These should be fairly familiar to Nintendo fans. That was certainly why I recognised them.
Konpeitō are a traditional Japanese sweet, eaten in the country for more than 400 years. Though they are essentially unknown in the west, their look inspired the Star Bits which Mario collects in the Super Mario Galaxy games, and which pop up in Super Mario 3D World in Super Mario Odyssey.
They also appear in the Ghibli film Spirited Away and as the Gratitude Crystals in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, a beautiful game which is so dear to my heart it actually inspired a tattoo I have on my back. (More on that at a later date- turns out having tattoos in Japan can actually cause you a little bit of discrimination and judgement, like we all pretend it does in the UK so we can tell ourselves we’re rebels and underdogs).
Obviously, Nintendo is pretty big here in Japan. There are Mario and Kirby inspired sweets in every supermarket. None of those interest me so much; that’s just cashing in. Picking up some Konpeitō from a street stall at a festival felt like I was getting the real deal. These were sweets which my favourite game designers actually ate when they were kids, which inspired the games I loved growing up.
Konpeitō is made over several days, slowly drizzling liquid sugar over a tiny sugar core a layer at a time, causing droplets to fall and harden into sugar stalactites of sorts. To actually eat them. . . well, they’re basically like eating sugar cubes. Very crunchy and sweet, I had one and it was nice enough but I think my entire skull would rot if I ate a whole bunch in one go. I’m sure they’ll keep me going for a while.
As it happens though, I would probably be better off just buying the modern Mario jelly sweets. Or, you know, fruit like a grown up instead of Mario sweets.