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Japan Goes Koo-Koo for Kit Kat Chocolate Bars

Kit Kat is one of the world's most well known chocolate bars. Originally created in England by the Rowntree company in 1935 and now sold around the world, Kit Kat's distinctive oval logo and bright red packaging is nearly as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola's. Look closely, however, and differences start to pop up... nowhere more than in Japan, which by rights should be renamed "the Kit Kat Kingdom".

Japanese Kit Kat store display

Japanese Kit Kat store display

Indeed, Nestle's crispy chocolate covered wafer bar has not only found its true home in the farthest east, it rules there, baby! And it's done so by utilizing a time-honored marketing trick: never get boring. To that end, Japan's tireless legion of advertisers and product planners bring the country's sugar-shocked consumers a seemingly endless variety of Kit Kat flavors, one after another. Most are introduced as limited editions, out for a short time and then gone, replaced by something newer (and, often as not, stranger). Lemon Cheesecake Kit Kat, anyone? Without further ado, let's check out a few of Japan's legendary Kit Kat varieties. (image courtesy Japan Newbie)

Maccha Milk Kit Kat

Maccha Milk Kit Kat

If there's one thing Kit Kat's marketers know, it's the home market. Witness a pair of flavors not likely to be sold anywhere else but Japan, Maccha Milk Kit Kat and Red Azuki Bean Kit Kat. The former is Green Tea with milk, an unlikely flavor for a chocolate bar but if there's one rule Japanese product planners hold most dear, it's that there ARE no rules. Don't believe me? Consider Red Azuki Bean Kit Kat. BEANS, people. In a chocolate bar! Quite normal in Japan, mind you, where Azuki beans boiled with sugar have sweetened desserts and more for centuries. (images courtesy Monkeytek and Mariemaie's Blog)

Red Azuki Bean Kit Kat

Red Azuki Bean Kit Kat

Then we have Sakura, or Cherry Blossom Kit Kat. Introduced in spring to coincide with the tradition of Cherry Blossom viewing, Sakura Kit Kat comes in a pretty pink wrapper and features crème-filled wafer coated in pink Cherry flavored white chocolate. (image courtesy Yusheng)

Sakura Cherry Blossom Kit Kat

Sakura Cherry Blossom Kit Kat

Often Kit Kats feature regional specialties such as white chocolate Kit Kat made with Hokkaido milk from Japan's far northern dairyland. One of the most unusual regional bars, though, has to be Yubari Melon . That's right, Melon Kit Kat - sounds like a recipe for bulimia if there ever was! (image courtesy Crystal's VOX)

Yubari Melon Kit Kat

Yubari Melon Kit Kat

When local influences run dry, don't give up, push that envelope! The result: Apple Kit Kat . Now, you may think that Apple and Chocolate just don't go together. Strawberry, yes, and there have been a large number of Strawberry Kit Kat variations over the years, but Apple? Imagine a nice strawberry fondue - except you're dipping apple slices into the melted chocolate. Sorry, my mind just can't grasp it. (image courtesy Crystal's VOX)

Apple Kit Kat

Apple Kit Kat

Leave it to a country that is oblivious to the ever-expanding sales of Kidsbeer, the frothy faux-beer for youngsters that topped my list of The Top Ten Weird and Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks , to not bat an eye when Wine flavored Kit Kat was introduced. Now as opposed to the Apple variety, Wine Kit Kat is something I can accept, not to mention covet. Officially titled "Kit Kat Chocolatier Wine", this limited edition at least pretends to be adult-oriented. The petite-sized bars feature a luscious red wine flavored white chocolate coating over crisp wafers sandwiching layers of wine-flavored crème filling. A box of these would make a great gift - just don't bring them to your next AA meeting! (image courtesy Junk Food Blog)

Kit Kat Chocolatier Wine

Kit Kat Chocolatier Wine

This is only the tip of the chocolate covered iceberg - speaking of which, let's not forget Kit Kat I-Stick, a version meant to be eaten frozen. Sounds like something your mother would warn you against, but I digress. Then we have the luxurious signature editions made in collaboration with gourmet Japanese confectionary chef Takagi, including Bretagne Kit Kat, made with Bretagne milk and Ecuadorian cocoa butter. (image courtesy of datenhamster.org)

Bretagne Kit Kat

Bretagne Kit Kat

Anyway, the list of Japanese Kit Kats is long and getting longer by the month as new versions come down the pipeline. Wikipedia lists 81 versions... 81! If this doesn't qualify as a national obsession, what does? In fact, the list of Japanese Kit Kats, past and present, would give a similar list of Hello Kitty items a run for its money. Hmm... Kit Kat, Hello Kitty, what is it with Japan and kitty kats, er, kitty cats? Should these two juggernauts combine forces, there's no telling what could happen!

Update: It seems many of these flavours and more can be found at Rinkya Stores.

