How Kit Kats Got Their Japanese Twist
Halloween will be here before we know it. So now’s the perfect time to highlight one of Japan’s favorite chocolate brands: Kit Kat.
The classic Kit Kat is a chocolate-covered wafer beloved for its perfect balance of smooth chocolate and crispy inner layers. In Japan, unique Kit Kat flavors are released seasonally, featuring iconic Japanese flavors from different regions.
Check out this guide to discover how Kit Kats became so popular in Japan along with some special Kit Kat varieties.
The History of Kit Kats in Japan
Kit Kats first came to Japan in 1973, after Rowntree’s—the original producer of the Kit Kat—made a deal with Japanese company Fujiya. It wouldn’t be until 1988, when the brand Nestlé acquired the candy, that Kit Kats were actually produced within Japan.
Fun fact: Nestlé now produces Kit Kats in 16 countries, while The Hershey Company produces Kit Kats for the U.S.
Nestlé acquired Fujiya's share of the brand in 2000 and would go on to expand its marketplace in Japan, prompting the launch of new and exciting flavor varieties inspired by regional and seasonal Japanese ingredients. Fast-forward to today, and there are over 300 limited-edition, seasonal, and region Kit Kat flavors that have been produced.
The Cultural Significance of Kit Kats
Kit Kats have earned a cultural significance in Japan. The name Kit Kat sounds similar to "Kitto Katsu,” a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to "surely win.” As such, Kit Kats are given as gifts for good luck, especially to students studying for exams.
Regionally-inspired Kit Kats are also used for the Japanese tradition of gifting omiyage (souvenirs) to family, friends, and co-workers after returning from a trip. To keep up with this demand, Kit Kats can be found at places like Narita Airport, train stations, and souvenir candy shops across Japan.
Seasonal Kit Kats
Spring, summer, fall, or winter—no matter your favorite season, there’s a tasty Japanese Kit Kat you’re bound to like.
Spring-inspired Kit Kat flavors include Iyokan Mandarin Orange Kit Kats made with oranges from Ehime Prefecture and several varieties of cherry blossom Kit Kats, like Sakura Mochi, Sakura Nihonshu Sake, and Sakura Matcha.
A hot summer day calls for a cooling treat. Thankfully, there are refreshing Citrus Mint Kit Kats and tasty Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kats that are meant to be chilled in the fridge.
There are also plenty of Kit Kats featuring cozy autumn flavors, from Autumn Sweet Potato and Fall Chestnut to newer additions like Apple Pie.
Compliment the chilliest season with winter flavors. Strawberry Daifuku Mochi Kit Kats are inspired by the traditional seasonal treat of the same name. For something extra special, there’s Mainichi No Zeitaku (Luxury Edition) Cranberry and Almond Kit Kats made with chunks of real nuts and berries.
Regional Kit Kats
Japan is home to big flavors, and some of our favorites make unique Kit Kats.
Hokkaido Melon flavored Kit Kats are made with melon and mascarpone cheese from Hokkaido. There’s also a limited-edition Roasted Corn Kit Kat inspired by the freshly roasted corn that’s available at food stalls during summers in Hokkaido.
Shiquasa, a small, green citrus fruit grown in Okinawa, makes for a sweet and sour Kit Kat. Shinshu Apple Kit Kats feature wafers flavored with apples from Nagano Prefecture.
If you’re a fan of sweet heat, there’s the Yawataya Isogoro Ichimi (Hot Japanese Chili) Kit Kat. Chili and chocolate make a great pair, and this Kit Kat boasts the roasted red pepper from Nagano Prefecture.
The last we’ll feature here—but certainly not the last flavor available—are the creamy, fruity limited-edition Yokohama Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kats and the Kobe Pudding flavored Kit Kats inspired by a caramel-topped custard pudding dessert Kobe city is known for.
Specialty Kit Kats
Nestle Japan also produces speciality Kit Kats for all kinds of tastes, ranging from some less sweet options to decadent chocolate and custard.
There are several luxurious, Sake-inspired Kit Kat flavors available in Japan. There’s a rich and tangy Yogurt Sake Kit Kat, a sweet and tart Yuzu Sake Kit Kat, and a fruity, fragrant Ume (plum) Sake Kit Kat. These sake powder-infused Kits Kats actually contain a bit of alcohol, so please enjoy responsibly.
Otona No Amasa means “sweetness for adults.” This line of Kit Kats is perfect for more mature tastes, including a dark chocolate version of the original Kit Kat and a raspberry-flavored Kit Kat that’s a perfect balance between sweet and tart thanks to flecks of freeze-dried raspberry.
Kuchidoke Kakao, or “melt in your mouth,” Kit Kats are the perfect treat for chocolate-lovers. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a Custard Pudding flavored Kit Kat that’s baked to give it a caramelized surface. Similarly, there’s a Butter Cookie Kit Kat that can be “baked” in a toaster oven.
Tea-Flavored Kit Kats
Green tea flavored Kit Kats were introduced in 2004. Today, there are several different Kat Kat varieties showcasing this fan-favorite ingredient.
There’s a three-tier matcha series including Matcha Otona No Amasa, Dark Matcha Otona No Amasa, and a Matcha Leaves Kit Kats. Each features a different amount of matcha, making for different balances of sweetness and bitterness.
There’s also the regional Kyoto Uji Matcha Kit Kat. Kyoto is home to some of the highest quality matcha. The greenest of the bunch, the Matcha no Chikara (The Power of Matcha) Kit Kat is made with concentrated matcha.
The Kit Kat Chocolatory produces high end Kit Kat products, including five tea-infused flavors: Genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice), Gyokuro (high quality green tea), Hojicha (roasted green tea) Kocha (black tea), and Oolongcha (a Chinese tea).
With all these Kit Kats and more being produced every year, where does one begin? Well, you can find some of this year’s most popular Kit Kats on our Market. Which flavor will you try first?