Eight Nice Sticks enter, three sticks leave…

Yamazaki Baking is one of Japan’s largest producers of bread and other baked goods. Few would argue that their most popular product is the Lunch Pack, a line of crustless sandwich pockets filled with just about anything you could imagine, from Pizza Hut to curry made by a sumo wrestler.

But another of their very long-running products are Nice Sticks. These are also sandwich-style products, only using a long, stick-like loaf of soft bread with a variety of sweet fillings. Nationwide there’s the Plain flavor that has a sugary and buttery cream inside, but there are also regional varieties such as matcha in Kyoto and Fukushima peaches.

But for a very fleeting period between 4 and 10 September, Yamazaki released several regional flavors nationwide for everyone everywhere to enjoy. Taking advantage of this, eight of our Japanese writers taste-tested them all and their votes were tallied to find the best of the best flavors in the country.

First, here are the contestants:

● Plain
● Uji Matcha Whipped Cream & Uji Matcha Cream
● Chiba Peanut Cream
● Goroshima Kintoki Sweet Potato, Anko, & Margarine
● Seto Inland Sea Lemon Jam & Whipped Cream
● Fukushima Peach Jam & Whipped Cream
● Beni Haruka Sweet Potato Cream & Whipped Cream
● Kumamoto Chestnut Cream & Whipped Cream

There was also a chocolate flavor, but it was sold out at the time of this ranking, so we had to go without it. Each of the eight flavors were then cut into eight pieces so they could be sampled by eight of our writers: Mr. Sato, P.K. Sanjun, Masanuki Sunakoma, Takashi Harada, Yuuichiro Wasai, Seiji Nakazawa, Mariko Ohanabatake, and Ahiruneko.

After sampling each of the flavors, each writer must then vote for their three favorites and the one with the most cumulative votes will be crowned the nicest Nice Stick in the land! So, without further ado, there was a tie in third place:

▼ 3rd (Tie): Seto Inland Sea Lemon Jam & Whipped Cream (3 votes)

The contrasting sweet and sour tastes were what endured this specialty flavor with three of our writers. P.K. said he was pleasantly surprised by the use of lemon in this snack and Mariko said it tasted especially fresh because of it.

▼ 3rd (Tie): Beni Haruka Sweet Potato Cream & Whipped Cream (3 votes)

In a world of increasingly artificial-tasting flavors, the natural taste of sweet potatoes was particularly enjoyed by three of our writers. However, Seiji mentioned that despite the organic taste, the flavor was much bolder then he expected. Takashi and Ahiruneko both appreciated the mellow sweetness of it compared to the others.

▼ 2nd: Chiba Peanut Cream (4 votes)

It just goes to show that you can’t beat the classics and few things have stood the test of time better than bread and peanut butter – or “peanut cream” in this case. This might also have had a home-field advantage with our Tokyo staff, being the Chiba regional flavor. Yuuichiro remarked that this was always his favorite and Mr. Sato said that it’s hard to surpass the reliability of the Chiba Peanut Cream and Plain flavors, which brings us to…

▼ 1st: Plain (5 votes)

Indeed, the alpha and omega of Nice Sticks is the Plain flavor. Even Yuuichiro, who was convinced that Chiba Peanut Cream would be his favorite, was pleasantly surprised by the misleadingly named Plain flavor that actually had a very striking sweet taste. Masanuki added that although it’s delicious, it’s also mild enough that you can wolf down a whole stick rather easily. Mariko also pointed out that this is THE Nice Stick flavor, and also has a sweet spot in almost everyone’s childhood memories.

The good news is that since Plain is the one flavor that can be enjoyed all over the country, we can all experience the best Nice Stick anywhere in Japan. However, the other flavors are also all very good in their own right and can make for a nice change of pace. Even the four remaining flavors were all tied with two votes, meaning none of them were losers.

Unfortunately, the nationwide regional flavor campaign has since ended, but it still might be worth checking out your own local supermarket or convenience store in Japan to see what kind of Nice Stick you can find.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]