thank Eric for trying those crabs!

    Miranda — Agreed 100%! I hope GG returns with another Japan review soon!

    Sandy — So glad you enjoyed the post!

    Nerak — Let’s try to convince him!

    PardonmyFrench — Thanks for your review and for sharing your experience!

    Marcellina — It’s always fun to sample something new. Who says Disney is all chicken nuggets? ;-)

    Kristina — Thank you for the Kudos! ;-) I’ll accept them until GG can get over here and respond to comments. :-) Let us know what you try on your next trip!

    Asuka — Me, too — definitely. I’ll have to try the rice dumpling you described!

    Auntie Sue — How did your nephew like them?

    Janet — Candy is always better than bows. ;-)

    Arianna D. — Thanks for the review; I’ll have to try them!

  16. Amy says:

    Thanks for posting this. Very unique! I didn’t hear you mention our favorite. HI-CHEWS!!! My husband and I buy them by the handfuls. They are fruitty and chewy and so sweet! I really love the strawberry ones. I don’t think I will be trying the crabs though. Just seeing them makes me sick.

  17. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Jill – POCKEY!

    Pudge – I kinda liked the koalas. It was such a radically different taste from the very fresh, natural flavors of the two previous pieces I’m not sure I was quite prepared for it.

    Miranda – Up until the last minute, I wasn’t sure I was going to be brave enough to try them myself.

    Prof. B – Good question. Soft shell crabs have a lighter, more delicate flavor. The best comparison I can think of is that Soft Shell crabs taste clean, while these tasted dirty.

    Sandy – You totally should try them. They are only about 4 dollars. While I liked the fish flavor, I think I would really like to have just the crackers. They were fantastic.

    Nerak – No.

    Pardonmyfrench – It’s always good to try new things! I almost got the shrimp chips. Maybe next trip.

    marcelina – Hey, go for it. Suggestion: get something to drink with a strong flavor for after you have them. Maybe saki…

    Kristina – Thanks! My best Disney friend forever (BDFF) is, shall we say, not an exploratory eater. If your family or friends shy away like she does just do it anyway. Then maybe write a review of some of the things you try.

    Asuka – I didn’t see the Ichigo Daifuku. I’ll look for it next time. Interestingly I didn’t find any of the candy at the store to be all that sweet. The Japanese students I used to teach would always give me seriously sweet candy and chocolate on Valentines day, so I thought the lack of sweetness in these candies was a little unusual.

    Auntie Sue – No, they didn’t. I hope they didn’t bother his.

    Iebeau – I won’t inflict the crabs on another. Wait… is he making fun of character greetings? Crabs it is!

    Janet – so much better than candy canes. I haven’t set foot in a Pier One in years, but I’m going to stop by our local Japanese market to get some of the rice candy and steal your idea!

    Arianna – I thought the panda cookies were the same thing as the koala cookies. If not I may try them next time.

    AJ – I don’t know about another Japan review. So many flavors to try and I only really get down there once a year because that’s the only time I have friends that travel there. Unless you have an ice cream meet in the summer… that might be a good excuse for a short solo trip.

    Amy – I skipped the hi-chews because I seemed to remember having them before. And, no. Don’t try the crabs.

    I’m glad you all seemed to like the reviews. Whenever I read something I wrote I want to edit, the positive comments are much appreciated. Happy eating!

  18. Becky says:

    So how much does a bag of crabs cost, anyways?

  19. Kara B. says:

    I kid you not — I am eating my favorite snack from the Japan Pavilion right now: banana flavored Hi-Chew. When I found them for sale at Target, I wept tears of joy.

    I’d describe them as a twisted (and significantly superior) version of Starbursts.

  20. wyndy says:

    i get the stuff that is musk melon flavor because its really good it doesnt taste like the melon flavored stuff in the US and its so hard to find them any where else i go

  21. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Kara B. -3 or 4.95 i believe

  22. Tink says:

    I grew up eating Tomoe Ame rice candy. It used to come with a small toy. There is now a sticker instead of the toy.

