Before I came to Japan, I fancied myself a bit of a dessert aficionado. Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream was one of my favorites, and I’ve always had a soft spot for dipped chocolate soft-serve ice cream from Dairy Queen. I learned how much I’d been missing when I got here, though, as I was introduced to a world of amazing sweets from all over the world. The Japanese have a long history of taking ideas from the outside and improving on them, and many of the exotic desserts found here were brought over during the Meiji Period, like the dreamy Japanese-style custard-filled cream puffs called shu cream, pronounced just like the stuff you clean your shoes with (from the French chou a la creme), which naturally come in Hello Kitty and Totoro-shaped variations, too. Another French dessert the Japanese have embraced are crepes, and my kids have an amazing ability for knowing where the nearest crepe vendor is so they can beg me to buy them the strawberry and whipped cream-filled pastries. While some sweets were imported so long ago they seem uniquely Japanese now, such as the 400-year old konpeito candies and famous Castella sponge cakes from Nagasaki, some are more recent imports, like Nata de Coco, a dessert from the Philippines that’s eaten in yogurt. You can often see the exotic side to Japanese desserts in the snacks we sell through the site, like the smash hit of the season, Tiramisu Kit Kat (which will be disappearing from the site soon, fair warning). One side benefit to living in Japan is learning to appreciate that a very small yet very delicious food is superior to something mass-produced and served in large servings.
The Japanese love crafting delicious desserts as much as I love eating them.