There are well over 300 flavours of KitKats in Japan to discover but it took more than a flavour innovation to position this chocolate wafer snack in Japan’s modern culture as a go-to snack, souvenir and gift. Now regularly updated to showcase the seasons and regions across the country, they are a local sensation and have caught on as a popular purchase for visitors too.
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Did Kit Kat originate in Japan?
Given the way they have been embraced by the wider population, you might think of Japan as the home of Kit Kat but it’s not. They originated in the UK in the 1930s but took off in Japan when Nestle Japan picked up the idea and went on to give it a local twist.
You are sure to win with the right name!
Part of the reason for the popularity comes down to a transliteration, or the way that the English word Kit Kat is pronounced in Japan as ‘Kitto Katto’ but キットカット phonetically in Japanese sounds like Kitto Katsu which means ‘you are sure to win’.
With such an auspicious name KitKats became a popular gift to students, or between students at exam time and it really took off from there. They are also regularly brought back to colleagues and friends as omiyage (souvenirs) when people in Japan travel or take a business trip. To capitalise on this KitKat released flavours that were named and sometimes only offered for sale in specific regions like apples in Aomori and purple sweet potato in Okinawa.
So what are the most popular Japanese Kit Kat flavours?
There have been 300-400 flavours of Kit Kat released in Japan, most are not permanent products but at any point in time, you’ll find dozens of different flavours for sale across the country. The seasonal releases for the cherry blossom season or autumn in Japan are very popular and with every prefecture and region in Japan being recognised for its specialty dishes and fresh local produce the regional releases are also highly sought after as souvenirs.
By volume sold, green tea and strawberry are possibly the highest sales volume but the availability of a specific KitKat release that comprises a unique combination of the wafer, filling, coating and packaging may only be available for a short period. So while you might get matcha or strawberry Kit Kats available most of the time, it won’t necessarily be the same as the one you had last time you visited.
The release of new flavours and the discontinuation of others will constantly skew the results making it impossible to say which is the all-time best-selling bar, or even if it is currently available. For example back in 2010 for a period soy sauce took the honours, probably due to its uniqueness and scarcity value, many correctly assumed it wouldn’t be back for a while so they rushed to pick up a pack and try them.
I’ve focused below on some recent popular releases, if you are looking for a new KitKat taste experience you might want to consider these:
Matcha Latte is the current special release in the green tea line. The crispy wafer is sandwiched with a rich matcha latte flavoured cream then the whole thing is coated with a sweet, creamy matcha green tea infused white chocolate.
Hokkaido Strawberry & Adzuki bean is an interesting and delicious release that celebrates Japan’s northern island known for these two products. The chocolate wafer is filled with smooth azuki paste and strawberry filling and then given a creamy coating of strawberry and white chocolate.
The peach KitKat was released to celebrate the start of spring 2022 and blossom season releases are always popular. It features the peach blossom (ume) on its packaging and contains a sweet, tangy peach filling between crunchy wafers with a soft pink coating of peach juice combined with white chocolate.
Tokyo Banana Kat Kat is a limited-time collaboration of the two popular snack and omiyage makers. The banana pudding flavour inside uses fresh ingredients and replicates the flavours of the creamy cake snack with KitKat’s traditional wafers and milk chocolate. Really good!
Melon Kit Kats are back this time combined with mascarpone cheese from Hokkaido and inspired by the region’s highly sought-after Yūbari King Melon. It’s nicely balanced with fruity freshness and it’s not too sweet. The outer white chocolate and melon coating is a light orange colour.
Custard Pudding (Purin) Kit Kats are, like creme caramel and remind me of seeing the little jars for sale in shopping arcades in small towns like Kurashiki. This re-release of a 2014 flavour is very sweet eaten as it is but baked briefly in a toaster oven the sugar content in the chocolate hardens to a texture resembling a cookie with a sweet caramelized smell.
Where can I buy unusual KitKats in Japan?
You can buy the family pack of Kit Kat in a range of flavours in supermarkets and convenience stores, you’ll also often see bins of the regional or seasonal flavours as you walk through covered shopping streets outside pharmacies and some discount stores, Don Quixote usually has a good selection.
Because they are popular as souvenir gifts to share with friends and colleagues when returning home you can also find them in airports and train stations. Unlike many western countries, the prices in Japanese airports aren’t much different to other stores.
Then there are the dedicated Kit Kat stores called Kit Kat Chocolatory which are high-end chocolate shops with specialty packaged and unique items. While they stock some unique items you can also buy the loose snack size treats there too.
In Japan you usually find KitKat packaged in the family snack pack with 12 individually wrapped treats of the same flavour with an outer bag or box featuring seasonally or regionally relevant artwork. These autumnal apple and cinnamon packs are an example from 2021 featuring Halloween-inspired colours and artwork. The treat inside keeps with the trick-or-treat theme, they have an apple pie flavoured filling and creamy white chocolate coating that it is coloured light purple.
Where can I buy Japanese Kit Kat online?
We usually try a new Kit Kat or two when we are in Japan and bring a few bags home with us but until recently it has been difficult to buy these unique flavour variations overseas, especially here in Australia.
With many people missing their holidays in Japan a gift of Japanese snacks and treats is a great way to cheer up someone who has had to cancel a holiday, to motivate a student studying for exams or show someone you are thinking of them.
We’ve recently had fun opening this mega mystery bag of KitKats shipped directly from Tokyo by Sugoi Mart. With 20 different flavours and 3 of each in the bag, they will keep me in sweet treats and Japan travel memories for a while.
You can order your own Kit Kat goodies from Japan here
Use our promo code AUSSIE15 for 15% off at Sugoi Mart
Japans Kit Kat Chocolatory
Across Japan there are some specialty Kit Kat shops called Kit Kat Chocolatory, they focus on the high-end chocolate experience although you can also pick up individual snack-sized bars to try a selection of the latest featured Kit Kat flavours. They are a fun spot to stop by when you are in the area, Shibuya is a fun part of Tokyo to explore and the Chocolatory is in the recently reopened Miyashita Park development not far from the station.
Some of the Japan Chocolatory stores also feature a cafe, we loved the one in Ginza but it shut down during the pandemic but this one in Shibuya will be worth a try when we next get back to the city.
Have you come across a unique Kit Kat flavour in Japan that you’ve particularly enjoyed, or one your taste buds just couldn’t make sense of? We’d love to hear your recommendations below, the good news is that even if you miss a special release if it’s popular there’s a good chance something similar will be back even if not for a few years.
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