I've got a fun one for you guys today!! This is a subscription box from Freedom Japanese Market - a small family-owned company that is passionate about Japanese snacks and wants to share that passion with the world with this carefully curated selection of fun, yummy, sometimes crazy, and sometimes challenging snacks and candies.
The details: Freedom Japanese Market subscription box contain a hand-picked selection of Japanese candies and snacks.
What it costs: There are 3 different box sizes. The Puchi Pack ($14.99/month) contains 5 to 8 snacks. The Original Pack ($24.99/month) contains 12 to 16 snacks including 1 DIY candy kit. The Family Pack ($45.99/month) contains 24 to 32 snacks including DIY candy kits. Money can be saved by subscribing to 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month plans. Shipping is free worldwide.
The box contains a paper with English descriptions of all of the goodies included in the box, as well as any traditions or holidays in Japan corresponding to that month. My first box was the March box, and I learned that one of the big Japanese holidays in March is "Girl's Day".
There was an origami object made out of pretty paper along with a description of the meaning behind it. I thought this was a nice personal touch and a fun way to inject an extra bit of Japanese culture into the box.
After removing the paper insert and origami I got my first look at the snacks! Each box includes about a pound of goodies and I was surprised how many different things fit into the package.
Here's an overhead view of everything inside (edit: one snack is missing because it was hiding in the box and I missed it! oops!). I was as excited about the packaging as I was about the snacks themselves. Everything was so bright and colorful with fun and interesting illustrations. There's so much personality in Japanese packaging - I wish I could read the language to get the full effect.
Let's get tasting! Starting at the top is a Big Bar Choco, described as an aerated chocolate bar with a hint of salt. We loved this! It had a very mild sweetness and an amazing texture. We recently tried some Britsh aerated chocolate and I gotta say, this one beats the pants off of those - it just melts in your mouth.
Next were two flavors of Umaibo, which translates to "delicious stick" (don't you love that?) Umaibo is a popular snack in Japan. They are puffed corn sticks that come in tons of different flavors. I enjoyed staring at the fun wrappers before I opened them up - aren't the illustrations great?
The umaibo shown in the center of the photo is Natto, which was the challenge item in this box. Traditionally, natto is a viscous, slimy dish made from fermented soybeans. Some folks love it and some folks find it straight up nasty. My husband tried real natto during his trip to Japan and described it like this: "It had the texture of snot and boogers and tasted like you were throwing up in reverse." Mm, sounds tasty, right? He does have a way with words. So, I was a tad nervous to take a bite, but in the interest of conducting a thorough review of this box, I knew I had to push forward.
I took a sniff and the odor did nothing to assuage my fear about actually having to eat this thing. The smell was not exactly pleasant, reminding me of of a combination of funky cheese and the inside of a gym bag. Nevertheless, I scrunched up my face, resisted the urge to hold my nose, and took a big brave bite. The corn flavor and crunchy texture must have masked what I was expecting to be a gag-inducing eyelash-curling experience, because the flavor wasn't bad at all! Kind of savory, kind of salty, mild soy sauce flavor, and I didn't want to spit it out and would have taken another bite. Maybe this umaibo can be used as a beginner's course in getting introduced to natto before trying the real thing.
Finally I tried the fried octopus flavored umaibo. Though I am a seafood lover I have never had octopus, and before taking a bite my husband told me that the flavor should be mild and not overly fishy. He was right! I really enjoyed the taste, which included notes of seaweed and maybe ginger, and appreciated that I didn't have to deal with the tough, challenging texture of real octopus.
Next was an assortment of candies. At the top are Ichigo Daifuki, mini marshmallow pillows with a strawberry filling that were puffy and soft and the strawberry filling was quite tasty. Moving clockwise, we have a package of Betsu-Jin Candy which is described as: Ramune flavored candies [that] might not change your personality, but are still yummy! The little crunchy pill-shaped candies tasted lemon-y and vaguely melon-y. In the center is a package of Suppal Lemon Gum - apparently one piece of the gum in the package is the most sour, so you have to eat them all to discover it. Below that is a blister pack of Puchi Uranai Candy. I can't read the text on the packaging, but the description tells me it gives me my fortune among life attributes such as love, money, and work. The little candies reminded me of something nostalgic - kind of like those old school chalky lollipops by Sweet Tarts.
