If you ever wanted to step back in time to a nostalgic corner shop where just 500 yen (US$4.85) gets you over a hundred different types of signature Japanese snacks and candies, this place is definitely for you.
No matter how old we get, the allure of a corner store filled with jars of delicious looking candies and shelves piled high with glistening snacks is a temptation that’s always hard to resist. In Japan, there’s a chain of bars that combines all the thrill of a childhood candy store with beautiful atmospheric touches from the Showa Period (1926-1989), taking Japanese adults back into the past with beloved candies from yesteryear and making the rest of us squeal with delight at the unusual, never-before-seen treats on offer.
▼ The Dagashi Bar, in the back streets of Tokyo’s Ebisu neighborhood, has a beautiful facade that evokes the atmosphere of a bygone period in Japanese history.
Standing at the door by the old post box and faded bus stop sign, we have a hunch that stepping inside will be like going back in time.
Pulling back the wooden door jingles an old bell, and the dimly lit interior welcomes us inside. The small space is absolutely beautiful, with low-hanging lamps and exposed bulbs, dark wood panelling, old-looking glass panes and faded posters on the walls, creating a wonderfully cosy atmosphere, reminiscent of a time when people dressed in kimono and passing rickshaws kicked up dust on dirt streets.
What we’ve come here for, though, is the dagashi; cheap candies and snacks that usually cost 5-10 yen (US$0.05-$0.10), much like the milk bar lollies children grow up with in Australia or penny candies in America. Here, the 500-yen seating charge gets you all-you-can-eat dagashi for two hours when combined with a drink order.
The dagashi corner is filled to the brim with tiny lollies and small snack packages. Looking at this and knowing we can have as many of these as we like in a two-hour time period makes our inner child squeal with joy!
Grabbing one of the small woven baskets provided, we decide to go all-out in our investigation of Japanese sweets, picking up one of each item from inside the wooden display case.
▼ Then we take a selection of candies from the glass jars…
▼ …pick up a sweet package from the “Cake Shop” box…
▼ …take a handful of snacks from the hanging baskets…
▼ …and ask the staff for help in getting some of the hard-to-reach goodies on the top shelf.
Of course, you don’t have to grab everything at once, as customers are free to go back and forth as many times as they like, but for us, we couldn’t help but fully enjoy the experience by filling our baskets to maximum load and laying everything out like a pile of treasure upon returning to our table.
▼ This is what two full baskets can get you.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the gorgeous-looking dagashi you can get here.
▼ Clockwise from top left: Mayonnaise-flavoured chips, sugar and butter-flavoured rusks, rice ball-shaped soy and seaweed crackers, Mochi Taro rice cake snack, kimchi-flavoured crackers, and a crispy noodle snack.
There are also panda-shaped butter cookies in plain or melon flavours, milk crackers containing calcium, and small, round crunchy milk biscuits.
If you prefer to try some more traditional Japanese flavours, there’s a salty plum jam, flat BBQ-flavoured squid and seafood sticks, a chewy rod of kinako toasted soybean flour, and the ever-popular cheeto-like Umaibo snack.
When it comes to candy, there are “Orange Cigarettes,” fruit candies, and the softest of marshmallow sticks.
The tiniest of candies come packaged in cute and colourful wrappers.
▼ There are sherbet rabbit sticks…
▼ …poo-shaped gummies…
▼ …Ramune soda-flavoured candies in small and large sizes…
▼ …star-shaped konpeito sugar candies…
▼ …sugary beads with scratch lottery cards inside…
▼ …and a “Morocco Yoghurt” that looks like a tiny tub of yoghurt but tastes like a sugary fruit paste.
Feeling dizzy from the mad sugar rush, we decide to take a break and order something savoury from the menu.
There are nostalgic options here too, with a wide selection of “age pan” fried breads and soft noodle sets, which often rank as favourite school lunch items for many Japanese people.
There are also a few menu items like potato salad and fried squid that incorporate dagashi snacks into the dish.
We decide to go for a simple but delicious okonomiyaki savoury pancake, slathered in a generous serving of bonito shavings.
And then we sneak in one more basket of goodies before we leave.
After packing all our wrappers and rubbish into the white plastic bag given out by staff, we hand it over to the waitress and then make our way to the counter, which is covered in colourful temptations like sunglasses and bouncy balls. If you want to take some dagashi home, you can fill up a bag for 500 yen.
Stepping out into the night, we’re brought back to the noise and reality of the present. We’re glad there are places like this in Tokyo, with an atmosphere and service that takes you back in time and makes you feel nostalgic and carefree. We’ll definitely be back, Dagashi Bar! And next time we’ll be visiting your other locations in Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ningyocho, and Kawasaki too!
Dagashi Bar Ebisu Branch / えびす駄菓子バー （恵比寿店）
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Ebisunishi 1-13-7
Open 6:30 p.m.-4:00 a.m.
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