Pocky packettWho can fail to notice that a huge portion of the Japanese populace are addicts. They are under the spell of wicked stick-demons, consumed through the mouth, devastatingly addictive and - as is common knowledge, these days - destructively unhealthy. Japan is a nation of Pokaholics.

The Osaka Pocky Barons profiting from these unwitting addicts are Glico Corporation, who launched the first variety of milk chocolate-dipped wheat sticks in 1965, priced JY60 a box. The success of Chocoteck - as they were known at first - astounded even Glico, with sales in the first two years reaching JY30 billion, three times the estimate. Chocoteck soon evolved into Pocky in recognition of the "pockin" sound they make when munched.
It was the "swinging sixties" and the launch of the new snack was revolutionary amongst Japanese adolescents. In an interview for his official fanzine, Aska of the ubiquitous Chage and Aska J-Pop duo, recalled how, as a primary school kid, he would hallucinate about the "tasty bamboo-like snack." Some, but not all, would feel a curious sense of heat when eating Pocky and it became a popular conclusion that those who did were somehow more sensitive people than the rest. Aska accordingly accredits his bashful self-confidence to a healthy diet of Pocky when young.

Popular demand ensured the launch of a second flavor, Almond Pocky, in 1971, followed by Strawberry six years later. These days there is a new flavor released each fall and nobody seems to know exactly how many varieties there are in total as not all flavors are available in all places. Grape-flavored Pocky, from Nagano, are exceedingly rare. The local Kyushu specialty is a lemony-mikan flavored Pocky. Sightings of the Hokkaido omiyage-sized Giant Yubari Melon Pocky are highly prized by Pocky-watchers. Because Glico likes to test its new flavors on rural folk, some varieties pass in and out of the market without ever catching the beady eyes of the urban Pocky classes.

Pocky sticksHowever, it is not unknown for city addicts to make special excursions into rural Tohoku in pursuit of reported Pocky sightings. A community of these social outcasts has spawned on the Internet, providing mutual support as well as hints on where you can get your hit when forced to leave Japan for more than a few days, breaking news on new flavors, how to spot poor imitations and so on. One of the most popular of these "PA" forums is the Wonderful World of Pocky, linked via the Tokyo Food Page ( There you can be reassured that there is a Glico store in Vancouver, and that Pocky are available down under from a small supermarket in suburban Sydney. Most vacationing Pockoholics can be found at accommodating locations in the US or in Thailand, where Pocky are widely available in 7-Eleven.

If this was the West, Pocky would have government health warnings on the boxes and Glico would be facing bankruptcy litigation for knowingly luring millions of unwitting adults and children into chocoholicism, with all the associated consequences for social cohesion. Pocky eaters would be huddled on street corners, forced to fulfill their cravings under the scornful eyes of unblemished passersby. But Pokaholics, beware! Fake Pocky are besieging the market with poor quality efforts such as the scandalously named "Chocky." Even the counterfeiters in the back streets of Bangkok are moving from fake Armani to fake Pocky, detectable by their under-priced, oversized boxes. Pocky: the world' first designer chocolate, made in Japan.

Charlie Spreckley

299: Nakamura Kankuro
Arizona lover and Kabuki actor
298: Miura Yuichiro
The Man Who Skied Down Everest
297: Iron Chef
Gourmet cuisine battles
296: "Katte wa ikenai"
"Don't buy these products"
295: Oda Yuji
The dancing detective
294: Enoki Takaaki
An artist who acts
293: Glay
Japan's reigning pop princes
292: Akebono
Hawaiian Sumo wrestler
291: Issey Miyake
Fashion designer
290: Murakami Ryu
Radical writer
289: Oshima Nagisa
Movie director
288: Takakura Ken
Crime film actor
287: Miura Kazuyoshi
Soccer player
286: Suzuki Koji
Author of the horror, Ring
285: Tezuka Osamu
God of Comics
284: Yuming
283: Anpanman
Bean-powered superhero
282: Yamaguchi Takashi
Immersed in traditional Japanese music
281: Nasubi
280: Doi Takako
First female Speaker of the House
279: Nakamura Kichiemon
Retiring Kabuki actor
278: Oe Kenzaburo
Nobel prize winning author
277: Kimura Takuya
SMAP member
276: Utada Hikaru
Teenage pop phenomenon
275: Bando Tamasaburo
Kabuki female role impersonator
274: Otomo Katsuhiro
Akira creator
273: Dreams Come True
Premier recording artist
272: Dango San Kyodai
Surprise hit of 1999
271: Banana Yoshimoto
270: Matsuzaka Daisuke
Baseball player
269: Moritaka Chisato
Model and singer
268: Mukai Chiaki
Female astronaut
267: Natto
Traditional Japanese health food
266: Hiroaki Kikuoka
Shamisen player
265: Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Japan's most revered dramatist
264: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Oscar-winning musician
263: Shigeo Nagashima
Japan's Mr Baseball
262: Ayako Totsuka
Pioneer careerwoman
261: Yatsuhashi Kengyo
Koto player
260: Chiyotaikai
Sumo wrestler
259: Pocky
Japanese snack food
258: Itsuki Hiroshi
Enka singer
257: Pocket Monsters
Conquering the world
256: Classified ads
New concept in Japan
255: Chara
Japanese pop star
254: Pink Lady
1970's singing duo
253: Takashi Sorimachi
Japanese heartthrob
252: Ennosuke Ichikawa
Kabuki actor
251: Rie Miyazawa
Model and actress
250: Shazna
Visual-kei band

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