As much as I wish all of you could get out to Japan and have the holiday of a lifetime, that just isn’t going to be possible for some of you. You might not be able to get the time off work, have family commitments, or don’t have the money.
The point is, I don’t think that should stop you from experiencing Japan in all its glory. Of course, nothing beats the real thing, but the Sakuraco subscription box does a pretty good job of making you feel as though you’ve been immersed in Japanese culture while you’re sitting in your living room.
The Sakuraco box is perhaps the most well-considered, designed, and produced Japanese subscription box on the market.
Unlike other boxes that merely touch the surface of Japanese culture (normally the most “weird” or “wacky” parts of it), Sakuraco explores its deep connection to the tea ceremony through stunning photography, a thriving community, and an extremely well-thought-through selection of products. Let’s dive in a little deeper and find out everything this box has to offer.
What is Sakuraco?
Sakuraco is a Japanese subscription box that contains 20 seasonal tea treats every single month. Out of these 20 treats, one will normally be an object (like a small mug, sweet plate, or chopstick), you’ll usually have some tea in there, plus a selection of sweet and savory treats for eating with your tea.
Don’t worry if you don’t know when to eat which treat. The box comes with an incredibly detailed guide including the origin of each snack, the creators behind it, and why it deserved its place in your box.
Sakuraco is also the sister company of Tokyo Treat, another fantastic box that is almost entirely filled with sweet drinks and snacks. Though they both benefit from the extreme attention to detail in every part of your interaction with the company (both box and website), I have to say, sakuraco edges out for me. We’ll find out why a little further down the post.
Why is tea so important in Japan?
I can’t write everything about this topic as it would take me far too long, and detract from the main point of this review. However, I can go over a few key points that show just how important tea is in Japanese culture, therefore solidifying this box as one of the best.
The Sakuraco website provides an informative yet simple explanation of how tea came to be important in Japan. It states that during the Heian Period, which was from 794 CE to 1185 CE, rural workers (mainly farm workers) would stop from around 14:00-16:00 to drink tea and eat snacks as a way of recharging. This was done mainly because so much energy was expelled during the long days, and they typically only ate breakfast and dinner.
Fast forward to the Edo period (1603 CE to 1868 CE), and this form of “Snack time” had stuck around, even during a time when people tended to eat lunch as well. It was an activity that became more of a desire than a need.
Due to some clever marketing by Japanese snack companies, “tea time” became associated with roughly 3 pm in the afternoon. Of course, once big companies decide something, it usually flows into general society and so it was likely that people were invited over to one another house at around the same time each day for tea, snacks, and a chat.
What sets it apart from other Japanese subscription boxes?
I’ve run this website for a number of years now, and so I like to think I have a pretty good idea of what people would and wouldn’t want if they were ordering a Japanese snack box.
Believe it or not, that list starts well before the contents of the box.
Having a good website in this modern era is essential, but on its own is not enough. Every company is expected to have a fully functioning and highly responsive website at the very least. No brownie points if that’s all you’re offering.
Nowadays, people crave something different, an experience that goes well beyond what they were hoping for. Thankfully, Sakuraco offers that in droves.
First off, the entire site is extremely simple to navigate through. There are no endless menus, no confusing areas making you wonder why they’re there, and all the information you need right at your fingertips. They also offer you the chance to read up further on the contents of your box and learn more about the makers of each product.
Next up is the beautiful photography on every page. Normally with this kind of stuff, I’m extremely picky. As a photographer by trade (cheeky photography portfolio plug), I know what works, and what doesn’t. The shots that sakuraco use are extremely well done, and fit right in with the theme of the company as a whole. It might not seem that important, but it’s something that improves the experience tenfold.
The little touches
When you buy from a company that holds your hand from the very beginning, you feel as though you’re a part of the journey, not just another number. Of course, all businesses take money to run, and Sakuraco is no different, but the way everything is set up leads me to believe they genuinely want you to connect with Japanese culture and care what you think.
As we’ll discover later in the article, the box comes filled to the brim with Japanese tea and treats. Not only that but also included is an in-depth booklet explaining where your food is from, when it’s normally eaten, and why it’s so important to Japanese culture. (or why it’s just so damn tasty!)
Oh, and inside the box, there’s also one more thing (other than the food) that I absolutely love, but I’m going to wait and tell you later!
How much does it cost?
As with everything in life, it doesn’t matter how great something is if you can’t afford it. While I don’t know the ins and outs of your personal finances, I can confidently tell you that what you get for your money is worth it.
Prices start from $32.50 if you buy 12 months in one go, and go up to $37.50 if you buy monthly. There is also a 3-month and 6-month plan that sit at $35.50 and $33.50 respectively.
For me, those aren’t “impulse” purchase prices, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase them. Vast areas of Japanese culture seem to have diehard fans, whether that’s anime, cute Japan, street fashion, or simply the desire to travel there. As such I’ve got no reason to doubt that the Japanese tea ceremony should be any different, so those prices are likely completely appropriate for a lot of people.
And for those of you who are tempted but unsure, buying a single month’s worth is your best bet. That way you can see if it’s for you without investing a whole load of money in it.
What’s in the box?
Ok, it’s time for the fun part a lot of you have been waiting for, the box contents!
Of course, these will change from month to month, but they are always well-themed. This month I have a box called ‘Okinawa Retreat’, which, unsurprisingly, gives us a taste of the beautiful southern island of Okinawa.
