Everyday in Japan I ate Pocky, a fun snack made delicious by its perfect combination of salty and sweet tastes. I found the chocolate coated thin pretzel sticks were a perfect antidote for mid-day hunger brought on by climbing the stairs at temples, uphill walks to shrines, and treks through seemingly endless shopping districts.
Pocky comes in a nice variety of flavors. There's the kind in the red box, which I started with. "Original" Pocky is milk chocolate and easy to like. From there I branched out to try other flavors: strawberry, green tea, tiramisu, mango, coconut, and "Men's Pocky." As it turns out Men's Pocky is just dark chocolate Pocky.
Original Pocky is packaged in a slick cardboard box about the size of a short paperback novel. Inside are plastic foil packages that contain 4-12 pieces, depending on how ritzy the flavor is.
Original and Men's Pocky gets you the most Pocky for the money, but I found out the fancier flavors with the "mousse" faux-chocolate candy coating contain only four pieces per plastic package. That's fine when it's mango flavor, which smelled like mangoes but certainly didn't taste like them. The other Pocky "premium" mousse choice, tiramisu flavor, had a totally insipid taste without any appreciably scent, so it was lackluster too. At least the mango smelled good! The mousse Pocky packaging urges one to "lighten up your day with Pocky's super-smooth aero-chocolate" but they may just as well have told us to enjoy better living through chemistry.
The Pocky boxes pictured at the right are original, strawberry, and mango. We arrived early to the monkey park one morning so we passed the time waiting riverside at the foot of Arashiyama near the famous moon viewing bridge - and eating Pocky.
Green tea Pocky is interesting, but its flavor pales in comparision to the wonderful flavor of the delicious green tea soft ice cream I enjoyed a few times while in Japan. I wouldn't say the flavor of green tea Pocky is exactly flat, but there isn't much to recommend it.
At this point, you're probably wondering why I called Pocky delicious at all! Well -- if you stay away from the three dud flavors, you're left with four perfectly good choices.
1) Coconut Pocky adds coconut flakes to the chocolate. The chocolate tasted like dark chocolate so it was especially good. If I hadn't waited until the end of the trip to sample this flavor, I would have eaten many more! As it were I only had one box, most of which I shared. Next time...
2) Men's Pocky - Dark chocolate Pocky. My traveling companions couldn't detect any discernable difference in taste between Men's Pocky and the original flavor Pocky that comes in the red box, but I would venture a bet that we could all pick Men's Pocky out of a line up in a blind taste test! Now about the name... why? Why call dark chocolate flavor "Men's"???
3) Strawberry Pocky - A great choice if you want Pocky but not chocolate. The strawberry flavor tastes like the strawberry flavor milk I remember never getting to have at home as a kid, but occassionally getting at a friend's house. I can't quite remember the name of the stuff, but I think it may have had a rabbit representative. Strawberry Pocky tastes very similar.
Of course, if you don't like any of those flavors you can always stick with Original flavor Pocky. It's yummy and easy to like if you are also the type who enjoys Hershey's Kisses.
Incredibly, I had never had Pocky before visiting Japan even though it is widely available in the U.S. and even in the tiny town in which I reside. Who would have thought? Now if I can just find the yummy gummy taffy I had in Japan I'd be all set...