  23. lebeau says:

    “Iebeau – I won’t inflict the crabs on another. Wait… is he making fun of character greetings? Crabs it is!”

    Well done. Bravo!

  24. Joy O says:

    The Kasugai gummies are phenomenal! Strawberry and lychee flavors can be found at my local Wegmans – but I found a cult following for the gummies online and can be ordered through amazon. Gummies that actually taste like fruit and are “juicy”! My favorite discovery at Epcot to date – no joke! Worth a try – and they come in a sample pack with multiple mini-bags of all different flavors.

  25. Amanda says:

    I just LOVE shopping for snacks at Mitsukoshi!! My favorite are the individually wrapped little gummy candies. They are so flavorful without being too sweet. I’ve always wondered about those little crabs though!

  26. Amanda says:

    Joy O – Yes! Those are the gummies I was referring to!! Have you ever tried the muscat flavor? I love all of them but muscat is my favorite!

  27. Joy Serio says:

    Very fun post! It may be because I grew up in Seattle, but everything (other than the crabs) else were childhood staples! I actually just bought rice candy (here in Buffalo) a few weeks ago. Yum! I can’t wait to take my mom to buy seaweed crackers later this month, just for memories sake. We used to tease my mom about eating seaweed crackers in the car on road trips! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  28. hazel says:

    I grew up on Rice Candy and I still love it til this day! I tried the dried crabs from an asian grocery store here in San Jose, CA and it was interesting! And Koala cookies will always be my favorite. Great post!

  29. Joy Serio says:

    I really need to proof read. I meant to say that everything, other than the crabs, were childhood staples. Ugh, sorry!

  30. Gwen says:

    Ohhhh my precious crabs. I was craving them so badly I had my mum buy me several bags when they had a layover in Japan. Good to know I can find them (at a hiked price no doubt) over in Japan Pavilion!

    Most people eat them like beer nuts, in bars, because they are salty and crunchy, they work well with beer.

    I just morbidly make them do poses and take photos. Then eat them up! ^_^

  31. thebackgroundartiste says:

    I first tried Botan Rice Candy at the long gone Japanese Village and Deer Park in Buena Park ,California. Such a beautiful, peaceful place . I was very “into” everything Japanese then. I was nine. My mother and I would share the set lunch which offered skewers of beef or chicken yakatori, a mound of sticky white rich, broth, sunimono (pickled cucumber) and mandarin oranges. Our dessert was green tea ice cream and I always had a box of Botan Rice Candy to take home. It is sad though that the prize is just a sticker now. I remember when it was a small plastic animal which I collected. I have only seen the candy since at Chinatown and it is five times what I used to pay for it. I wonder why.

  32. Christina says:

    Love the Botan rice candy! My dad would always bring me back a case when he traveled to the Philippines. I haven’t had that in so long… Will need to stop in and get some! I’ve also seen it at World Market but we don’t have any in our area so on our Feb trip I’ll have to stock up!

  33. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Gwen – they were $4.95. I’m curious as to what you like about them. It would be great to have a different perspective. (yeah, getting back late. Forgot to click “notify me of followup comments!”)

  34. Faythsar says:

    I love the Koala March cookies! They’re very similar to the Hello Panda cookies, which I also love. That and Pocky are my two go-to snacks at Mitsukoshi. I always try to make them last, but they’re usually gone by the end of the day. :(

  35. Gaelwynd says:

    On our last trip, I purchased a bag of wasabi peas. I’ve had wasabi peas before at home, but can only usually eat one or two and then have to take a break due to the spicy-ness of them. Mitsukoshi had quite a few different brands, so I picked up one that DIDN’T say “hot” on the package. And guess what! I was able to eat them by the handful! Still a delish taste of wasabi without so much of the “heat”. I didn’t open them until we were on the way home, or else I would have bought a few more bags. I even kept the package, so I know which ones to look for on my next trip.

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