To see more noteworthy Japanese inventions, sign up for my latest articles here,

Steve Levenstein
J A P A N O R A M A
InventorSpot.com

Comments
Jun 26, 2007
by Avi (not verified)

absolutely enjoyed your

absolutely enjoyed your article

- worked up quite a craving.....

Jun 27, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Not just Kit Kat either...

Just got back from T&T, a beautiful, brightly lit Chinese supermarket we often frequent. A browse of the confectionary aisle turned up two kinds of Japanese AERO chocolates: Peach and Maccha (green tea). The sugar beat goes on!

Jun 27, 2007
by Sam (not verified)

awesome

And to think i thought america was crazy when they came out with the white chocolate ones. Also do you think they would ship the melon ones?

Jun 28, 2007
by ThePMSmonster (not verified)

Hmmm.....

Maybe, they should combine hello kitty and kit kats to produce edible live cats!!!

Jun 28, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Live food...

I've actually eaten live (well, "still living" might be more accurate) food in Japan... i was served fresh Sea Urchin at a seaside resort once and the spines were slowly waving around as i dug in with gusto. After i had consumed every delicious morsel, those darned spines were still waving. You know what they say... "if it was any fresher it'd still be walking around". I do draw the line at cats, tho...

Jun 28, 2007
by Scott808 (not verified)

Kit Kat

What a great article.  I just got back from Japan yesterday and brought with me an assortment of Kit Kat that also included banana, , raspberry, orange, lemon, and 61% cacao in addition to the sakura and yubari melon one from Hokkaido.  I also saw a brandy one but alas one of my friends bought the last one before I had a chance to.

Jun 28, 2007
by cybele (not verified)

Pocky

Don't forget about Pocky, made by Glico (and a couple of other imitators like Fran). They come in a myriad of flavor combos, some seasonal.

(Thanks for the mention!)

Jun 29, 2007
by Pickphlow (not verified)

Green tea and azuki beans

I work at a Japanese steakhouse and we have both Green tea and azuki red bean ice cream which are two of our most popular flavors. Maybe its not as unusual as it seems.

Jun 29, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Japanese ice cream...

We can buy Green Tea ice cream, Azuki Bean ice cream and Ginger ice cream here in Toronto at various Asian supermarkets - the Ginger is delicious! When i was in Tokyo a few years ago, there was a little ice cream stand in Asakusa that had those flavors and more... Sesame, Sweet Potato, don't get me started... hmmm...

Jun 29, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

WHERE THE HELL DO YOU THINK

WHERE THE HELL DO YOU THINK CHOCOLATE COMES FROM?!?!? BEANS!!!!!!

Jun 30, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

this si most stupid note.

this si most stupid note. Not all bean are the same. Cocoa beans has nothing to do with ordinary beans like faba, green, soya,  ..etc beans.

 I know one person who can say such silly things. I guess each one knows one at least.!!

 :)

 

Jun 30, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Beans is beans... not!

Dont forget coffee beans, which are actually seeds of the coffee berry. A steaming mug of Kidney bean extract for ya?

Jan 28, 2008
by Ashley Hopkins (not verified)

kit kat

How do i get these scruptious delicacies in the US?

Jan 31, 2008
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Kit-Kats in the USA, Canada

Hi, these Japanese Kit-Kats are really delicious too, much more delicate than the domestics. Here in Toronto i can usually find a few varieties at some of the better Chinese markets. Cost is around $2 per bar, or between $6 and $10 for a bag of mini's. I've been able to enjoy Maccha Milk, Hokkaido White, Maple Syrup, Red Bean, Melon, Chestnut, Cherry, Strawberry and Orange Brandy so far - each one an exotic tasty treat. 

Check out Rinkya.com if you want some mailed to you from Japan.

Apr 24, 2008
by Anonymous

shibar

shibar

Jul 22, 2008
by Anonymous

Where???

Where can I find a big variety in Japan? I go to 7-11 and grocery stores and have found about 10 different kinds; today I found watermelon.

Is there a store in or around Tokyo that sells a lot of different flavors?

Dec 18, 2008
by Anonymous

Melon Kit-Kat in Toronto

Where did you find melon kitkat in toronto? .. I've been looking for them everywhere :(
but with no luck yet

please let me know !! thx

Dec 29, 2008
by Anonymous

vary by region

The kit-kats sold in Japan vary by region. Some are absolutely limited to the region, such as the 信州 (Shinshu) apple kit kat above (it's made with, supposedly, flavors of that region's apples. Others, however, can be found by visiting various stations within the same city (particularly Tokyo). I had a friend visiting the past week and I found eight new flavors alone just by traveling around the Yamanote line. Other flavors are time-limited (like the Yubari Melon one above), and you just have to get lucky. I had an amazing caramel macchiato earlier this year. One of the better ones I've had recently is cookie kit-kat, which is simply replacing half of the wafers with a thin layer of oreo-like cookie, and a new version of apple kit-kat (I can't remember the official name). Brown sugar was a good one while it lasted... and Japanese lemon and pepper kit-kat (from Kyushu) was simply amazing in dark chocolate.