We’re back! Well, we’ve actually been back for 2 weeks now but I’m just now starting to feel like myself again (when you get hit by crazy jet lag AND a cold at the same time… well, I needed a serious vacation to recover from my vacation). Anyway, it may be a few weeks still until I can get my Japan posts up (sifting through and editing 3,700+ photos is no easy task), but in the meantime, here’s a little treat to tide you over… a peek into the crazy world of Japanese Kit Kats!
I had heard about Japan’s obsession with Kit Kats but didn’t really think much about it until a few days into our trip when I found a bag of Sake Kit Kats at a candy store in Tokyo.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been particularly excited by Kit Kats (give me a Reese’s or a Snickers or Mr. Goodbar any day!) Here in the US they are just so… boring.
In Japan, however, it’s an entirely different story.
Why is a candy that is so often relegated to the Halloween reject pile here in the US so popular over there?
Well, it’s partly coincidence, in that Kit Kat sounds awfully similar to the Japanese phrase kitto kattsu, or “you will surely win.” Because of this it is often given as a good luck gift to students before their university exams. Nestle capitalized on this similarity, and the Japanese tradition of omiyage (or the gifting of regional specialties to family and co-workers after trips) and has since released over 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors since 2000.
I made it my personal mission while in Japan to find as many of these unusual Kit Kat flavors as possible. Every time we’d pass a store that sold candy, I’d pop in to see what flavors they might have.
It’s a good thing I travel with a foldable duffel bag, as my candy stash grew well beyond what my carry-on could hold and we ultimately had to check a bag on the way home.
I ended up finding and sampling a total of 14 different Kit Kat flavors. I could have upped that number to 17 or 18, but I opted not to buy the plain dark chocolate, for instance, and basic matcha (which I know you can get in Nashville at K&S). Also, I passed on the rum raisin (my views on raisins should be no surprise here).
As for which ones were my favorites, well, oddly enough the weirdest sounding flavors, including Wasabi, Melon, Purple Sweet Potato, and Hojicha Tea were some of the best. Others (I’m looking at you, Strawberry Cheesecake) were actually kind of gross.
Seriously though, I think we need to petition Nestle to do this in the US. Why should Japan have all the fun?
Beni-imo (Purple sweet potato) – I never would have guessed it in a blind taste test, but if I closed my eyes and really concentrated, the sweet potato flavor was definitely there. Surprisingly good, I liked this one a lot!
Hojicha Tea – This one surprised us by being one of our favorites. It actually tastes just like the toasty brown tea that is nearly as prevalent throughout Japan as its green cousin. I wish I had gotten a bigger box of these!
Uji Matcha – There are a number of different Matcha Kit Kats you can find in Japan, including a regular and a more ‘premium’ variety, and then this one, which is specifically listed as Uji Matcha (Uji being the region outside of Kyoto where some of Japan’s finest matcha tea is produced). I didn’t taste test the other matcha ones to compare, but this one had a lovely grassy flavor to compliment the sweetness of the white chocolate coating.
Sakura Matcha – I really liked this one, though I really couldn’t taste the matcha or the cherry blossom. Oddly, there was a faint undertone of cinnamon or nutmeg, noticeable enough that Taylor thought this one tasted like eggnog.
Sakura Sake – White chocolate with a hint of sake and subtle floral undertones. Very sweet, but I liked the flavor of this one a lot (and you could actually taste the cherry blossom). I’m totally digging all the sakura-flavored treats that were nearly as abundant this time of year as the blossoms themselves.
Hokkaido Melon – Weird, but surprisingly good! No idea how they made white chocolate taste like fresh cantaloupe… it was slightly unnerving, but delicious too. Very sweet and fruity.
Strawberry – (Not pictured) Very sweet, and very berry. More of a fake, exaggerated berry flavor than the raspberry (which actually tasted like real fruit). Good, but I’d choose the other flavors over this one.
Wasabi – Possibly the flavor most likely to cause a few nose crinkles (it just sounds gross), but this one was surprisingly good. You could definitely taste the wasabi flavor, though not in a sinus-burning kind of way (luckily).
Apple – I’m not sure I’d have chosen Apple as the flavor to go along with dark chocolate (instead of the white chocolate-base that all the other flavors used). It tasted like apple, for sure, crisp and fruity, and wasn’t as overly sweet as the white-chocolate flavors, but I didn’t love the combination. Strange.
Strawberry Cheesecake – My least favorite, probably because it smelled like sour cheese (ew). It tasted slightly better, very sweet white chocolate with a hint of strawberry filling.
