Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dagashi??? Nani Kore???

Dagashi? What is it? I have a friend who recently introduced me to the new word Dagashi! I had never heard this word nor did I know it's meaning. Because I am all about anything Japanese/Food/Cooking/Kids related he knew I would be interested in this "Dagashi"! As he explained this little place of children's joy and yumminess I was more and more intrigued! "Where can I find one here on Okinawa?" I asked. He explained that there are very few Dagashis left here on Okinawa and that they are now specialty stores. When he was a child he went to the Dagashi often and it was common. So I decided to do some research on Dagashi and relay the wonderfulness of these stores of yumminess for children in Japan!

I found on Kids Web Japan that the word dagashi originally referred to cheap candies of low quality, but over time the word came to be used for candies children can easily afford with their small allowances. The variety of dagashi is quite amazing. The types of candies and snacks that can be bought include candy drops, chocolates, cakes, juice powders that you dissolve in water to make juice, rice crackers, flavored squid, and many, many more. They are wrapped in colorful packages, and some come with a sort of lucky draw that allows you to claim a second candy or snack if you get a win.

The candies and toys were all very cheap, costing from 5 to 10 yen. The kids would compare their budget with what they wanted and think carefully over what to buy or consult with their friends. They would become friends with the woman running the shop (it was more often a woman than a man), who would teach them lots of things.

Over the last few decades, though, traditional dagashi stores have gradually disappeared from the towns. As Japan's economy developed and children came to have more money in their pockets, they began buying more expensive snacks at supermarkets and convenience stores instead of dagashi. And because birthrates have been falling in Japan and there are fewer children, it has become difficult for stores that rely only on children to stay in business.

There are few Dagashiyas left and now the most common place to sell Dagashi are 100 Yen Stores and convenient stores though it is nothing like it once was. In the early days of the Showa period (1926-1989) there were as many as 70 candy stores in Kashiya Yokocho. Today a little more than a dozen stores operate in antique wooden buildings.

Dagashi stores are reminders of the good old days in Japan. Although their numbers have decreased, you can still see them here and there, sometimes in unexpected places. In the huge Sunshine City building complex in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, for instance, you will find a dagashi shop among dozens of fancy shops. And Mata-ashita, a shop in Shinagawa Ward, recently opened a dagashiya corner. Why not explore Japan in search of a shop full of colorful dagashi?