In Japan, The Great Meiji Snack Battle Rages On

In Japan, The Great Meiji Snack Battle Rages On

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Kinoko no Yama and Takenoko no Sato
Picture: mirai4192 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Are you Team Kinoko or Team Takenoko? How a pair of Japanese snacks has pitted people against one another for decades.

Meiji is a company with a long and storied history dating back to Japan’s Taisho Era. Over the years, it’s produced many successful products. But two similar products have torn the country’s loyalties in twain. Read on to learn more about the Great Meiji Mushroom and Bamboo Battle…

Two stars are born…

Kinoko no Yama
Picture by the author(‘s wife)

Founded in 1916 as the Tokyo Candy Company, Meiji is most well-known for its chocolate products. The Meiji Chocolate bar, first introduced in the 1920s, is still a hit today. But the company also produces a number of milk-based products as well as pharmaceuticals. (It was the first company in Japan to sell a treatment for MRSA, one of the causes of staph infections.)[1]

Meiji is also one of Japan’s most successful international companies, with subsidiaries in APAC, Europe, and the United States. (I was today years old when I learned that Meiji owns Stauffer’s[2].)

Meiji has many diverse products. But two of its confections seem like kissin’ cousins. They are Kinoko no Yama (きのこの山; Mushroom Mountain) and Takenoko no Sato (たけのこの里;Bamboo Village).

As its name implies, Kinoko no Yama is a mushroom-shaped candy with a cracker stem and a little chocolate cap. Takenoko, meanwhile, is a conical-shaped and chocolate-coated cookie.

…and start fighting

Takenoko no Sato
Picture by the author(‘s wife)

While Kinoko no Yama and Takenoko no Sato are two different products (cracker vs. cookie snack), they’re similar enough in texture and appearance that people feel the need to take sides. Indeed, the battle is so pitched that it has an official name: The Kinoko-Takenoko War (きのこたけのこ戦争; kinoko takenoko senso). It even has a Wikipedia page[1].

So how did Meiji end up competing with itself?

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The story goes like this. In 1969, Meiji started selling Apollo, a strawberry/chocolate candy shaped after the Apollo 11 capsule. Shortly after, Meiji researchers got the bright idea to shape the cone portion of Apollo around a cracker stem in a shape resembling a mushroom (kinoko).

But at the time, Meiji mainly sold bar chocolate. And a cracker competitor had already debuted several years back – a little brand called Pocky. Meiji debated exactly how the new treat should be produced.

In 1975, after a series of experiments, Kinoko no Yama launched. It was an immediate hit. Four years later, the brand launched its sister product, Takenoko no Sato.

Things were fine until around 2001 when sales of Kinoko no Yama started to die down. To rectify the problem, Meiji decided to pit Kinoko vs. Takenoko against each other in a “general election”.

The Kinoko/Takenoko battle has only grown from there, with the “war” becoming an occasional Twitter meme. The two products even faced off against one another in a Splatoon! crossover in 2018. Since then, people have delighted in pontificating on whether – and why – they’re Kinoko-ha (きのこ派; Team Kinoko) or Takenoko-ha (たけのこ派; Team Takenoko).

Which reigns supreme?

So which is more popular – Kinoko no Yama or Takenoko no Sato?

One fast way to answer this question: ask people! That’s exactly what Meiji did in a 2020 survey that garnered a massive 300,000 responses. (I sure hope all those people vote in actual elections.)

The winner? Takenoko no Sato won across nearly all prefectures by a clear margin. Residents of Fukushima Prefecture were the only ones who said they preferred Kinoko no Yama.

There have been various other contests to determine the “winner” over the years. Kinoko no Yama has won a few of them, such as the Splatoon face-off. And Kinoko won the voter in the 2019 Meiji poll.

However, Takenoko no Sato seems to be scoring all the recent victories. For example, in a poll of foreigners of Japan’s best sweets in 2021, Takenoko just beat out its rival (they both finished 21st and 22nd place, respectively). And in a 2022 Twitter like/RT battle held in conjunction with Boss Coffee, Takenoko got the upper hand.

At least for now, Takenoko no Sato seems to be the winner. However, as one Twitter user pointed out, some people have no choice but to side with Kinoko no Yama. Since it’s a cracker instead of a cookie, it’s the default choice for people with egg allergies (like the users family).

Kinoko no Yama tweet

The staff at UJ is mostly Takenoko-ha. But far be it from us to dunk on someone’s good time. In these trying days, we say, gorge on whatever makes you happy. (Even if it’s the objectively wrong choice.)

Sources

[1] ブランドサイト一覧. Meiji

[2] Stauffer’s

[3] きのこの山. Wikipedia JP

[4] きのこたけのこ国民大調査2020年. Meiji

[5] きのこたけのこ戦争. Wikipedia JP

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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