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A Year in Kit Kats

Posted By in Japan | 28 comments

A Year in Kit Kats

Japan is not an easy country to say goodbye to. I love the faded paper on our home’s shoji screens; I love the smiling cashier at Lawson who always talks to Brent and I about the beer we’re buying; I love speaking Japanese, in general – it’s such a lovely-sounding language and I’m just on the cusp of being able to have real conversations in it; I love going for morning runs along the river, breathing the clean mountain air; and riding my oversized-basket bike to pick up groceries, or to my favourite café to write and sip a gingerbread latte.

kit kat flavours japan

Among the thousands of little Japan goodbyes we had to say this month, it was also time to let go of our Kit Kat collection. Every time we visited a new city or a new season arrived, we found a different flavour of Kit Kat sold in stores. Each time we bought a new box, we left one Kit Kat aside, and over our year in Japan, our freezer gradually filled up with a rainbow of colourful packages. On our last night in Japan, we spread the collection out on our kitchen table, tearing open packages and talking about where we bought each one.

Matcha

matcha kit kat japan

Matcha Kit Kat makes me think of my very first days in Japan. Brent and I spent our first week doing teacher training in Tajimi, a relatively un-noteworthy town in Gifu Prefecture. We ambled around a grocery store across the street from our hotel, slack-jawed as we stared at all the weird foods and products. We bought a bag of Matcha Kit Kats – the first flavoured Kit Kats we had ever seen – and took them back to our tiny hotel room. Crouched on the bed, we ate the Kit Kats while talking about how amazed we felt to be in Japan.

Red Bean

red bean kit kat japanRed Bean Kit Kat was one of my first impressions of our future home in the Japanese Alps. After our week of training, our managers drove us north to our new home in Hida-Takayama. We stopped at a service centre along the highway, where we found Red Bean Kit Kats. This was also the first time I saw one of Japan’s insanely immaculate service centers. In addition to tidy shops selling local foods and souvenirs, the washrooms have light-up grid screens at the entrance, showing which stalls are occupied and which are available.

Cinnamon Cookie

cinnamon cookie kit kat japan

For one of my first trips in Japan, I took a bus south through the winding Japanese Alps that surround Takayama to Kyoto. I wandered the lantern-lit streets of Gion, and rode buses around the city, visiting beautiful temples crowded with giggling teenagers. I also found what continues to be my favourite Kit Kat ever, Cinnamon Cookie. Modeled after Kyoto’s famous cinnamon treat, yatsuhashi, this Kit Kat has a spiced cinnamon sugary flavour, which is super delicious.

Passion Fruit

passion fruit kit kat

Passion Fruit Kit Kat reminds me of the arrival of Takayama’s long-awaited summer. As temperatures started to warm up, the fun, fruity Passion Fruit Kit Kat arrived in stores. During the summer, Brent and I took road trips – with our windows rolled down and maps non-existent – to all the little towns and villages around Takayama. We rode our bikes to Takayama’s Edo-period shops and drank refreshing sake samples from the breweries.

Cookies and Cream

cookies and cream kit kat

In July, we skipped the humidity in central Japan and headed north to Hokkaido Prefecture. Arriving in Hokkaido was almost like entering a different country, with cool temperatures, rolling Dutch-style flower fields, and Westernized buildings. We gorged on Sapporo beer (named for Hokkaido’s capital) and some of Japan’s best seafood, before spotting Cookies and Cream Kit Kat in one of the convenience stores.

 Blueberry Cheesecake

kit kat blueberry cheesecake

I have a particular fondness for Blueberry Cheesecake Kit Kat because we bought it after climbing Mount Fuji, one of my favourite experiences in Japan. The packaging even has a little picture of Mount Fuji on it, reminding me of aching knees, crunching volcanic rocks under foot, and sleeping beside hundreds of other sweat-soaked climbers. With a sweet, exceptionally cheesecake-y flavour, this Kit Kat is runner up as my favourite.

Chili

chili kit kat japan

In September, we drove to Nagano Prefecture to walk the ancient Nakasendo trail between Magome and Tsumago. Chili Kit Kat reminds me of walking the quiet trail between the two towns, along a path lined with shady trees. At the end of our walk, we found Chili Kit Kat in one of the touristy shops in Tsumago. It has the strangest flavor – it starts out tasting like regular chocolate, but then surprises you with a biting chili aftertaste.

