One of the surprises when I first arrived in Tokyo was discovering the alternative universe of snacks, chocolate and sweets. In Japan, Mars is simply the fourth planet from the sun and Cadbury and Hersheys are considered to be exotic import brands. The term “Dagashi” more or less translates as “low grade sweets”, not because the quality is poor, but to distinguish them from the more expensive, higher grade traditional rice/bean sweets that are wrapped in nice boxes and given as gifts. In the past, the term referred to items like karinto and sweetened rice crackers, but now seems to have more of a flexible definition.
While you can pick up a lot of the unique sweets and brands available in Japan at pretty much any convenience store, a “Dagashiya” like Okashi no Machioka offers an incredible range of snacks and all at much lower prices than you would pay elsewhere. Even regular items like Meiji chocolate bars go for about 10yen cheaper than you’ll get at the supermarket.
Okashi no Machioka, like all dagashi shops has a super cheap section with interesting little items for as low as 9yen each. This is where kids like to come with their 100yen coin and pick up half a dozen different items. If you’re visiting Tokyo and you want to pick up some items for young relatives, this is a great place to pick-up sweets that will confuse the hell out of them. Watch their heads spin when you give them a Cider Ball or a pack of mini ramen.
Traditional “Mom & Pop” dagashiya are the most interesting, but unfortunately they’re disappearing at about the same rate as your friendly neighbourhood rice and sake shop.
You can find Okashi no Machioka at locations all over greater Tokyo, although depending on your level of self control, having a store nearby could be as much a curse as a blessing.