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During Tofugu’s recent trip to Japan, I racked my brain for what souvenirs I wanted to bring back home with me. After all, I don’t get to go to Japan very often, so I wanted to get as much as I could before coming back to the US.

A lot of the souvenirs I bought with specific people in mind but there was one gift I knew I could buy in bulk and have absolutely no problem giving away or keeping for myself: Haichu.

Haichu (also called “Hi-Chew” outside of Japan) is a chewy Japanese fruit candy. The analogy I usually like to use is that it’s like Japanese Starburst, but that’s an incredible insult to Haichu.

Every Type of Haichu You Can Imagine

One of the best things about Japanese foods is the incredible amount of variety. In the US, a candy bar is a candy bar is a candy bar; it’s the same whether you buy it in New York or California, in winter or summer.

But Japan has a knack for mixing it up, creating seasonal and regional varieties of a lot of different types of food, making it incredibly rewarding to spend embarrassing amounts of money on candy.

And I definitely spent more than I should have on candy. Here are some of the different types of Haichu I picked up while in Japan:

Haichu Premium

haichu-premium

Haichu Premium is a newer type of Haichu that’s different from regular Haichu. They’re a little bigger, round, and not quite as rubbery. To appeal to a more adult market, Haichu Premium is only available in wine flavors.

Shinshu Apple Haichu

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Passing through Nagano, I picked up a pack of Haichu that tastes like Shinshu apple, a regional specialty. Absolutely delicious!

Yubari Melon Haichu

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The northern island of Hokkaido is known for its specialty Yubari canteloupe melons. This variety of Haichu is, as far as I know, only available in Hokkaido.

Soda and Cola Haichu

soda-haichu

Like the Japanese candy Puccho, soda and cola Haichu each have little pellets of flavor hidden inside of the candy. Good stuff!

Strawberry Shortcake Haichu

strawberry-shortcake-haichu

As you might already know, Christmas in Japan is celebrated with strawberry shortcake. So of course, it makes sense of Morinaga to cash in on the tradition and make tiny, bite-sized strawberry shortcake Haichu.

It makes even more sense that I would buy them in bulk at a discount price a month after Christmas. How could I say no?


And that’s only the Haichu that caught my eye in Japanese stores. Like Pocky, there are countless other limited edition, seasonal, and regional varieties of Haichu that can satisfy any taste.

For me though, Haichu’s appeal goes beyond its different flavors. Once I learned about its history, I was really sold.

The Man Behind Haichu

I loaded up on Haichu while we were in Japan, but it wasn’t until after I got back that I learned about the history behind it, the company that makes it, and the man who started it all.

Haichu is made by a Japanese company called Morinaga that was founded way back in the 1800s by a man named Taichiro Morinaga.

I should have known that Morinaga was awesome without even looking, because it seems like all of the founders of Japanese corporations (like the founders of Nissin or Toshiba) were all badasses.

Taichiro (the man) came from the boonies of Japan in the late 1800s, and didn’t have any sort of education. He moved to the US in his twenties to seek opportunity (as a lot of people did back then).

taichiro-morinaga

It was in the US that he had his first-ever piece of candy and it blew his mind. Taichiro decided that he needed to share this incredible discovery with his home country.

To make a long story incredibly short, Taichiro moved back to Japan and founded Morinaga & Company. Morinaga & Co. was the first company to ever produce chocolate in Japan, and came up with Haichu.

There are different stories about how Haichu was invented. Some say that Taichiro wanted to put a Japanese spin on the caramel candy he’d tried in the US; other people say that Taichiro wanted to make something closer to gum.

We might not know for sure why exactly Morinaga came up with Haichu, but I know one thing for sure: as the dentist is pulling my cavity-ridden teeth, I’ll be cursing Taichiro Morinaga and his delicious, delicious invention.


Bonus Wallpapers!

Our wonderful illustrator Aya has cooked up some wallpapers of the header image to this post. Enjoy!

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  • DAVIDPD

    Grape Hi-Chew are my personal favorite. A simple flavor for a simple man.

  • http://twitter.com/typoxia Rachael Sachse

    Possibly meant “In America he tried his first piece of candy” I assume?
    I honestly am probably going to spend far too much on Hai-Chew, Kit Kats and Pocky, just to experience the idea of seasonal foods. Here, we’re so used to importing everything.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Whoops, you’re right! Fixed that in the post :)

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Oh god, I love Haichu!
    I don’t like all the flavors, but I love trying the limited ones or the ones that you can only get in certain regions. I still have two unopened ones from Okinawa lying around! ^-^;

  • extrarice

    信州りんご? I’ll have to keep an eye out for that next time I’m there!

  • Jessica Lawing

    i’ve had some of these!
    Hey, could we get info on more candies? That’s be great! :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/renokiribani Ashley Kay Harshbarger

    Haichu is the best. I only have a few flavors available where I’m from (grape, melon, strawberry, sometimes orange, and green apple). Now I want to scour the internet t find special flavors!

  • John

    Chuhai > Haichu

  • Kiriain

    Chuhai flavored Haichu

  • kyong

    *This is completely off topic* But I’ve seen that in some of the past posts that you guys have referenced Aya as your lovely graphics creator. I was wondering if she has a portfolio website? Would love to look at her other works :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sina.vakili.7 Sina Vakili

    I freakin’ love the flavors that come out of Japan! I work for a flavor company in the USA and I am saddened by a lot of the flavors we make. Being a Flavor Chemist/Product Developer in Japan sounds like it would be a lot more fun and tasty!

    I am always ranting about how the Japanese flavors are miles ahead.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi
  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Working for a flavor company (even in the US) sounds like a super interesting job!

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    She doesn’t have an online portfolio at the moment, but you can go through Tofugu posts from the last couple of months and virtually all of the header images were made by Aya.

  • http://twitter.com/bomblol arachnid rehash

    Agreed! If there haven’t been any AMA’s or Ask/tells done about that on the internet, you should totally do one

  • MrsSpooky

    I am ALL OVER the wine-flavored haichu. Just sayin’.

  • MrsSpooky

    There is a chocolate that comes out in Japan in the cooler months that has a very low melting point – it’s a lot like the “Ice Cube” chocolates, which I think said they were Belgian chocolate. I don’t know what exactly it’s called, but a friend at work who used to live in Japan got some from friends there and he gave me one. I nearly mugged him for the rest of them. I’m not hugely into chocolate, but when I get some I like I can’t stop eating it.

  • foozlesprite

    Haichu is amazing, but I think ramune-flavored puccho is the best candy I’ve ever had. I wish I could get it locally so I could avoid import/shipping fees.

  • Welcome to Japan

    Thank you for visiting Japan. Kit Kats have many regional flavors,too. Try them next time you are in Japan. Some confectionery comapanies offer a free tour, and you can taste free samples after the tour. Come again.

  • 流離人

    日本からです。
    翻訳版を読みました、面白かったです。
    日本人よりもハイチュウに詳しいアメリカ人ですね^^
    また日本にお越し下さい。

  • PEPPAH SHEPPAH

    Aaaah drooling so hard rn I love this stuff and buy it at every supermarket outing I can aaaah