Pumpkin Pudding

pumpkin pudding kit kat japan

Thousands of visitors come to Takayama every October for the town’s famous Fall Festival, and it was around this time that seasonal Pumpkin Kit Kat appeared in stores. Each year, the festival’s success is a bit of a gamble because the hundred-year-old floats can’t be brought out of storage if the weather is rainy. The first day of the festival was rained out, but the second day was sunny and as hot as a summer day. One of my adult students took Brent and I downtown to watch the puppet shows, look at the beautiful floats, and eat too much festival food.

Apple

apple kit kat japan

Apple Kit Kat reminds me of visiting Matsumoto, home to one of Japan’s only original castles. Casting its reflection in the lake below, Matsumoto Castle is all swooping roofs and aged black wood. It was beautiful the first time we saw it during the daytime, crowded with tourists; but it was even lovelier when we went back a few months later at night. The castle was lit up by a white spotlight and everything around it was eerily silent.

Roasted Tea

tea kit kat japan

Tea Kit Kat reminds me of our last road trip, driving our mini-Pajero to Osaka. Two of our friends from Canada came to visit, and we had less than 24-hours in what I consider to be one of Japan’s most awesome cities. We strolled down the bright, crowded streets of Dotonbori, burned our mouths on takoyaki, and got in over our heads trying to get our money’s worth on a nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink special).

kit kat flavours japan

As we crumpled up the last wrapper, I realized that our year in Japan was officially over.

 

What unusual souvenirs do you keep to remember your travels?

28 Comments

  1. HappinessWherever April 9, 2014

    Goodbyes are always bittersweet, but those KitKats look amazing! You've inspired me to do a similar collection when I eventually make my way to Japan.

    What are your new adventure plans?
    My recent post Hello Goodbye

    • waysofwanderers April 9, 2014

      We're spending the summer in Chiang Mai, then maybe heading back to Canada for a visit, and then who knows?

  2. foreignsanctuary April 9, 2014

    As this chapter closes, another one opens! I have enjoyed reading all of your blog posts about Japan and I look forward to reading all about your new adventures.

    Those Kit Kat flavors sound amazing! I would love to try the blueberry cheesecake and apple flavors!!

    I always collect some from of art, carving, or sculpture when I travel. I have them all on display in my house!
    My recent post It’s been awhile!!

    • waysofwanderers April 9, 2014

      Very cool! I've always wanted to collect more tangible things so we have something to decorate our future B&B with one day, but I never want to add to our baggage. Maybe I should try shipping some interesting art home to my parents' house sometime.

  3. Paul Latta April 9, 2014

    Jessica,,
    When I didn't have time for a proper breakfast as an Airman learning journalism at the Defense Information School, my go to morning meal was a cup of coffee and a Kit Kat. Back then there was only the original, but it was a good little brick of yummy calories. I wish I had the variety to choose from that you encountered in Japan, especially the pumpkin and apple ones. They sound delicious! I like how Nestle has created varieties to please the Japanese palate. Some of those flavors sound exotic and tasty.

    You've given me yet another reason to explore Japan.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck in your next destination.

    Paul (temporarily Pablo in Mexico)
    My recent post Death in the Afternoon (almost) Bull 2, Humans Goose Egg(s)

    • waysofwanderers April 9, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Paul. I truly can't figure out why those flavours aren't available in other countries. I think they would be so popular!

  4. Colleen Brynn April 9, 2014

    I was aware of all these odd kit kat flavours. It's actually insane.
    Funny what really spells the ending of something…
    My recent post Introduction To Goa

  5. japanaustralia April 9, 2014

    So many great Kit Kats to try here in Japan. The Otona no Amasa Matcha Green Tea Kit Kit has been one of my recent favourites. We visit Tajimi quite a bit and it has one of the most spectacular temple complexes in Japan designed by the master who designed Koke-dera and Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto. I recommend a visit to Kokeizan Eihoji Temple in Tajimi http://japantraveladvice.com/kokeizan-eihoji-temp

  6. Taylor April 9, 2014

    I had no idea there were any other flavors of kit kat! Why isn't that here in America?!?! Kitkat is my all time favorite candy and I savor the taste of them any time I get the big package from the store. I really want to visit Japan now to try all of those flavors. The majority sounds delicious, although some may take some getting used to.

