Last year, shortly before my annual summer trip home to Canada, Kit Kat began rolling out new soda flavours with fizzy, powdered flavour pellets embedded among the wafers and chocolate. Ramune Aji (soda flavour) was the first of this type.
It’s very fitting that this was the flavour chosen to kick off this new line of soda bars. Ramune is a ubiquitous summer fixture in Japan, known for its funky glass bottles sealed at the mouth by a marble. Its actual flavour is a bit like lemon-lime (indeed, the name “Ramune” is derived from the English word “lemonade”) although it’s not quite on a par with the likes of Sprite, 7-Up, or Mitsuya Cider. I’ve always found it a little generic to be honest, and have never enjoyed the novelty of the marble because I could never seem to open it without making a huge mess (the soda would always gush out from the mouth and spill all over everything). But the wonderful thing about this Kit Kat variety was that it tasted enough like Ramune while still being a chocolate bar. It was actually one of the more pleasant flavours, and when I brought some to Canada with me for my friends that summer, they all agreed that it was delicious too.
How sad that when I returned to Japan, nearly all traces of Ramune Aji Kit Kat had vanished. Such is the life of a gentei flavour. But even though it had gone so soon, Kit Kat still had Ume (Plum) Soda bars for the rest of the summer season that year, and then again just recently a Cola/Lemon-Lime 2-pack was introduced, which is still available as I write. It’s also the best of the three, which I hope bodes well for seeing more soda flavours in the future.
Ramune Aji Kit Kat was first found by me at a Wellness drug store in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture in July 2009.
About two years ago this week, Kit Kat heralded the hot summer season with a new, well-intentioned fruit flavour: Suika (Watermelon in English). While many people around the world can fairly be said to enjoy watermelons, the Japanese really love watermelons. Maybe you’ve heard about their predilection for growing them in cube form and selling them for around $50? (This, I can attest, is true: the last one I saw was selling for 4,950 yen.) Watermelons are indeed exceptionally well-liked here, and not just by the rich; regular, more affordably-shaped and sized varieties abound at every grocer, and lots of candies come in watermelon flavours around this time of year too, such as the Starburst-like Hi-Chew sweets and even the new Suika Soda bottled by Kirin, which debuted in stores just last week.
Watermelon Kit Kat was another such attempt to take a popular food and give it a seasonal spin. Sadly, though, I don’t think it really took off well. It’s among the flavours that elicits the most incredulous gasps of “Ewwwww!” from friends when I tell them about Japanese Kit Kats, and not many people I know who tried it actually liked it. Even I have to admit that it was rather unpleasant for its bitter aftertaste, and I’m usually that guy who likes that Kit Kat you don’t like. It hasn’t made a comeback in any form since.
Like most of the Kit Kat minis I discover, I found it at a YouMe Town grocery store, this time in Hamada, Shimane Prefecture.
Calpis is the name of a very popular Japanese soft drink which is notorious to many English speakers inside and outside the country for the way it sounds when pronounced. (Try saying “ka-ru-pissu” to yourself a few times over and over again, each time a little faster than before, and you’ll get it.) I like it very much – it tastes like a mild yogurt beverage – and so I was excited when I saw that the makers of Calpis had teamed up with Nestle to produce plain-flavoured Kit Kat bars.
I first found them in January of 2010 at the YouMe Town grocery store in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture. They only appeared as mini-sized bars in bags of 13.
Kiwifruit Kit Kat was my very first experience with Japanese Kit Kats back in July 2007. I found it on a visit to a 7-11 store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It had a white chocolate-based flavour and tasted really rather sweet. The kiwi taste was slight, but nonetheless there. Only got to try this one once before it was gone. Haven’t seen it since.
I moved to Japan in the summer of 2007. I was totally green, totally impressionable, and … totally hungry. My first instinct upon arriving at my hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo, was to find a convenience store and grab a chocolate bar. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Finding a 7-11 (Ooh!, I thought, a 7-11 … we don’t have those where I’m from!), I happened to find a peculiar flavour of Kit Kat: Kiwifruit. I’m from Canada, and in Canada I’ve become accustomed to specialty flavours like Peanut Butter and Cinnamon, but Kiwifruit looked, well, weird. How would kiwifruit and chocolate mix? I had to find out.
What I found out was that Kiwifruit tasted great. What I also found out was that in Japan, Nestle (the manufacturers of Kit Kat) liked to distribute limited edition flavours (referred to as “gentei”) every month or so. Often they were based on seasonal foods or other themes and events (e.g., Halloween, “Setsubun”, and so on). Since that first Kiwifruit Kit Kat three years ago, I’ve seen (and photographed!) around 100 different varities of Kit Kat chocolates, and there seems to be no sign that Nestle is running out of flavours to simulate.
This blog is going to be a document of Japan’s crazy love affair with Kit Kat chocolates. Come and see for yourself just what the rest of the world is missing out on!