Next is a tube of Neri Ame, described as "liquid sugar". The clear gummy substance made me think of what a Pixy Stick would taste like in liquid form.
This is Maken Gummy, a hand-shaped cola gummy. The only cola-flavored gummy I've had are those ubiquitous bottle-shaped ones you usually see in bulk candy stores. You know the ones... you go in with an empty bag, fill it up with a variety of treats, and then you pay according to how much your bag weighs at the end. Anyway, I remember those cola bottles being pretty flavorless, but this one was surprisingly strong. I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm now a fan of cola-flavored gummies, but this Japanese version is a much better representation of actual cola flavor than the American offering.
Next was absolutely the best thing in this entire box and one of the most fabulous packaged snacks I've ever had - Aerial Grilled Corn Snacks.
Oh my gosh these were so freaking amazing. They are light and crispy and taste exactly like fresh grilled corn. My husband and toddler agreed that these were the standout of the whole box. We need to get these in the States, like, right now.
Another favorite was this bag of Baby Star PanMen, ramen chips flavored with maple and cinnamon. We appreciated that these had lots of maple and cinnamon flavor but weren't overly sweet or covered in a messy cinnamon sugar coating. They were way too easy to eat.
Now we're getting a little adventurous with Okonomiyaki Taro - dried fish jerky flavored like a Japanese-style pancake. I'll eat beef jerky all day every day, but I wasn't so sure about a fishy version. When I took a little bite I got a nice saltiness with a bit of soy or barbecue thrown in there and I thought, huh, maybe I'll like this after all... but then the fishy flavor hit and boy was it powerful. Even though I love seafood, I just couldn't get behind this one. My husband thought it was "not bad".
These are Kaminari Okoshi or "thunder crackers" made of sweet rice. They were stuck together in a disc and I'm not sure if they are supposed to be eaten separately or if you're supposed to bite into it whole. They reminded me of crunchy rice noodles with a sweet coating. The sweetness was mild and not overpowering, a feature of most Japanese sweets that I appreciate. Loved these.
Popin Cookin DIY Candy Kits are pretty popular in Japan. I've seen them around the YouTube and blog communities was excited to see one included in the box.
I couldn't read one letter of the back of the packaging (though it's sooooo colorful!!) but the step-by-step images were enough for me to figure out what to do.
Using the photos, I filled up the corner reservoir of the container with water and added it to the step 1 packet, which made a grainy purple-blue mixture. Then I added the white powder in the step 2 packet.
Once the step 2 powder was mixed in the candy took on a stretchy, fluffy, marshmallow-y consistency.
Next step was adding the sprinkles, and for that, I enlisted my trusty sidekick. He had gobs of fun playing with the sprinkles and naming all of the colors. "Boo! Geen! Peenk! Rahrah (yellow)!"
He tried to find more sprinkles hidden inside the package after he'd used them all. He had way more fun doing this than I was expecting and it ended up being a great rainy morning activity for him.
His masterpiece. As for the flavor of the candy, Jasper didn't want to try it so I took a little taste. The fluffy purple stuff had a tart grape flavor and the sugar sprinkles reminded me of Pop Rocks without the popping and cracking. I don't know that I could sit down and eat this whole thing, but I liked the flavor.
Overall Thoughts about the Freedom Japanese Market box: This was one of the most entertaining subscription boxes that I've ever tried. It combines my love of trying fun and different snacks with my obsession with interesting packaging. I appreciate that the box is packed all the way to the top, adding to the "bang for your buck" factor. It's a great perk that the boxes are shipped straight from Japan and that the shipping is free worldwide. There's a personal feeling that comes from getting a hand-packed box from a small family-owned company and from my short time corresponding with charismatic owner, Kenneth, I admit that I now have a soft spot for this company and I want to recommend this subscription to absolutely everyone. Really. If you're into international snacks and love trying new and different (and sometimes a little crazy) food items, go give it a try!
I was provided with this box to share my thoughts with all of you. We do not accept compensation or free product in return for a fully positive review of a product or service. Remember our motto: if we think it sucks, we'll tell you!