Sake – Sweet white chocolate with a slightly boozy undertone. It’s actually non-alcoholic, made with white chocolate and sake powder (I didn’t know such a thing existed!) You really have to love white chocolate to like this one.
Raspberry – There is no denying this one tastes like raspberry, and real fruit at that. The tart berry does a good job of offsetting the sweetness of the white chocolate.
Cranberry Almond – Rich dark chocolate with crispy bits embedded in the top of it. Quite good, actually, though it seemed like it should be more of a holiday flavor instead of a spring one. Maybe it was a holiday once since I found it in a bargain basement candy store. Oddly, this was the only single-stick variety, all the others came as doubled-up minis.
Butter Cookie – (Not pictured because I ate it on the train.) Basically a very buttery white chocolate. Oddly enough, this one comes with instructions on the back to bake it in a toaster oven, which apparently creates a caramelized layer on top. I didn’t have a toaster oven handy to test that, however, so I just ate it plain. Wishing now I had grabbed two boxes, so I could try baking it now that I’m home!
Where to Buy Them:
Train Stations. Japan’s train stations are filled with little shops and many convenience stores, and if you’re looking for Kit Kats, that is a great place to start. I picked up a box of the Baked Butter Cookie Kit Kats in a store in Odawara station, a snack for our train ride to Kyoto.
Narita Airport. There are a ton of duty free shops in the Narita airport, and they all sell 10-box bulk gift packs (I saw Melon, Matcha, and Sake) far too big to fit in my carry on. However, after asking around I discovered a convenience shop called Key Point, located in the shopping center outside of security in Terminal 1 (United terminal) that sells single boxes, and there I picked up the Uji Matcha, Melon, Sakura Sake, Sakura Matcha, and Strawberry.
Souvenir candy shops. Kit Kats are a common gift item in Japan, and there are many souvenir candy shops in train stations and tourist areas that sell gift-ready boxes. I stopped in one shop in Tokyo station (across from Ramen Street at the Yaesu Underground Exit) and picked up the Purple Sweet Potato, Brown Tea, as well as larger boxes of the Wasabi, Apple, and Strawberry Cheesecake flavors there.
Convenience stores. Seven-Eleven, Family Mart, etc. will usually carry a few flavors of Kit Kats. I found the dark chocolate and matcha to be the most common, but also spotted strawberry and raspberry on occasion.
Bulk candy stores. These stores sell bigger size packages of discount candy, and they’ll often have bags of a few different flavors. I found the Sake in a shop in Tokyo’s Kappabashi Kitchen Town, and the Raspberry and Cranberry Almond in a store in the underground shopping mall below Kyoto’s Shiyakusho-mae Station.
Amazon. As it turns out, you can get a good number of these flavors on Amazon, including Sake, Wasabi, Apple, Beni-Imo, and Strawberry as well as some flavor assortments. They’re not cheap, but if there’s a particular flavor you’re just dying to try and you don’t have a trip to Japan planned in the near future, it’s a good option.
Have you tried any of these crazy Kit Kat flavors? What was your favorite? Or if you haven’t tried them, which flavor sounds the best? Tell me!
Oh!! I’m sad you skipped on the rum raisin. It’s actually my favorite. I randomly purchased this on a connecting flight through Japan 5 or 6 years ago. I still think about it. It was delicious. I’m planning a trip to Japan later this year and I hope to find some on my trip. This time I know better—I’ll be stocking up!
Aby chance you remember where you saw this flavor? Thank you!!
In Canada, we have an Asian supermarket chain called T&T that carries several types – they had five kinds this month (the roasted tea, mandarin orange, custard (the toaster oven one), ocean salt, and sakura mochi), and they’ve had the sake and melon ones and some of the “premium ones” in the past (especially around major holidays).
One of my school friends is from Japan. Whenever she came back from Japan, she brings almost every flavor you mention for all mates, including me. Interestingly, every KitKat flavor is unique. But, I personally like Strawberry Cheesecake. Additionally, I have shared this blog with her, too. She will feel proud, lol!
Just finding your post now as I’m in Japan and obsessed with Kit Kats! This is such a great list with reviews and it’s making me think twice on getting sweet potatoe now. I didn’t pick any up as i didn’t think I would like it but I’m going to give it a chance. Did you check out the Kit Kat Store in Ginza? It’s super fancy with some unique flavors in there but I prefer finding all the ones you listed in convenience stores. Thanks for posting!
I was just in Tokyo! Kit Kats were everywhere! I liked the melon and the tangerine and banana flavors! And like you, I caught an awful cold on the flight home! I would love to chat with you about our Japan trips! What cities did you visit?