    • waysofwanderers April 9, 2014

      We had a Wasabi one once (which we neglected to save) – now that was an interesting flavour. And it's true, I feel like Kit Kat is missing on a huge market for these in North America!

  7. Beth April 10, 2014

    Sad to see you're leaving Japan, but I'm excited to see what comes next! (And to hopefully meet you this weekend in Chiang Mai :D)

    I have fond memories from when I was a kid of Kit Kat bars and my grandmother, so when I was in Japan I went absolutely crazy with all the different regional flavors and limited edition ones. I also have a section of my blog listing all the ones I've tried so far. It's just a nice memory of Japan 🙂
    My recent post Why Do Cruises Get Such a Bad Rap?

    • waysofwanderers April 11, 2014

      Sums up my feelings – sad, but excited. There's actually a surprising amount of Japanese culture in Chiang Mai – I even saw some flavoured Kit Kats in a store yesterday.

  8. Joella J April 10, 2014

    I love that the different flavours bring back so many different memories for you guys. Also, I am super jealous of all these flavours. I don't think I've even seen a Kitkat in Beijing at all (only knock-off ones) and the most exciting one I had back in the UK was a peanut butter kitkat chunky, otherwise it was just the regular ones. I need to get to Japan and try some. I think the pumpkin one is the one I would most like to try. It's sad leaving a place you have lived for a while, but always exciting to go somewhere new (and maybe find some new exotic flavoured treats?).
    My recent post In Search Of The Beach: Angthong National Marine Park

    • waysofwanderers April 11, 2014

      I went into a grocery store a few days ago that had an entire wall of Pepperidge Farm cookies (including Dark Chocolate Cheesecake!), so I think I'll be find in the treat department, haha.

  9. Jenn Turnbull-Houde April 10, 2014

    What a cute way to remember your travels, love it. They say food can trigger memories…you could go back in 10 years and test yourself with the different flavors to see what the flavors conjure. Great excuse to go back!

    • waysofwanderers April 11, 2014

      Very true – I think I'll always associate each flavour with the same memories. It would definitely be nostalgic to have them again some day.

  10. cvail April 13, 2014

    Jessica, We loved trying all the different Kit Kats when we lived in Japan as well. I love your stories that go along with each one. Wonderful post!

    • waysofwanderers April 13, 2014

      Did you try any interesting flavours that I didn't mention? I feel like there are dozens more kinds than the ones we found.

  11. Catherine April 13, 2014

    Woah, I had no idea they had so many different types of Kit Kats. Want to try them all! Cokies and cream sounds amazing, as does roasted tea.
    My recent post Bollywood Explained

  12. Steph (@20YH) April 14, 2014

    I love the crazy assortment of Kit Kat flavors available in Japan (and I also remember a time when I though "matcha" was a weird flavor option).

    But inquiring minds want to know: of your cornucopia of Kit Kats, which one was your favorite!
    My recent post Vientiane: A Capital City Like No Other

    • waysofwanderers April 14, 2014

      Cinnamon cookie, with blueberry cheesecake as a close second. There are actually a ton of Japanese stores here in Chiang Mai, so if I can hunt cinnamon cookie down, I'm definitely buying it again.

  13. itstartedinasia April 18, 2014

    Never been to Japan, and never knew there were so many flavours available! I must remember this for future 🙂
    My recent post WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: On Top

  14. Lauren May 2, 2014

    I've had the chance to try some of the odd Kit Kat flavors as they sell them at some of the Japanese candy shops at Pacific Mall in Toronto! But not nearly close to the amount of flavors that are available. Now that I'm vegan and don't eat dairy, I likely won't be trying any other ones, but it was really fun to try all of the interesting flavors!
    My recent post Travel Blogger Thursday: Ewa of Post Travel Thoughts

  15. Jade May 13, 2014

    Who knew that Japan and KitKats had collided so creatively! This is such a wonderful homage 🙂

  16. Sofia September 25, 2014

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