What’s with Pocky?

I’m sure, if you’re reading Amish Otaku, you already know what Pocky is. If not, let me give you a quick rundown. Pocky is a thin breadstick dipped in chocolate or some other flavor of melty goodness (like strawberry, “almond crush” or vanilla crème) and then packaged in bundles and sold for exorbitant amounts of money at anime and gaming conventions. And that’s usually where the knowledge of Pocky ends. Hah! But not today, my friends!

First, the basics. Pocky Street is the snack’s official website, but it’s in Japanese. Even if you can’t read or understand the language, I recommend checking out the commercials; some of them are pretty funny. Pocky is – unlike popular American opinion – not pronounced like “hockey” (or “rocky”) in Japanese, but rather like “pokey” (as in “Did you just poke me?”). The katakana-to-romanji is “pokkii.” That said, I’ll be the first to admit that I learned to pronounce “Pocky” like “hockey” and I have no intention of changing my pronunciation now. Anyway, I’ve never heard “Pocky” pronounced any other way besides rhyming with “hockey” and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if I were to ask for “pokey” at a convention, the dealer would look at me like I was nuts – unless said dealer was Japanese him/herself. In any case, I’m pretty sure a Japanese person would understand the mispronunciation.

The most popular Pocky flavor in the United States is chocolate, with strawberry a distant second. Most other flavors can’t even be found here, much less tasted. The most comprehensive gallery I found is the Pocky Gallery, courtesy of Anata Watashi mo Pocky. In fact, many flavors can’t even be found in Japan, either, because the company that produces Pocky, Glico, tests new flavors in rural areas of Japan and some are never mass produced. According to Glico’s history page, Pocky was first launched in 1963 as “Chocoteck” and was renamed (and relaunched) in 1966. The current name comes from the “pockin” sound the sticks make when they are broken. In 1971, almond Pocky was introduced; strawberry Pocky came onto the market in 1977. Now, a new flavor comes out every autumn. (My personal favorite is green tea Pocky.)

Aside from the flavors, there are two kinds of Pocky I should mention: Giant Pocky and “Men’s” Pocky. Giant Pocky is just what it sounds like: giant Pocky sticks dipped in chocolate or another flavor. I’m not to keen on Giant Pocky because, although the stick is bigger, the amount of dipped flavor is about the same as regular Pocky – which is too much stick and not enough chocolate for me. Men’s Pocky is, according to the box, “crispy pretzel dipped in dark chocolate for the intelligent connoisseur who enjoys the finer points in life.” Now, that has “sexist” written all over it, but I’m not even going to go there in this article. Suffice to say, if you like dark chocolate over milk chocolate, Men’s Pocky is for you.

There are quite a few fan-sites devoted to Pocky, not the least of which is The Depths of Addiction. Depths “is a web-based video series that dives into the deep depths of a disorder known commonly as cultural addiction. The current season focuses on ‘the Pocky Problem,’ an epidemic of epic proportions.” Another site is the now defunct Got Pocky? which pioneered the introduction of Pocky and other Japanese snacks to the Unites States market. Anata Watashi mo Pocky also has a section about Pocky in anime.

In case you’re interested in learning more about Glico, Pocky’s parent company, check out the Funding Universe link or visit Glico’s main page in English. Finally, thanks to the tongue-in-cheek article about Pocky from the Big In Japan column on Metropolis.co.jp and the Wikipedia article about Pocky for pointing my search in the right direction!

Now that you know more about Pocky, where can you get some?? Anime and gaming conventions usually sell Pocky (well, they will if they’re a respectable convention), but as I said before, buying from convention dealers costs an arm and a leg – if you’re lucky. If you’re just in the market for “normal” Pocky (that is, regular chocolate, almond, and strawberry flavors), I suggest trying Yes Asia, Very Asia, Asian Munchies, Asian Food Grocer and, if those fail you, Amazon.com. If you’re looking for something more unusual (say, grape or pineapple flavored, both of which are only available in one area of Japan), you should be willing to pay more in shipping fees than you spend on buying the product in the first place. Unless you actually go to Japan, of course… In which case, take me with you!