A semi-local Japanese grocery store near me (U.S.) sells bags of Green Tea, Raspberry, Hazelnut, and Cookies & Cream. They are about $7/bag and contain 12 of the double mini sized packs. I read about the Cherry Blossom flavored pink ones years ago and have wanted to try them ever since! :) :) :)
I did find a 3-pack (mini-size) of the Melon flavor on Ebay for $6.50, as a gift for my mother-in-law who loves melon. Hopefully it’s as yummy as they say; I’ve heard good things! ~^,,^~
Amazon has the banana flavor and also a mixed bag of the Japanese flavors. Good luck!
I totally agree!! The US should have these!! I work for a Japanese company and many of our associates will bring these wonderful treats back home after a visit to Japan.. Maybe one day we can have just a small variety!! One can only hope!
I went on eBay to buy the Christmas box set last year with 50 flavors in them. My favorite is the red bean paste one! One of my brothers had the rum flavored and let me just say – you could smell the alcohol on his breath! (I freeze them first). But it was real rum! I did get the pudding one – soooo good! The weird ones for me were the fruit flavored ones – they were surprisingly good. Now I am living in Japan for about 2-3 years and I try to get all the holiday boxes with 30-50 flavors in them and share them with family and friends. And I use it at meet and greets with new co-workers to break the ice. It’s fun and delicious!
OMG I had no idea they made box sets! What a great gift idea. Will have to see if I can track one down here. :)
Did you go to the Kit Kat store? There is one in the GInza that has a cafe attached. Right now they have pistachio grapefruit, special butter, maple strawberry, and a store only one with actual chocolate cake in it.
I just came back from Japan last week and unfortunately only found 8 different flavors, however 5 more than the past few times I’ve been to Japan. The melon is my favorite! My team at work likes the strawberry flavor as I brought an entire assortment for them at work to try. At first I was skeptical about the melon flavor one, but it is definitely one that has a great combination together. Hojicha is definitely just as good tho. I’ll have to go hunting for all the other flavors on my next trip over there. LOL
My co-worker just came back from Japan and brought me an assortment of these wild Kit Kat bars (man, are they expensive! but what a treat!). The flavors, texture, advertisement, packaging, were out-of-this-world great!!
Why is it that the Japanese always find a way to make an American icon thing, so much better, while we’re still stuck on the plain old original “average” tasting Kit Kat bars?
I was in Japan a couple of years ago on vacation and fell in love with the orange ones. They tasted like little dreamsicles. Green tea and raspberry were close seconds
A friend once brought back a bunch of wacky kit kats from Japan and I still dream of the cherry blossom one! This is awesome!
I love these Kit Kats. I’ve bought them at Narita airport. I live in Hawaii and sometimes we have a lot of Japanese products here. I’m hoping I’ll see these one day.
I did have my daughter bring chocolate ones back from London last week. we did a taste comparison. Very different from Hershey’s.
Oh, and I saw strawberry ones at CVS yesterday in Boston.
Wowzer! Completely obsessed with these!
I love the matcha ones I found when I was on vacation in Orlando! Definitely going to order more on Amazon because they were so addictive. But now I’m going to have to try these other flavors too!
ooh, the sweet potato and hojicha sound so good! the only special one i’ve tried is the pudding! doesn’t sound that special and tastes meh plain, but it totally transforms once you bake it! highly recommend tracking that one down next time (:
Totally adorable colorful packaging and love that they have all those flavor options. Yes they should do that here! Pumpkin? Creme Brûlée? Mocha? I’d love to offer up many more suggestions!
I found a bag of Pumpkin Pie flavored ones here in the US around Halloween! :)
I love the green tea ones! I get them at World Market in their candy section! MMmmmmmm
Same! But then we moved and we don’t have a World Market anymore. :(
When I lived in Okinawa in 2010, they were selling soy sauce Kit Kats. I’m not surprised that flavor does not appear to have stuck around…
I’d try it… once. :) lol
Ok, this is the most fun food post ever. I haven’t tried any of the ones I brought back, but you put us to shame (we just have the sweet potato, wasabi, and tea one – but I’m glad they’re some of the best ones according to this!).
This is insane! I had no idea! Wow. Everything from purple sweet potato to wasabi…wow!
My sister used to a food chemist for a huge gum corporation and it was her job to develop flavors for Asian gum. Everything from lychee to matcha. It’s amazing what you can create with chemicals :)
I know, it’s crazy! I’m wondering how much natural vs. artificial flavor is used here. What a cool job!
US Kit Kats are made by Hershey and everywhere else they are made by nestle. Remember when Hershey squashed imports of UK chocolate. …they hold a very favorable license for this stuff and produce un superior chocolate :(
Ugh. Good chocolate shouldn’t be able to be ‘licensed’.