Back in 2018, I did a round-up of Japanese-inspired subscription boxes, ranging from anime goods to Japanese food to stationary and more. One of these I listed was TokyoTreat, a food-based box offering monthly deliveries of Japanese snacks. I was invited to try a box out by TokyoTreat, and so that’s what I’m covering today.
Disclaimer: I received a box for review purposes.
So here is my excerpt from the Japan-in-a-Box article:
The first thing I did was see what has changed. The Premium Box is still $35 with it going to as low as $31.50 with an upfront one-year payment. But where was the cheaper level? There was only an option for Premium.
You can see recent previous shipments on TokyoTreat, and each snack is clearly listed as “Premium” or “Classic”. I did a quick search and found a link where you can subscribe to the Classic Box, and the URL includes the word “promo”. Then I found this:
It does make sense to just have just one type of box, but I was able to start checking out by finding this hidden link. Not sure if they’ll patch this by the time this article goes live, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I were to continue ordering. Maybe there would be a block further on, who knows.
Due to the pandemic, TokyoTreat has changed their shipping methods so that it’s now $12.50 to ship to the US.
But each shipment promises 17 snacks found only in Japan. These include popular brands, drinks, small treats, and more. TokyoTreat accepts most major credit cards as well as PayPal and ships worldwide.
Here’s TokyoTreat’s Premium Box for September 2021 with the theme “Okinawa Snack-Out”. It was shipped from Japan, and as you can see, my box had a bit of a rough trip.
According to the tracking, it arrived from Japan to New Jersey on August 31st. Then there are no updates until it moved to Indiana on September 10th. But the beginning of September was about the time Ida was moving through the Mid-Atlantic area. And while it didn’t go through USPS at first, to give an idea of how bad things were, a nearby USPS sorting facility had its roof collapse and has been condemned from use until it’s either repaired or demolished completely. Several people were injured.
Again, my box wasn’t at that New Jersey location, but I suspect that Ida affected my box. Not just because of the outside damage but for another reason I’ll explain in a moment.
The customs form showed a weight of 1.28kg, which is close to my scale’s weight of 2 lbs 14.5 oz. It’s actually the second item in two days where I’ve had an item received show up as 1 ounce less than what my scale says, so if my scale is indeed off by an ounce, it would match up perfectly.
There were 17 items in the box. Everything fit nicely and nothing sounded or looked crushed even with the box damage. On the top is a booklet, which I decided to look at first.
But for a moment, I wasn’t sure it was a booklet and thought it was a poster since it wasn’t opening like a book. I couldn’t unfold it either. The pages were stuck together, and as you can see, it does look like water damage.
None of the items inside were wet or partially opened or anything, and the included drink was still sealed. So based on the timing, I think the box got wet. I’m not complaining; I’m just stating what I think happened and is probably not how these boxes normally arrive. Most of the boxes look the same, and it’s just the same outside pattern on the bottom.
The booklet lists and describes the snacks’ type and flavor. One item is chosen as TokyoTreat’s Top Pick and has a full page dedicated to it. There’s also a page to learn about Okinawa’s guardian spirits, the shisa dog-lions (lion-dogs?). Other pages encourage subscribers to share on social media, earn bonuses, and enter giveaways.
Here’s what came in the box:
This is the official unboxing video from TokyoTreat:
This video was uploaded the day before I got my box, so it’s not like you can see what’s inside before locking in a delivery. That’s pretty normal. You can see a preview of the next month on TokyoTreat, and the last few months’ boxes are also available. I have to say, that’s really nice. Yes, most subscription boxes do give you a preview of the upcoming months, but I remember some sites would just have some displays and you’d have to go searching elsewhere to make sure those samples weren’t old and/or atypical. On TokyoTreat, potential subscribers have a rather clear picture of what to expect.
As for the next box, the current header is Halloween-themed, and the subscription page highlights six of these. So this isn’t the most mystery of mystery boxes, and you can skip a box if the upcoming month doesn’t interest you. But you earn rewards if you have an active, continuous subscription.
But back to September’s delivery. Just to be clear, this first image shows what all subscribers got this month in the essentially-defunct Classic Box and the second is the exclusive items in the Premium Box.
Most of my knowledge of Okinawa boils down to that it’s a tropical area. For most people, tropics = summer weather, and a lot of the treats seemed tied to that sort of theme rather than Okinawan delicacies specifically. Which does help add variety, because I’d rather not have a box full of sour citrus fruit flavors.
Products range from little pick-me-ups to craving satisfiers to dessert. The Fanta bottle and Kit Kat bags are easy to identify, and there are also chips, gummies, salty snacks, and more. Some products look like they’d be perfect to stick into a lunchbox, and others I could see snacking on while watching TV.
One thing unfortunate about food, of course, is that it goes bad. Here’s how the expiration dates broke down for the items:
November 2021: 3
December 2021: 4
January 2022: 4
March 2022: 2
May 2022: 3
October 2022: 1
I’m glad not everything expires quickly and that dates are spread out. I’m sure plenty of households could inhale everything in less than a week, but it’s better to have longer dates just in case. Sure, some items are small enough you could have two or three a day, but especially for those who subscribe monthly, depending on holidays, trips, etc., I could see products start to accumulate. But only three items expire in two months, which makes it easier for subscribers to eat at their own pace. You can even see the gummies advertising the upcoming Sinnoh region remake games that helps emphasize the freshness.
