Monday, 8 March 2010

Kit Kats, Kitto Katsu, You'll pass for sure

Japan has a myriad of varieties of Kit Kats. Not only the regular milk chocolate kit kats, but also green tea, black tea, strawberry, orange, raspberry passionfruit, chestnut, ginger ale, mocha, creme caramel, coffee, mixed vegetable.  Regular kit kat are always available. Some like green tea and mocha are available from time to time but at upredictable intervals; some appear seasonally like chestnut in autumn others  like mixed vegies come and go, never to be seen again (and perhaps that's not such a bad thing...).

Usually only a couple of special varieties are available at any one time, and there's always the anticipation of what flavour can they think of next... kind of like Willy Wonka.... I was in Shinjuku on Friday and came across a tantalising collection that'd I'd not seen before: kinako (soy bean flour - often used with Japanese sweets). sweet potato, soy sauce, and WASABI!!  It's kit kat season! The post office even had cherry blossom kit kats ready packaged for sending on their counter.

A nation fascinated by chocolate, novelty and seasons?

Yes on all counts, though chocolate would be last on the list.  More than that,  is a country captivated by word play and auspicious signs.  The novelty value of Kit Kats is greatly assisted by its auspicious name.  Kit Kats  in Japanese sounds like Kitto Katsu.  "You'll win / pass / succeed for sure! "  Giving a Kit Kat at exam time is akin to a giving a good luck charm.  
Late Feb - March is exam season;  in April the new school year begins and in Japanese imagery there is a strong association with the new school year and cherry blossoms.  Sakura  saku - cherry blossoms bloom, is a euphemistic way to express passing. Sakura ochiru... is the opposite... cherry blossoms falling = failing.
There are all sorts of words with positive and negative connotations for exam seasons which marketers try to capitalise on e.g.  - katsudon (deep fried pork on rice  - katsu = win) and  ka-ru (curl), a snack made by Meiji a bit like cheezels markets itself as ukaru (to pass).   (see picture)
Words like ochiru (fall), suberu (slip)  are considered by many to be a jinx and should be totally avoided in the presence of someone doing exams!                                                                                                                                                             

                                Ginger Ale


                    Green tea cherry blossom

Milk coffee
(kitto sakura saku yo  - you'll definitely pass is the message written over the cherry blossom on the LHS)

Salted caramel kitkat balls

Kobe Pudding flavour - creme caramel


                Sweet potato (satsuma imo)


                                    Soy sauce   .........

I am waiting for dried bonito fish flakes ones to appear now.......


Anonymous said...

where can i find this various type of kitkat? Do they have it at takeya building? Cause when i visit drugstore such as kyorindo..they don't have many option..

Cecilia said...

They are quite seasonal. In Ameyoko you can see several varieties at a sweets shop at the Ueno end on the right hand side walking towards Okachimachi. These pictures have been collected over a few years. You won't find this amount of variety anywhere.
Takeya may have - places - but from memory I don't think so, another place worth trying is the supermarket under the temple in Ameyoko. Possibly under Skytree and possibly in Tokyo station. Good luck

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your explaination. But, i don't think i can get there myself.. I always shopping around with my husband(nihon jin), so lazy to remember route:)
Where can i found it at tokyo station.. Maybe i will try my luck there & takeya building

Cecilia said...

If you walk out the yamashita exit of Ueno station and walk straight along Ameyoko there is a shop under the railway line that has sweets.

From the trainline you can see a temple in Ameyoko, there is a supermarket with lots of Japanese snacks in it underneath. You can see a picture here.

Anonymous said...

Oo..i see, your picture refresh my memories. I think i know how to get there now. Thank you once again:)

Cecilia said...

I hope you did!