Karinto are deep-fried Japanese snacks that are made with Kokuto. Kokuto (which I’ve talked about in this Okinawa Milk Tea Article) is the extremely famous Okinawa brown sugar.
A great little snack to share over a cup of tea and incredibly morish! Kokuto is often enjoyed as square blocks, rather than in Karinto, but these are still a great alternative before you can actually get out to the country.
Next up we have the Okinawa Brown Sugar Kuzumochi (Yes, there’s a pattern to this box, if you haven’t guessed already!)
It’s a Jelly packed full of Okinawa brown sugar. Ideal to enjoy with a nice hot cup of green tea.
These cinnamon cookies come from a little place called Ōgimi village, the capital of longevity in Japan (and possibly the world).
With over 100 cinnamon trees in the area, the cookies are packed with flavor from their leaves and stuffed with a load of brown sugar. Who could say no to a cookie at tea time?!
Adorable packaging, and perfectly sized to have with a cup of tea!
The unique flavor of Kokuto with the moist and fluffy bread we’ve come to know and love from Japan. It’s a match made in heaven!
One of the surprise snacks you get each month in your Sakuraco box. I don’t entirely know what it is, but I do love a good surprise!
Shikuwasa is a citrus fruit grown in Okinawa that translates to “eat the sourness”. After the skin has turned from green to yellow, the fruit’s flavor profile changes and becomes far tangier.
Finally, the fruit is wrapped in dough to form the manju for you to enjoy.
A classic blueberry tart by Ito Confectionery in Ibaraki. You’re gonna need a cup of green tea to balance out the sweet flavor of this one.
Not something a lot of you might expect to find in a box full of Japanese tea treats, however, they make great pallet cleansers after dessert!
Back to the citrus fruit we read about above, but this time the flavor is inside little jelly sweets. This one had a very odd texture, but the flavors were very strong, in a friendly way. Of course, this goes without saying because of the box I’m reviewing, but they would go absolutely fantastically with a cup of green tea.
Usually, I’m not a fan of chopsticks in subscription boxes, but these were well-themed and seemed to fit in rather nicely.
‘Ichimatsu’ is the unbroken checkerboard pattern you can see on the top of the sticks which symbolizes prosperity. I’ll take as much prosperity as I can get!
Some more Kokuto sugar cookies for you to enjoy!
Once you’ve scoffed down both types of cookies on offer, it’s time to face these fantastic-looking donuts. Deep-fried donuts are an Okinawan favorite. Sakuraco recommends trying them with a nice warm cup of tea to get the full benefit and experience.
These are one of Japan’s favorite souvenirs to take back home if they’ve been on a trip to Okinawa. According to the Sakuraco booklet, they were once reserved only for royalty, but now they’re being sent directly to your door! …Well, my door – But who knows, they might come round again sometime in the future!
Last but by no means least we have Okinawa Sinpacha, an incredibly delicious blend of Chinese & Japanese tea leaves with Jasmine flowers. It’s this concoction that has been the choice of many in Okinawa for centuries.
Is it right for you?
I will always recommend these boxes to pretty much anyone. Granted, you might not like everything that comes each month, but you will like a few things and most importantly you’ll be able to learn about Japanese culture at the same time.
However, if you’re someone who wants to experience a part of Japanese culture but cannot get to Japan, you’ll like these boxes even more. We’ve briefly gone over most things inside the box but like Tokyo Treat, it’s the little touches that will make you fall in love with these products.
Pictured above we have three extra pieces of paper that come inside your Sakuraco Box. There’s a small leaflet that asks you to share your review on the box (and gives you the chance to win more goodies!), an extremely detailed booklet that tells you all about your box and is also packed with cultural information, and finally, my favorite of all, a postcard.
Each month you’ll receive a postcard from the founder with a little bit of information about the theme of your box. It’s written in such a beautiful way, almost like a journal entry rather than a corporate informational booklet. That might only be a small thing they’ve done, but it really sets the tone when you get to unboxing all your treats.
Not only that but each month the postcards have been given a theme-appropriate illustration on one side which makes them (in my slightly nerdy opinion) highly collective!
I might only have two so far, but you can bet anything you like that I’ll be filling my wall up with these when I have enough. Perhaps I’ll even frame them, the designs are certainly worthy enough to claim a space on my wall.
Would I change anything?
This box is the epitome of Japanese culture. Sure, it’s not as loud as its sister box Tokyo Treat, but its understated appearance adds to its serene and calm persona that we love it for.
In case you haven’t guessed it yet, even from the title, this is my all-time favorite Japanese subscription box. So if you can’t get out to Japan just yet, this is the next best thing in my opinion!
However, there is one thing I’d like to see implemented in the future. Although veganism and vegetarianism aren’t huge things in Japan, I think it would be really cool if Sakuraco could offer something to satisfy those customers. I’m not saying it has to be as big as this box, because that would likely cost a lot and take a long time, but it would be great if they did the first proper Japanese Vegan subscription box.
Anyway, that’s not something that will likely affect many of you, but it is something I would love to see in the future.
In the coming months, I’ll be delving deeper into each themed box I receive to show you just how varied and exciting some of these can be. So stay tuned for more tasty Japanese box reviews! (or, you know, go and purchase one of these in the meantime!)