Kit-Kat bars were always one of the more popular chocolate candy bars in America. And for decades, we were content with the basic milk chocolate flavor. More recently, Nestle added dark chocolate and white chocolate options, and the occasional seasonal flavor. But in Japan, you can find more than 300 flavors of the famous confectionery, and each region of Japan has its preferred favorites.
How the Kit-Kat Came to Japan
The Kit-Kat bar originated in London in the mid-1930s and was then exported to other countries in the 1940s. But the chocolate treat with the crispy crunch did not make its way to Japan until the early 1970s. Since then, it has become somewhat of an obsession and is one of the top-selling confections in Japan since 2014.
And, just as you’ll find stores in the United States dedicated to chocolates such as Godiva and Lindt, you’ll find stores in Japan stocked with hundreds of flavors of Kit-Kat bars! You can also find them in boutiques and department stores, and there is usually a mad scramble to acquire the many limited runs of unique and exciting flavors when first released.
The popularity of Kit-Kat bars first took hold when a strawberry Kit-Kat was introduced in Hokkaido during the beginning of the region’s strawberry season. It was an instant hit, and today, Japanese factories by Nestle in Himeji and Kasumigaura produce the candy bars for the entire country.
Kit-Kat Bars are a Good Luck Charm
There is more to the popularity of Kit-Kat bars in Japan than just a multitude of exciting flavors. The treat happens to be a good luck charm. More specifically, it’s a good luck charm for students in Japan who are about to take their school Entrance Exams. According to Nestlé, the practice of giving students a Kit-Kat bar for good luck originated in the Kyushu region because of the phrase “Kitto katsu!” (Win for sure!) sounds similar to the name of the candy bar when spoken in the Kyushu dialect.
Through word of mouth, the belief and the practice became widespread throughout Japan, and Kit-Kat bars are also used as a gift to offer encouragement and good fortune for any number of endeavors. Or, you can give someone a Kit-Kat as a meaningful way to express your feelings.
Kit-Kat Varieties and Flavors by Region
The most popular package variety of Kit-Kat bars in Japan is the mini, consisting of two bite-size pieces. Typically there are about 40 different flavors of the Kit-Kat mini available at any given time. The core flavors that are always easy to find include matcha, wasabi, sake, strawberry, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and Tokyo banana.
New flavors are often created by Yasumasa Takagi, an expert pastry chef. Product development teams are also always working at coming up with new flavors, as well as partnering with Japanese companies and brands, which is how the Tokyo banana flavor came about.
Some unique flavors or limited releases may also feature exclusive designs and other premium ingredients, such as dehydrated fruit, higher-quality chocolate, and mocha. Special packaging also highlights many premium and seasonal flavors.
Although the majority of flavors can be found anywhere in Japan, some flavors are only available in specific regions. Additionally, with occasional limited and seasonal flavors, the actual amount of Kit-Kat flavors is closer to 400! If you are ever in Japan and want to try as many as you can, you’ll want to be sure to visit the following regions to find some of the more exciting yet harder-to-find flavors.
Look for Hokkaido Melon in airports throughout Japan’s northernmost region. These creamy Kit-Kats include mascarpone cheese!
Residents of the Tohoku region enjoy a local dish made with mashed edamame. Called zunda, the flavors of this dish have also made their way into a Kit-Kat bar! A percentage of purchase of each Tohoku Zunda Kit-Kat also goes toward supporting a charity in the region.
Tokyo Banana is the beloved flavor here. The Kit-Kats taste just like the famous banana custard-filled souvenir snacks.
This region can lay claim to quite a few flavors. Premium wasabi Kit-Kats is from around here. Adzuki bean paste bars, and the Masuizumi Japan Sake Kit Kat are from this region. Made in collaboration with Masuizumi, the Toyama-based sake brewery, the crisp flavor and aroma of sake shines in this white chocolate Kit-Kat.
Here you can find a special Kyoto edition of Uji Hojicha Kit-Kats (roasted green tea flavor). The mellow tea adds a subtle but distinctive and toasty flavor to this Kit-Kat, making it the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot tea.
Chugoku (in Honshu island)
Momiji Manju (maple leaf-shaped confectionery) is the one to look for here. The white chocolate Kit-Kat features a thin layer of purple azuki bean paste between the wafers. The candy is supposed to be a tribute to the manju dough used to make the distinctive maple leaf confectionary in Hiroshima.
The Limited-edition Citrus Blend Kit Kat is a popular flavor in this region. A combination of lemon, orange, and sudachi (a local fruit similar to lime) creates an intriguing citrus flavor in this white chocolate Kit-Kat.
Okinawan sweet potatoes are a favorite in this region, as is the Kyushu edition of Amaou Strawberry Kit-Kats. The intense flavor of strawberry blends perfectly with the creamy white chocolate.
Try As Many As You Can!
You can also find many seasonal and premium varieties throughout Japan. For example, you can find the Sakura (cherry blossom) Kit-Kat in the springtime. More unique examples are Chocolatory Sublime, which are Kit-Kats made with high-quality chocolates and ingredients, and Chocolaty Special, which are Kit-Kats with particular flavor combinations such as green tea and kinako (soybean flour) or strawberry and maple.
How many Kit-Kat flavors can you find and try?