Two items were Pokémon-themed, so both boxes had an anime product this month. The pudding-flavored snack includes a sticker. According to the box, there are 40 different ones, so, uh, have fun collectors. Might be easier to complete a Pokédex.
The Pokémon pudding snacks was the item that captured my attention the most. Honestly, it’s so cute I hate to open it! I’d love a little Pokémon trinket box in this style/design, especially with the two cute Pikachu’s on the top.
I’ve heard before there are a lot of crazy Kit-Kat flavors in Japan, and compared to some of the ones I’ve seen before, ice cream flavor is about as good of a choice I could hope for. The Pandaro butter cookie is what I think I’ll enjoy the most, and I was tempted to try it out before I was finished taking pictures.
Taste is very subjective, and with a rotating selection, I’m sure each person has months where the box is more “worth it”. Even if someone were to love every item in Okinawa Snack-Out, they may only like one or two out of the 17 in October’s shipment. Or vice versa. But I will say that the original sample image in my Japan-in-a-Box article does match what I received and doesn’t seem to be an overly-puffed up display or that TokyoTreat boxes have significantly gone down in value.
Customs forms show an estimated value of 1000 yen. At today’s conversion rate, that equals to a little over $9. Of course, that doesn’t factor in shipping costs, handling, bulk discounts vs. cost of buying in store, etc. But as a rough comparison…
- The Kit-Kat bag is a little over 4 ounces. Snack-size Kit-Kats are sold in sets of 5 (2.5 oz total) for about $1. So you can spend $2 for a little more Kit-Kats, but of course, limited edition flavors usually either cost more or contain less.
- While 2-liters of soda like Fanta cost around $1, individual bottles are usually more, around $1.5.
- A 2 to 2.5 ounce bag of chips is about $1.5.
- A 2 ounce bag of gummies is about $1.
- The Pokémon pudding snacks reminded me of Barnum’s Animal Crackers, but those boxes have more. However, these are flavored and come with a sticker, so eh, close enough. Those are about $1.5 now.
So that’s about $6 for similar products, but of course, that doesn’t factor in at all that these are foreign goods and flavors.
Let’s calculate it another way. Separate the products into larger goods (6) vs. smaller ones (11). Let’s say similar types of items in a store are $1 for big and $.50 for small, that’s $11.50 worth of food. Which, again, is close to what’s on the customs form. Factoring in shipping and the cost, it’s like everything is about 4 times the cost. That markup is in-line with a lot of Japanese goods I’ve seen sold.
While TokyoTreat’s current shipping methods are supposedly faster and include tracking, it is unfortunate that shipping adds 30, 35% to the total. But shipping is rising domestically and internationally, and things are just crazy. But I do think that the shipping fee is going to be the tipping point for a lot of users. Hopefully, their Saver method comes back in the future.
You can buy individual items via Japan Haul, which is a part of the TokyoTreat family of brands. If you wanted to try your hand at getting another Pokémon sticker, a box of those snacks is just over $4.
Throw in the Pokémon gummies and the corn potage bag, that’s just under $14. Shipping for those items would be about $9.21, so that’s almost 50% of the box price for a fraction of the goods. If you assembled a box that’s 1.28 kg (1280 g) like September’s box, the cheapest shipping is $14.59, which is non-trackable via Surface Mail. If there is an item in a future box you are interested in, because of the global situation and the math right now, it might be better to pay for the full TokyoTreat box over individual items.
For me, I did have fun opening the box, but honestly, I am not a foodie. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario where I don’t try new things because I’m a picky eater, but I’m also a picky eater because I don’t try new things. Even thinking of the last few new things I decided to take a chance on, they’ve all ended up in the garbage or have been reluctantly eaten. So there probably could never be a food-based subscription service where it’d be worth it for me. I also don’t have a household or an extended circle where I can pass things off to someone whom I know will like it.
However, to those of you with healthier and age-appropriate tastebuds and bigger families, TokyoTreat is certainly appetizing — pun intended. There are enough bigger items for multiple people to taste, and enough number of items to split up so that each person can take a couple of snacks for themselves. Although I’m sure some parents would have to deal with arguing over who gets the Pokémon sticker! (Heck, there’s going to be a tussle over Pandaro in my house!) And a lot of areas may not have many options to pick up Japanese sweets outside of pocky and ramen at big box stores.
However, I have seen some snack crates at my local F.Y.E., and there are, of course, other food subscription boxes. I can’t attest to which one is the best value or anything, but looking at some similar boxes, it may boil down to knowing more of what you’re getting but paying more versus paying less but gambling.
Despite my penchant for choosing the cheaper option, I’m also not much of a risk-taker, so being able to see a preview of next month’s delivery as well as the last few previous months’ boxes does interest me more from a new subscriber’s perspective. And, while it’s possible that other months may not have quite the range, I was very relieved to see the goodies do have a while before their best-by date. It was the part of the box where it felt like it was a curated box rather than a company finding ways to dump off soon-to-be-expired snacks.