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 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
Passing through Nagano, I picked up a pack of Haichu that tastes like Shinshu apple, a regional specialty. Absolutely delicious!
Yubari Melon Haichu
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
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
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.
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).
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.
Our wonderful illustrator Aya has cooked up some wallpapers of the header image to this post. Enjoy!