Japanese people pride themselves on the fact that Japan has “four distinct seasons”, and is often one of the first things a Japanese person will bring up when introducing something about the country to a foreigner. It’s a statement many foreigners living in Japan like to joke about, because in general, most countries also share the same four seasons (albeit possibly reversed depending on which side of the equator they land).
Even so, one of my favorite things about the coming and going of seasons in Japan is that it always brings with it a multitude of seasonal dishes, limited edition snack and flavors, and poignant imagery brought to life from things- like different views of Mt. Fuji throughout the year, lines of haiku poetry, seasonal-themed music releases, and other special campaigns designed to get you in the spirit for whatever change is soon approaching. Japanese treat every season the way Americans treat the winter holidays, and I’m perfectly okay with that.
My favorite out of all the seasonal fanfare has to be autumn. I’ve loved the cooler weather, the trees bursting in bright shades of earthy hues, and the crunch of leaves under my feet since I was little girl. I love the season even more in Japan since it’s accompanied by a whole slew of seasonal dishes containing variations of pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and mushrooms.
Japanese food might be hit or miss depending on your personal taste, but everyone loves desserts, right?! So I’ve compiled a list of sweets you should definitely stuff your face with at least once.
1. Pumpkin Mont Blanc
Give me anything with pumpkin in it, and you pretty much have me sold. This parfait from Aeon chain supermarkets has just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect zest of cinnamon on top. In Japanese, “kabocha monburan“.
2. Haagen Dazs Holiday Season Chocolate Sandwich
Haagen Dazs ice cream sandwiches are pretty much a convenience store staple. They’re usually pretty good no matter what flavor you get, but this one really takes the cake! It tastes just like gingerbread; enough to give it some real character, but not overpowering. My friend told me I just had to try this and now I’m passing that recommendation on to you! In Japanese, “haagen dattsu horidee shiizun chokoreeto“.
3. Chestnut Tart
Chestnut, or kuri, is the traditional go-to sweet for fall. I usually like it mixed in and boiled with white rice for a nice change-up to the regular plain fare, but it also tastes great in cakes, pies, and tarts. The tart in the picture is sold here, but you can find chestnut tarts in local restaurants and even in places like Starbucks this time of year. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any I’ve tried over the years. In Japanese, “kuri taruto“.
4. Layered Dolce Purin
This year I’ve been on a purin (pudding, or more like flan) kick this year and I can’t get enough of this autumn pear version. Let me admit that I’m not a fruit dessert kind of person. I like fruit and I like dessert, but never mixed together. However, for some reason I do love this! At first look and bite, the flavors seem a bit overwhelming, but when mixed together in your mouth they make this wonderful taste sensation that will leave you craving spoonful after spoonful. In Japanese, “kasane doruche“.
5. Bon-o-Bon Chocolates
I’m not sure if this is actually a seasonal candy, but what I can tell you is that it was taken off the shelf for a few years, which left me very disappointed, and then was suddenly reintroduced a couple of months ago. It reminds me of some long forgotten chocolate candy I just can’t seem put my finger on, or what truffles made out of Nutella would taste like. At 20 yen ($0.20 USD) a pop, they’re a cheap indulgence, too. In Japanese, “bonobon chokoreeto“.
Hopefully this will give you some fun, new things to try out if you’re in Japan, and if not… well I guess you’ll have to be content with drooling over the pictures above! How about your own personal recommendations? Comments welcome!