Before my travels in Japan, the Kit Kat bars I was accustomed to were pretty simple. They were crunchy, milk chocolate-covered wafers that I always ate too many of and that I loved getting in my trick-or-treat bag at Halloween. And because they were so delicious, I never really thought about other flavors. But Japan did.
The Wide World of Japanese Kit Kat Flavors.
Kit Kats in Japan come in just about every flavor imaginable (except maybe the original chocolate flavor, which I don’t ever recall seeing). They have Rum Raisin, Dark Chocolate Chili (one of my favorites), Matcha Green Tea, Cinnamon Cookie, Strawberry, Wasabi (yikes) and Sake, just to name a few. Different regions even have their own flavors, like Kobe Pudding, which is based on a famous dessert that originated in Kobe (which sort of reminds me of flan). In fact, in the 15 years that the Kit Kat brand has been sold in Japan, there have been 200 flavors (200!).
Where to Find Kit Kat in Japan.
You can find these crunchy treats just about anywhere you go – they’re sold in conbini and specialty shops, and in fact, Nestle (the maker of Kit Kat) launched a huge Kit Kat store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo called KitKat Chocolatory. The store was the first of its kind and sells nothing but Kit Kat (and is a candy lovers dream). There is also now a second, smaller location in Tokyo Station.
Why is Kit Kat So Popular in Japan?
It’s pretty safe to say Kit Kats in Japan are (extremely) popular. In fact, Kit Kat has been the best selling brand of chocolate in Japan since 2012. So why is it so popular? There are two reasons. The first is because Kit Kats are seen as lucky. Students in Japan buy (or receive) Kit Kats for luck prior to taking college entrance exams. This custom arose because the name Kit Kat is similar to the Japanese phrase “kitto katsu”, which means “you shall surely win”.
The second reason is that Nestle capitalized on seasonal flavors like pumpkin, plum and sakura, all associated with the change of seasons in Japan, and hired a famous chocolatier, Yasumasa Takagi, to create new flavors each year. His 2014 New Year creation, Special Sakura Green Tea, sold out in under two hours the day it was introduced.
Essentially, Kit Kat, a Swiss export, has become a part of Japanese culture. So, if you’re ever in Japan, try a unique, found-only-in-Japan flavor and savor the fact that you’re experiencing a unique cultural phenomenon (which, I’m pretty sure means it’s calorie-free).