You may have heard of Pocky or ramen, but there's a lot more to Japanese snacks than what makes it to the shelves at your neighborhood grocery store. Japanese snacks are not your typical characterless crackers; they're cute, colorful, and are bursting in not only flavor, but personality as well. With playful packaging, it's easy to feel like a kid again with Japanese snacks in your hand. Thankfully, we have two great options to feed all our cravings with J-Town Express and Daiso, an international brand.


Chloe Lee

Being an accessible franchise all around the nation, Daiso is a well known option to buy affordable snacks. In terms of price, everything in the store costs $1.50 unless marked otherwise. As I walked through the aisles of the Berkeley Telegraph store, snacks seemed to range between an average of $1 and $3.50.

Daiso has a great variety of munchies to choose from beyond the typical Hello Panda, a popular panda-shaped chocolate biscuit snack that can be found at Target and Costco, and seaweed packets that can be found at a local grocery store. The aisle is split into sweet and savory options—one side carries a wide selection of dry snacks such as rice crackers or arare, wasabi peas, and dried fish. Daiso even offers more filling snacks such as udon, curry, and individual instant rice packages. 

Chloe Lee

On the other side, sweet treats stack the aisles with gummy candy in different fruit flavors, Meiji chocolates, and, my personal favorite, Hello Kitty strawberry marshmallows. It is also stocked with beverages such as Calpico and green tea. With few items needing refrigeration except for chilled drinks, Daiso has snacks that are easy to share and can be taken to go.

J-Town Express

Chloe Lee

J-Town Express is a smaller toy and grocery store with only one location in Berkeley, across the street from the Daiso store. Compared to Daiso, the options here are a little more expensive ranging from around $2 to $15. However, the store carries snacks that are fairly hard to find, even for a Japanese grocery store, which compensates for the marked up price. I found things I've never seen before, such as giant Pocky sticks the size of my forearm and my favorite hard-to-find candy: green tea Kit Kats. 

Chloe Lee

It has a slightly smaller dry snack selection, but its chilled snacks and drinks selection ranks supreme, with large refrigerators full of different flavors of Ramune marble soda, Yakult, and even mochi ice creams and Swiss roll cakes, which are not available at Daiso.

The Verdict

After shopping at both stores, I give praise to both Daiso and J-Town Express for offering reasonably priced items and being located conveniently next to the UC Berkeley campus where you can pick up a snack on-the-go. Since both are general stores as well, home goods and toys that can bring you closer to Japanese culture are readily available. Overall, if you're looking for cheap munchies or candy, Daiso is the place to go. If you're looking to try something new, want a nice cold drink, or mochi ice cream, J-Town Express is the best place for you.