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!