In Japan, if you are Japanese, when you go traveling, especially any significant distance, there is a special burden placed upon the weary traveler in addition to packing, lugging around suitcases, endless hours on the road or in the air, lost sleep, and the other usual headaches of vacation. In Japan there is a strong social expectation that the lucky traveler should bring back local snacks or souvenirs for all their close friends or even sometimes acquaintances, depending on mysterious (to me) social duties and ties. These souvenirs, called omiyage, are big business in Japan, and all the big train stations have ample omiyage stores for last-minute purchases by desperate and busy vacationers.
It turns out that Godzilla also has his own omiyage–actually several. On my recent visit to the a Godzilla exhibit in Yokohama, I picked up four different kinds of Godzilla omiyage, and I saw a fifth at movie theaters when Shin Godzilla (2016) was released, though I didn’t buy that one. The particular Godzilla omiyage I will be discussing today is the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki, which is kind of a standard omiyage snack that comes in one flavor with a Godzilla image stamped on the cake.
Many of the omiyage in Japan are just the same basic treats in different shapes or with different designs stamped on them, but because they are from a different area of Japan it is a special treat to give your friends. Such is the case with this omiyage, which is basically a little round cake filled with sweet bean paste. These little cakes are pretty much standard omiyage fair, and I have had many over the years that have tasted just about exactly the same as the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki. The cake itself is a sort of mild yellow cake, soft and slightly moist but not overly sweet. The sweet bean paste (or anko) is something of an acquired taste, and many of my Caucasian friends who live abroad in Japan don’t really like sweet beans. I actually like the stuff sometimes (the sweet azuki bean ice cream at Baskin Robbins is delish), but I don’t get excited about sweet-bean filled cakes. They are okay–the beans are lightly sweet with a texture that melts in the mouth, except for the bean skins. It’s not bad, but I much prefer the custard cream filled cakes. Some omiyage boxes include cakes filled with sweet bean as well as custard filled cakes, but the Limited Edition Yaki here are only sweet beans.
The Godzilla stamp on the cakes is a lightly detailed silhouette of the Shin Godzilla design with “Godzilla” written in a familiar font, kind of a riff of the crumbled letter font found on any number of Godzilla-related merchandise. The font immediately reminded me of the Marvel comic series, but upon closer inspection they are not the same. Still, this little silhouette plus the Godzilla name are really the only distinguishing features of the snack. This is what you are paying for, folks.
The box itself is gold and black foil with “Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki” written entirely in kanji and the now-ubiquitous Shin Godzilla head in profile with more cartoony-looking Tokyo buildings in the background. The back has an ingredients list, where to contact the company for any questions, the number of cakes included (ten), and information on how to keep the cakes from spoiling (which I should have read, as my last two cakes grew a bit of mold before I got around to eating them). Curiously, I don’t see any actual name for a company on the back. The closest I could find was an address in Chiba, but no actual name of a company. Oh, well.
So far the Godzilla Limited Edition Yaki is the only Godzilla omiyage I have eaten, and I came away largely unimpressed. The little cakes are no better or worse than hundreds of similar omiyage, and so they come across to me as being a bit boring. Still, these are limited edition cakes (the sales guy in Yokohama was loudly insisting they could only be bought at the Yokohama exhibit), so I guess I feel special for having had the opportunity to munch them.