As I described the last time I wrote about the subject, my relationship with Japanese snack culture is unique. Because I’m in Japan so often, I rarely get the cravings that many Japanophiles experience while unable to return to the country for months or even years after each trip.
At the same time, not everyone in my household is so privileged. This means that whenever a box arrives at our door, its contents rarely last long—sometimes not even long enough for me to taste all of them!
Thankfully, I managed to intercept the latest Sakuraco box before my husband had a chance to realize it had come. In a quest not to devour everything inside it in a matter of hours, I thought I’d use this opportunity to do a run-down of Sakuraco vs Bokksu—I’m sure many of you are wondering how these boxes are different from one another.
Why Are Japanese Snack Boxes So Popular These Days?
While I will probably never forgive (and certainly never forget) Japan’s years-long border closure, travel restrictions did benefit companies like Bokksu and Sakuraco. Locked out of Japan with no idea of when they might get back in, Japanophiles were limited to “traveling” using their taste buds and other proxies. For many, having authentic Japanese snacks delivered to their doors was an acceptable substitute, at least in the short-term.
Even now, with inbound tourism to Japan having fully rebounded, there’s value to having Japanese candy and other treats available almost anywhere in the world. The reality is that most travelers don’t get to spend as much time in Japan as I do. If you visit in April one year but won’t be able to come back until November of the next, you’ve got to have something to tide you over—a snack box is a fabulous option for this.
Ways to Compare Sakuraco and Bokksu
One of the things I love about Sakuraco is that there’s not a lot of work on the part of the consumer. There’s just one monthly box, which is front and center on the Sakuraco website. While you can of course learn more about the contents of and the inspiration behind each box, there’s one main call to action—and one big reward. With Bokksu, on the other hand, there are all kinds of à la carte items for sale, and secondary boxes beyond the main monthly ones; the site feels cluttered and the shopping experience feels hectic and overwhelming.
As I opened the December 2023 “Holidays in Hokkaido” Sakuraco box, what immediately impressed me was the eclecticism of the items on offer. From items that were obviously Japanese (a matcha–genmaicha tea blend) and local (Hakodate squid senbei crackers), to ones like baumkuchen, which make more indirect references to the complexity and richness of Hokkaido’s cultural heritage, it covered all the bases—there was even a lovely indigo yuzen dish inside for serving! If you’re deciding between Sakuraco or Bokksu, the careful attention to detail the former pays really eclipses that of the latter.
Which is not to say Bokksu doesn’t put a lot of items into its Japan snack box—it would be inaccurate to say that they don’t. Unfortunately, to my eyes, Bokksu boxes have a cluttered, crowded appearance that makes them visually unappealing. This is to say nothing of the fact that Sakuraco, by contrast, immediately sets the mood. The sticker that holds the box shut proudly declares that it was “crafted in Japan”; a postcard from the founder with a print of Japanese artwork on the front visually introduces the theme in an elegant, pleasing way, even before you open the enclosed 24-page culture guide.
As you choose between Bokksu or Sakuraco, it’s not just about esoteric and ethereal qualities—practical matters like price are just as important. As of December 2023, Sakuraco costs less than Bokksu, no matter how long you subscribe for. In fact, even if you simply purchase one month of Sakuraco (for $37.50), you’re paying less than you would pay on a per-box basis if you bought 12 months of Bokksu ($39.99). By contrast, you’ll pay just $32.50 per month to subscribe to Sakuraco per year, which makes this option an especially inviting one.
NOTE: Prices for Sakuraco do not include shipping, which can be up to $12.50 per box, depending upon your location.
While there is some variance regarding seasons and festivals, Sakuraco’s boxes each focus on a specific prefecture, city or region in Japan as a general rule. While shopping Bokksu, on the other hand, you’ll likely feel a bit more confused. Some of the subscription boxes have seemingly un-Japanese themes (like the one about Valentine’s Day, which in Japan is most notable for…women giving gifts to men); in addition to these subscription boxes, there are boxes “themed” to birthdays, Christmas and New Years, which end up seeming generic and hastily thrown together. See for yourself when you scope out the upcoming month’s theme on Sakuraco, and compare that to basically anything on the Bokksu website.
Sakuraco’s Less Obvious Edge
To the passive observer, the above differences between each of these popular snack box options are where the distinctions end. However, there are deeper contrasts to be drawn. While many of the people who work with and for Bokksu have a deep interest in and ties to Japan, only Sakuraco can claim to be a Japan-founded and based country. This fact allows Sakuraco to source all of its products locally, and to more easily complete the on-the-ground research required to determine which ones deserve to make the cut.
Sakuraco don’t do this all on their own, either. They further increase the value proposition of their boxes by working directly with authorities in Japanese prefectures, who add another layer of depth and knowledge to the process of putting together each box. The more deeply I get to know Japan myself, the more I appreciate others who put the same effort into doing the same. This is, to me, why the Bokksu vs Sakuraco comparison isn’t much of a competition.
Other FAQ About Japanese Subscription Boxes
What is the difference between Sakuraco and Bokksu?
To me, the main distinction between Sakuraco and Bokksu is simplicity vs. complexity. While Sakuraco offers a single monthly box, which focuses on a particular prefecture, region or season of Japan, Bokksu offers a much broader range of box options. While this might be appealing to some potential customers, I personally find that the complexity of having to pick and choose defeats the purpose of a snack box that’s meant to bring joy to your door without much thought.
Is Bokksu actually from Japan?
While the snacks contained within Bokksu boxes are from Japan, the company itself is not actually based in Japan. This means that the process of curating the snacks in the boxes is often a hands-off process conducted remotely, rather than one done by locals with local knowledge.
Is Sakuraco legit?
As someone who spends months of every year in Japan and used to live there, and I can safely say that Sakuraco is legitimate. Whenever I open a Sakuraco box, I feel transported back to Japan, as if I’ve strolled into one of the side-street shops you sometimes pass when you venture off the beaten path in a certain town or city. In particular, I’m impressed by how consistently Sakuraco features snacks that represent parts of Japan far off the tourist trail.
The Bottom Line
While some aspects of choosing Sakuraco vs Bokksu are subjective, I do feel that the former is a better product (and service) than the latter on the whole. Now, if a Bokksu box arrived at my door, I would certainly eat the contents—let’s not be silly! But from the design and curation of the box and the products within it, to the simplicity of the themes and the process of ordering and subscription, Sakuraco has a serious edge over Bokksu. This is to say nothing of the fact that only one of these companies (Sakuraco) is based in Japan and works with local suppliers. No matter which you choose, I hope your next Japanese snack box is delicious and satisfying!