Soka Senbei Garden in Saitama

Experience making everyone's favourite rice cracker

By Sleiman Azizi   Oct 9, 2018 - 2 min read

You would be forgiven for thinking that senbei rice crackers were the ninja of Japanese food. Hiding in plain sight in literally every kitchen, store and duty-free shop around the country, senbei are the masters of concealment. If you ever wanted a spy, you could do worse than hire a rice cracker.

From its popular origins, the ubiquitous rice cracker has remained, well, humble. As one of the country's quintessential souvenirs, senbei are given to and received by pretty much everyone. It's curious that more fuss isn't made over them.

Senbei originated as a snack during the Edo period, easy to make and carry, and became a big hit. Travelers along Japan's Nikko Kaido route would stop at Soka, one of the many way stations back in those days, pick up some of the town's senbei, and head off to wherever they were heading off to.

Back then, senbei were baked or grilled over charcoal and brushed with soy sauce. They became so popular that Soka became synonymous with senbei - to this day, Soka senbei is still the city's nom de guerre.

One store where you can get a hands-on experience making senbei is at Soka Senbei Garden in Soka City. Great with children, for JPY500, you can have your turn at making a couple of senbei. The store also stocks about 100 varieties of senbei, from traditional soy sauce crackers to more modern flavours like curry, mentaiko pollock roe, prawn and more. You can even try some senbei flavoured soft-creams and donuts.

Yes, that's right, soft-cream and donuts. Those canny ninja senbei, they're everywhere.

Getting there

Take the Tobu Skytree Line to Shinden Station. From the West Exit walk straight ahead, then turn left at the intersection and continue until you reach the traffic lights. Turn right and walk along Route 328 until you reach the third set of traffic lights, and it will be on the right. All up, about a 9-minute walk.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @Sleiman Azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident who enjoys stringing words together, I drool over proper soba and sushi and run an online photo-to-canvas print store based on my Japan experiences.

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally 2 months ago
Soka senbei! Just this month, Soka people recreated a giant Mona Lisa image with 24,000 rice crackers. Someone counted them all. They’re serious about rice crackers in Soka.

Store- bought senbei are great, but they’re fantastic fresh roasted.
Sleiman Azizi Author 2 months ago
Fresh roasted is best...

By the way, when you head out the East Exit of Soka Station, look out for the statue of the girl making senbei by the bus stop.