All About Japan

5 Tasty 'Omiyage' Worth Lining Up For

| Sweets , Souvenirs

We took the plunge and stood in shop lines all around Tokyo and in some other tourist-favorite prefectures on your behalf. In our adventures, we discovered which omiyage items are all hype, and which ones are truly worth lining up for. Yes, there's more to Japan than Green Tea Kit Kat, and our list proves just that!

5. Ishiya White Cake (Hokkaido)

No trip to Hokkaido is complete without a trip to the Ishiya Chocolate Factory. Anyone walking on the cold, snow-laden streets of Miyanosawa in Sapporo during winter can feel a warm happiness when near the company's Shiroi Koibito Park, where the factory stands. Why? Because the factory exhales the smell of sweet, chocolatey goodness in the air!

It's no surprise that everything in the factory is delicately delicious, especially Ishiya's White Cake Roll. It's the perfect cake to match with tea, coffee, or a flavored latte. It has a fine texture, sprinkled throughout with tiny bits of white chocolate, and a milky flavor that melts in your mouth. It's simple and uncomplicated; not a single bite will overwhelm you with flavor.

If you want a less delicate treat, try the chocolates or Ishiya's Tear Drop. It may look like an average cream puff you can find in Tokyo, but the custard and cream are divine, and the pastry is incredibly soft and spongy. If you're in possession of a discerning palate, you may notice a delightful difference in flavor due to the locally sourced milk.

- www.ishiya.co.jp (Japanese)

4. Salt & Camembert Cookie (Tokyo)

Tokyo Station is a well-known one-stop station for everything related to souvenirs. While the station can be daunting to navigate at times, you'll find Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory on Keiyo Street, Tokyo Station's underground shopping mall.

On weekdays, office workers in their dark suits fall in line for this piece of heaven. Salesladies will usually offer samples of their products to help you decide which to take home, so don't feel rushed by the crowds.

Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory's bestseller is the Salt and Camembert Cookie. The delectability of this treat comes from the melt-in-your-mouth, thinly spread Camembert cheese pairing perfectly with the cookie, which is more cracker-style than sweet, with just a touch of salt. Its simplicity makes it unforgettable. Besides, who doesn't like Camembert?

In addition to the Tokyo Station shop, you can find locations in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tachikawa, Kichijoji, Tokyo Skytree and Haneda Airport. Check the link below!

3. Pablo Cheesecake (Various)

Pablo's claim that the "cheesecake revolution has started from here," may have a ring of truth to it since Pablo has received worldwide attention. The first time I heard about Pablo was when a celebrity chef from my own country was gushing over it. For a trained chef to rave over someone else's food, there's a good chance you're in for a tasty treat.

The Dotonbori district branch in Osaka is almost always packed, but the branches in Tokyo are more manageable. And if you think only steaks have a scale of doneness, think again: Pablo's cheesecakes are offered in "rare" and "medium." Some like the "rare" tart, where every slice is slightly soupy, or you may prefer the firmer "medium" kind, which is the more traditional cheesecake texture. It's hard to not like both, as well as the other products Pablo offers.

For first-timers, the Matcha Premium Cheese Tart is uniquely Japanese. Other interesting take-homes are the Sabrel Cheese and the Sabrel Cheese—Black. The former is a thin Parmesan cheese-flavored cookie sandwiching Gouda cheese cream. Sabrel Cheese—Black are thin black cookies with Gouda cheese cream and a hint of truffle salt. Pablo's Cheese Millefeuille-Uji Matcha and Osaka Madam's Black Pearl are also worth trying.

And if you're not in the Tokyo or Osaka areas, you can also find shops in Kobe, Himeji, Okayama and Okinawa!

2. Tokyo Banana Mont Blanc Cake (Various)

I may be biased toward anything cheese and chocolate, but this famous souvenir has all the right to win me over. Since many people aren't fans of overly rich cheesecakes or overly sweet chocolates, this banana-shaped omiyage will easily win hearts.

Tokyo Banana's soft, spongy Mont Blanc cakes come in a variety of flavors, such as caramel, banana shake and chocolate banana cream. The light hint of banana flavor in every bite makes it an enjoyable treat for both kids and kids-at-heart. The fine prints on these banana-shaped cakes are another thing to love and more than enough to catch your attention. If you offer these little morsels as presents for friends back home, you're bound to win a few hearts!

You can find Tokyo Banana shops in various major airports around Japan (including Haneda, Narita, Kansai and Fukuoka), as well as major stations in Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama Station in Kanagawa and Omiya Station in Saitama—not to mention a number of major department stores predominantly in the Tokyo area.

- www.tokyobanana.jp (Japanese)

1. Kinotoya's Bake Cheese Tart (Various)

There's a rich story behind Bake Cheese Tart, which also hails from Hokkaido: Kinotoya started off as a confectionery in Sapporo, specializing in chilled cheese tarts. Sales were slumping when Shintaro Naganuma, eldest son of the company's president, joined the company. At an event one day, Kinotoya sold their tarts freshly baked and unchilled, and the idea to expand on their unforeseen popularity struck Naganuma. The rest is tasty history.

Each freshly baked cheese tart is filled with a cream cheese mousse consisting of three premium cheeses: a mild-flavored cheese from Hakodate, in southern Hokkaido; a full-bodied cheese from Betsukai, in the east of the island; and a salty French cheese to round out the flavor. This rich mousse is then used as filling for the twice-baked pastry, which is made of cookie dough.

The best thing about these tarts is that they can be enjoyed four ways: fresh at room temperature, smooth and chilled from the refrigerator, frozen like an ice cream sandwich, and oven-baked when reheated in the toaster. This flexibility makes Kinotoya's Bake Cheese Tart a more indulgent omiyage to bring home than other milk and cheese products. This is the ultimate comfort snack!

In addition to various spots in Sapporo and New Chitose Airport, you can track them down at locations in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Omiya, Osaka and Fukuoka—as well as Hong Kong, Seoul and Thailand!