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Umaibo, Puffed Corn Snack

One of Japan's most recognizable favorites

Umaibo is a puffed, cylindrical corn snack, and is one of Japan's most recognizable snacks for decades. It is hugely popular among children, and even adults, myself included. Each time I visit Japan, I would definitely purchase some for snacking on long drives, on train or bus rides, or for an after meal snack. Usually retailed at only ¥10 a piece, it is very affordable, and makes great souvenirs as well.

What made me take notice of umaibo was its mascot, the colorful packaging, and the wide variety of flavors. At first sight, it looked like doraemon, the successful manga and anime series. For years, I continued to think it was doraemon, even calling it the "doraemon snack". It was only during a conversation session with a Japanese lady, that I realized the mascot was not doraemon!

Umaibo's mascot is a cat named Umaimon. Umai in Japanese has a few meanings, and in this case means delicious or tasty. He has a few other friends, which sometimes appear in some of the packaging as well. Last year, a new mascot named Umami-chan debuted. She has grey hair, is 153 centimeters tall, and wears a hat in the shape of umaibo. Here is her youtube channel.

There are more than ten umaibo flavors that are easily found in supermarkets, 100yen shops, and convenience stores. Some savory, some sweet, they are all addictive. Salami, takoyaki, pizza, natto, cheese, teriyaki burger, mentaiko, sugar rusk and tonkatsu sauce are some of the common ones. Occasionally, the more difficult to come across flavors like cow's tongue and chicken curry would pop up. Sometimes, there are area specific flavored ones, and even those sold as souvenirs, which are more expensive than the usual snacks. Some of my favorite flavors include pizza, chicken curry and tonkatsu sauce. Surprisngly, the natto one tasted quite nice, which had a slight wasabi taste, even though I do not like natto. There is also a chocolate flavored version, only sold in winter.

Getting there

The headquarters is a ten minute walk from Oshiage Skytree station.

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