May 24, 2007 / 3:43 AM / 12 years ago

Japanese taste nostalgia in adult candy shops

TOKYO (Reuters) - It’s every child’s dream: you find yourself in an abandoned sweet shop and can finally wolf down as many lollipops and marshmallows as you please.

Tokyo’s all-you-can-eat “dagashi” or “cheap candy” bars make that childhood fantasy come true, giving stressed-out Japanese a chance to relive the good old days when their biggest problem was deciding between fizzy sticks and sour plums.

The dagashi bar in Tokyo’s trendy Ebisu neighborhood is styled like an old corner shop with dark wooden walls lined with glass jars full of Japanese childhood favorites like chewy soybean candy and pickled squid on a stick.

Faded posters, a black-and-white TV and a menu that also offers pasta with ketchup evoke that special 1960s “natsukashii” or nostalgic feeling.

“This is good old Japan, something I haven’t even seen myself because we’ve passed that era,” said 24-year-old Natsuko Kohashi, a consultant, as she sat with a glass of beer and a basket of sugary goodies.

“People dream about this peaceful time, 20 years after the war, when things were kind of slow but people had hope,” she said. “The economy started to recover and everyone got richer, but it wasn’t as aggressive as the bubble economy.”

Tokyo is dotted with places catering to downtrodden office workers who yearn for the years before the financial bubble of the 1980s, when stock markets and property prices soared and then collapsed, leaving Japan in a slump for most of the next decade.

There are cafes where waitresses dressed as maids play childish games with customers, and theme parks that recreate school cafeterias and 1960s living rooms.

At another table at Ebisu’s dagashi bar, a lively group of men and women in their 20s, some wearing suits, picked at a selection of sweets.

“I used to eat this as a child,” one of the men said. “Now there’s all this stress. When we were children, there was no stress, so we’re comforting each other.”

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