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Freedom Japanese Market is a monthly subscription box and online shop run by an expat family in Japan. Their Japanese snack boxes come in three different sizes, Puchi ($12.99, 5-8 snacks), Original ($24.99, 12-16 snacks), and Family ($45.99, double the snacks). All boxes ship free worldwide, and they also have an online shop. This month’s Original box contained 17 individual snacks and candies with a springtime theme.
As soon as my husband saw the Takenoko no Sato, he called dibs. I don’t mind matcha (green tea) flavor, but he lives for it. “Takenoko” means bamboo shoot, which is what this snack is shaped like! The design and packing is adorable. It’s a sweet basic cookie covered with a matcha-milk flavored white chocolate. I enjoyed these more than I thought I would—they are mellower than other matcha snacks, which sometimes taste a bit…well, grassy. These were a favorite from this box!
Kurabete Neru Neru is part of the Neru Neru line of DIY kits. They usually involve making your own candy on a stick, and this is no exception. However, this is a new kit! The new flavors are melon and pineapple. I love pineapple, so I’m super excited to make this! Neru Neru kits always have cute packaging. As a note, the instructions are in Japanese, but there are photos on the back which are a help. Neru Neru kits are usually pretty easy with only a few steps.
Lifeguard is actually a Japanese sports drink, so this candy is the gel form of that drink. It’s very think, like a slightly melted gummy. It tastes like a mix of Mountain Dew and Smarties. Gel sweets aren’t my favorite, but the flavor is good. It comes with 3 individual packets.
The smartphone candies are basic, but that packaging is clever! Most of the apps are recognizable, and it’s fun to try to figure them out. The sweets are your typical fruit hard candy. I actually just reviewed this whistling candy shown on the upper right, as it came in June’s Skoshbox! Basically, you blow through the hole to produce a loud whistle. It has a basic soda flavor. This would be a fun treat for kids…or an annoying one.
Is instant cola possible? Not exactly. “Punch Cola” consists of two tabs in a foil packet. They smell strongly of cola. I tried putting one in some ginger ale, and while the fizzing was fun to watch, it wasn’t for me. It tasted more like liquid cola candy versus actual soda. If you like flat, sweet soda, this is for you.
Buta-Men Curry Ramen is a mini cup of soup that you simply add boiling water to. There’s a cute illustration on the front of a pig, which is actually kind of morbid considering there’s most likely pork in the ramen. Part of me appreciates it, but as someone who’s married to a vegetarian, there’s also a little bit of cognitive dissonance going on here. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m always into curry ramen.
Crayon Shin-Chan is a character I’ve seen, but don’t know much about. So, the images on the package make zero sense to me, but the snack tastes great! It’s yakinuki flavored puffed rice. “Yakiniku” means grilled meat, and in this case, grilled beef specifically. They don’t actually have much of a beef taste, but a nice sweet and savory flavor. It’s almost like barbeque. This was another favorite.
The Tako-Yaki Senbei (there’s a lot of “yaki’s” in this box!) is a unique item. It’s based off of takoyaki, which are fried dough balls with a little piece of octopus in the middle, which is then topped with bonito flakes, Kewpie mayonnaise, and other various goodies. Best eaten scalding hot, takoyaki is something you eat while you’re out drinking in Osaka. This snack comes with a handful of senbei (rice crackers) and a packet of sauce to drizzle on top. The sauce is yummy, and tastes like a sour ketchupy soy sauce. The rice crackers don’t taste fishy, which is nice, but they also don’t really taste like takoyaki. The overall flavor is good though, and similar to the other “yaki” snacks in the box. It is more complex at least, which is nice. You get a mix of earthy, sour, and a hint of sweet.
The Umaibo sticks included in this box are salami and yakitori. The salami one will be pass along to a friend that is more into cured meats than myself, so I tried the yakitori. I love Umaibo, but this one was a bit disappointing. It smells and has an aftertaste of charcoal. Yakitori is grilled chicken, often sold on a stick as street food, so I get why the charcoal might be present. It’s not exactly tasty though. It has an odd sweetness to it. There is a faint aftertaste that does remind me of yakitori, but there are much better Umaibo flavors. I appreciate that they seem to include an Umaibo or two in each box though, as it’s fun to see all the different flavors.
Speaking of Umaibo, this box also included two other candies by the brand. They’re small strawberry and milk flavored hard candies. I like strawberry and milk flavors separately, but I’m not in love with them together. It just comes off as sweet rather than getting any distinct flavor. However, these still taste good, especially for being akin to a penny candy. The Kirby gum is your basic bubble gum adorned with the always adorable Kirby. I’m not always on board with gum in candy boxes since the flavor usually lasts a hot second, but the bubblegum flavor lasted for a while.
Puku-Puku Tai is a wafer treat with aerated strawberry mousse inside. The Japanese strawberry flavor isn’t my favorite, but I appreciate the likeness to taiyaki. (Another “yaki!”) Taiyaki is typically a streetfood consisting of a filled waffle in the shape of a fish. The tradtional filling is sweet red bean paste, but you can get all sorts of other flavors, like chocolate, custard, apple, matcha, etc. This snack is sweet and light. Next to it is this month’s origami—a plum blossom kimono. They always use such pretty paper
The chocolate pen included is interesting. I tried to open the cap and ended up pulling the base off, sending the little chocolates everwhere. Oops. Once I managed to get the cap off I found out that while it’s pen shaped, it’s actually a red crayon. You can see my attempt to write with it—writing Japanese with an oddly thin crayon is a new one for me. The chocolates taste a lot like Sixlets or off-brand M&Ms.
Overall, this box does a good job of including a variety of tastes and types of snacks. I think the $24.99 price tag is fair, as you get a lot of items packed into the little box. My only issue is the relative lack of information on the snacks compared to other similar boxes. This month’s box had a lot of “yaki” flavors (grilled), which did give it a spring vibe. This month’s was more of a mixed bag compared to February, but I appreciate the variety! The cute origami is always fun too.
I recommend this box, as it does seem to have more unique candies and better variety than other Japanese snack boxes out there! They seem very receptive to comments and special orders, and I like that they have a store if you’d like to buy snacks separate from the boxes. You can subscribe to this box here, starting at $12.99 up to $49.99 depending on size. Use “beejuboxes” in the comment box upon checkout to receive a free additional snack!
PR Sample. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.