What is Oyatsu? A Delicious Journey into Japanese Snack Culture

what is omiyage

Konnichiwa! As a lover of Japanese culture and all things culinary, I find myself constantly intrigued by the delightful world of Japanese snacks. One particular aspect that has captured my attention is oyatsu, a term that encompasses a wide variety of snacks enjoyed by people of all ages in Japan. Join me on this exciting journey as we explore the history of oyatsu, its significance in Japanese culture, and some of the most popular snacks and places to purchase oyatsu.

The History of Oyatsu

To truly understand oyatsu, we must delve into its rich history. Oyatsu, which translates to “snack time” in Japanese, has been an integral part of Japanese culture for centuries. The concept of taking breaks during the day to enjoy small bites can be traced back to ancient times when people would gather to share refreshments and rejuvenate their spirits.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the popularity of oyatsu grew significantly. Merchants and samurai, seeking a moment of respite from their busy lives, would indulge in small treats between meals. Oyatsu not only provided a quick energy boost but also became a symbol of leisure and relaxation.

Oyatsu in Japanese Culture

What is oyatsu? It is not merely a quick snack; it is a way of life in Japan. Oyatsu breaks offer a momentary escape from the daily routine, allowing individuals to recharge their minds and bodies. In a culture that values mindfulness and balance, oyatsu serves as a reminder to savor the present moment.

In Japanese society, oyatsu plays a crucial role in fostering social connections. It is common for friends and colleagues to share oyatsu during gatherings, fostering a sense of camaraderie and bonding. The act of offering or exchanging oyatsu is a gesture of hospitality and goodwill, emphasizing the importance of communal sharing in Japanese culture.

Popular Oyatsu Snacks

Now that we have explored the significance of oyatsu in Japanese culture, let’s dive into some of the most popular snacks you can find during oyatsu time in Japan.

Senbei: These traditional Japanese rice crackers come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors. From the classic soy sauce flavor to the more adventurous wasabi or shrimp, senbei is a staple oyatsu snack enjoyed by people of all ages.


Pocky: Pocky is perhaps one of the most well-known Japanese snacks worldwide. These slender biscuit sticks coated in chocolate, strawberry, or other delectable flavors are a favorite among children and adults alike.

Kit Kat: While Kit Kat may be a familiar brand globally, Japan takes it to a whole new level with its extensive range of unique flavors. From matcha (green tea) to sake, wasabi to sweet potato, the sheer variety of Kit Kat flavors in Japan is mind-boggling.

Umaibo: Umaibo, meaning “delicious stick” in Japanese, is a cylindrical corn puff snack available in a myriad of flavors such as cheese, takoyaki (octopus balls), and teriyaki burger. Its affordability and diverse range make it a beloved oyatsu treat for many.

Dorayaki: This delightful sweet consists of two fluffy pancakes sandwiching a sweet red bean paste filling. Dorayaki, often enjoyed with a cup of tea, is a popular oyatsu snack that can be found in both traditional and modern variations.

Anko (red bean paste) snack
Anko (red bean paste) snack

Where to Purchase Oyatsu

If you’re craving a taste of oyatsu, or looking for a place to purchase omiyage for friends, Japan offers a plethora of places where you can indulge in these delightful snacks.

  • Konbini (Convenience Stores): One of the most convenient places to find oyatsu snacks is at Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores. 7-Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart are some of the well-known chains that stock a wide range of oyatsu options, making them accessible to locals and travelers alike.
  • Dagashiya (Traditional Candy Stores): For a nostalgic oyatsu shopping experience, visit a dagashiya. These traditional candy stores are filled with an array of affordable, old-school snacks that will transport you back to simpler times.
  • Depachika (Basement Food Halls): This one is my favorite! Located in the basements of department stores, depachika are culinary wonderlands that offer an extensive selection of oyatsu and other Japanese delights. These gourmet food halls often showcase regional specialties, making them a treasure trove for snack enthusiasts.
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Planning a trip to Japan?

Research which train pass is best for you in Tokyo. Plan a guided tour, or a guided food tour. Have a pocket wifi or SIM card ready when you land. Planning to travel on the Shinkansen? Find out the difference between a Green car and ordinary car and about the Shinkanesen luggage limit. Be sure to check out these 10 things you should NOT do when visiting Japan, or find other travel tips in our Travel category.


In answering the question, “What is oyatsu?” we have embarked on a delicious journey into Japanese snack culture. Oyatsu is not just a simple snack; it embodies the essence of Japanese hospitality, mindfulness, and social connections. Whether you find yourself nibbling on senbei, savoring Pocky, or indulging in a Dorayaki, each bite takes you closer to understanding the rich tapestry of flavors and traditions that make up oyatsu.

So, the next time you take a break from your daily routine, remember to embrace the spirit of oyatsu. Relish the moment, share a snack with a friend, and let the flavors transport you to the vibrant streets of Japan. What is oyatsu? It’s a delightful adventure waiting to be savored.

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