Ken was kind enough to send us this box for review. He and his family manage this business themselves and are extremely interested in customer feedback. I really like companies that want to ensure that customers are receiving the items they want and are open to making adjustments to help that happen.
When you open the box, you get a printout of the items, including an introduction to Ken, his wife, and his children. There was also a handmade origami stocking (keeping in line with holiday themes, although international shipping ended up getting these boxes to most subscribers in January). I thought this was such a nice personal touch.
Up front, I need to say that I'm somewhat adventurous about food, but only when I know what's in it and when I can be sure it's vegetarian. I know I've probably eaten questionable items when traveling, especially in countries where I can't read the labels, but I do try to minimize it. That's probably one thing I would like to see more of in this box. The printout summarizes the items and notes allergy warnings, as well as flavors, but it doesn't say what's in the food and the labels are entirely in Japanese. There were a few items I guessed on and a couple I tried warily. However, for long-term subscriptions, I would need the ingredient lists and to be guaranteed that the items were vegetarian. I'm sure Freedom Japanese Market would be up to working with customers on these requests, but that's my only really constructive criticism.
If you're not restrictive about diet and you like trying new things, the mix here was great. The items were interesting for sure. The Pakila sticks were chocolately wafers. I thought they would be more like Pocky, but they were filled with chocolate instead dipped in it. These were pretty good, though. Nothing adventurous, but also nothing eyebrow-raising like seaweed, either!
There was a DIY kit, which are super popular in Asia, I understand. Since I don't know if there is gelatin and also I'm a little lazy about making my own snacks, my husband is passing this along to his students. They'll be all over it, I'm sure! It sounds like it could be fun, especially for kids. We also received a package of Hi-Chew minis, which I know I can't eat because of gelatin, and a Black Thunder chocolate bar. It was described as a chocolate-dipped Oreo. It was a little more wafery than I expected, but decent. It kind of tasted like basic candy here, though, so I wasn't excited about it either way.
I did like the Pai Cro snack. I looked everywhere online for ingredients before trying it, but I couldn't find them. However, it sounded like it was basically butter and sugar, so I tried it. It was sweet and junky snacking - which is sometimes the best kind. You wouldn't be full eating this, but it's definitely tasty.
I had to skip the next item, which were (according to the printout) teriyaki burger and pork roll tubes. These are some cute packages, but I am passing on meat tubes. :) I'm sure there are tons of people out there who would love to try this, but even the thought makes me a little ill.
There were two cheesy rice crackers included. They're spicier than cheesy crackers, but not a ton. The flavor was interesting, although I didn't finish the cracker since I wasn't 100% sure it wasn't flavored with some kind of meat seasoning.
I was hoping for flavored Kit Kats, because I love Kit Kats but Asian countries are known for having all kinds of interesting flavors. I was fortunate in getting them! They were green tea flavored. I don't know if I liked them, but I ate them. The flavor was weird, in both good and bad ways, but this is exactly the kind of thing you want to try with a subscription like this.
We also received a bonus package of gum sticks, which can be mixed and matched. I love the packaging of this gum. I have no idea why there are fish on it. I assume there's no fish in the gum (although I guess you never know), so this is really entertaining to me.
I don't think I am personally the market for Japanese snacks, simply because they eat a lot of things I just won't. However, this seems like it would be a really fun and interesting subscription for someone who either loves Japanese snacks and can't find them or who wants to try something different. I love that they're authentically from Japan, too, as opposed to from a Japanese market down the street. You never really know with things you buy here, since there are all kinds of knock-off products. I also think that because they are not imported in bulk, you get the real packaging. I love British candy, for example, but when I get it here, it looks a little different than it does overseas. Maybe these gum sticks wouldn't have bug-eyed angry fish on them - and that would be quite the disappointment! I think I enjoyed the packaging as much as the food itself.