Ladies and Gentlemen feast your eyes upon this.
Although I usually write about the seasonal specialty Kit-Kats on this blog there is another major variety of special Kit-Kats; area based flavours. These are Kit-Kat flavours that can only be bought from one specific place in Japan. Usually these come in a very nice presentation box and take the form of the two fingered Kit-Kat mini. What they’re perfect for is Omiyage. Omiyage is a Japanese practice wherein when one goes on holiday one has to bring back presents from that vacation for all your co-workers as a kind of apology for having been away and left them to do all the hard work. Since you have to get Omiyage for everyone in your office these usually need to be small individually wrapped presents, usually cakes or biscuits, which you can just leave on their desk.
Omiyage usually has something do with the specialty food of the region as well, which is another big Japanese cultural idea, food tourism. Japanese people strongly associate certain foods with certain areas in Japan. Hokkaido is famous for lamb, potatoes, butter and corn, Hiroshima with fresh seafood and a kind of okonomiyaki called Hiroshimayaki, Kobe, where I lived is famous for beef, Awaji which is nearby, is famous for onions, and so on and so forth. Japanese people think nothing of going to these places specifically to eat these foods, indeed there are special tours set up to do nothing but take busloads of gourmet tourists to some special area of Japan to eat the local delicacy and drive back again. In fact I’d go as far as to say that if you went someplace like Kinosaki and didn’t eat crab there Japanese people would stare at you like you’d been to Pisa and not seen the leaning tower. To them eating the local delicacy is the main reason for the trip in the first place.
Japanese culture is really focused on food guys; you’ll notice it fairly quickly if you ever visit.
As part of its on-going effort to become the most successful western import since baseball, trains and beer Kit-Kat is firmly placed to exploit the intersection between Omiyage, food tourism and laziness. Go to Niigata, what’s that famous for, pears? Well you can hardly bring back 40 odd pears on the bus. Ah but you can bring back pear flavoured Kit-Kats for your colleagues. And thus a whole new thing to collect was born, the area specific Kit-Kat.
Also I notice one of those posts is entitled Kit-Kats the Final Chapter. Oh how little you knew 2010 Mummyboon, how little you knew.
Enter a new player into the game though, people like me, aka sad lonely people with little going on in their lives who like to collect Kit-Kat flavours. I will grab every variety I see and stopped just short of planning journeys to places to get new Kit-Kat varieties (in that I never travelled to a city especially to get a flavour, I have been to special train stations and places within cities I know you need to go to get a flavour. I’m sad, not insane.)
Alas I thought I would never get all the regional varieties, I certainly would never have cause to travel to someplace like Niigata or Tohoku if I returned to Japan. Thus I felt I would never sample all the regional specialty Kit-Kats a nagging, gnawing thought that would keep me up at night and haunt me in my darkest hours. The dark break time of the soul if you will.
Just for people like me Nestle came out with one single box containing all of them, all 15 regional specialties!
Finding out about this was one of the happiest and most depressing moments of my life. Happy because I was overjoyed that such a beauteous thing could exist in this world, depressing because I knew I would never be free of my debilitating addiction to buying new Kit-Kats.
It’s a mental illness people, does nobody realise this blog is just an elaborate cry for help!?
Do you know how much this cost me to buy? £50.00, that’s about $75.00. When I showed this to my fiancee I pleaded with her to stop me buying it. The conversation went something like this.
“Sweetheart have you seen this?!”
“Oh wow, that’s awesome, are you going to buy it?”
“Really?! That’s a lot of money.”
“I know but I kind of have to buy it don’t I? I mean I can blog about it and Kit-Kats are kind of my thing.”
“But I have to right?”
“You do what you think is best darling.”
So I bought them, posted the fact that I had bought them on a popular social networking site and heard this from the other room.
“You actually bought them!”
She was clearly less than pleased with my monetary expenditure on 30 bars of chocolate. Evidently giving me choices and free will is some kind of test to determine if I will make the correct choices.
Which I did not. I suspect some of my ability to choose things will be curtailed in the future.
But she didn’t realise that I have no free will where Kit-Kats are concerned. I am a slave to my compulsions and she needed to stop me by telling me no, I was not allowed to spend money on chocolate bars from Japan.
This relationship needs a lot less mutual trust and a lot more her telling me what to do.
So I bought it, and it arrived, and I jumped up and down and ran round the house like a 5 year old on amphetamines because it is glorious.
There’s so much to talk about here I can’t do it justice in a single blog post so I’m going to start today by describing the overall display box it comes in and then dealing with the individual flavours one by one as quickly as I’m able. Daily, if all goes to plan.
So let’s look at the box, and what a box it is.
The outer cover is gloriously monochromatic, red and white. The colours of Kit-Kat, the colours of the Japanese flag, the colours of glory! We have a nice big Kit-Kat logo but surprisingly most of the box is more concerned with selling this as a Japanese thing. We have Mt Fuji, sakura blossoms, maple leaves and patterns similar to origami paper. The only stereotypical Japanese things we’re missing are samurai, robots and tentacle porn. I guess that’s because the real target market for this is people visiting Japan or living outside of Japan and they’re selling this as a souvenir for the whole country.
Except in that case why is almost all the text in Japanese? Are translators really that expensive? Does the Japanese hide numerous jokes about the pathetic weirdos willing to shell out for such a product? Sadly my own Japanese skills don’t extend that far and when I tried to make my live in translator (see fiancee above) she just smirked, looked at me funny and walked away laughing. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that.
The actual lay out is a bit of a kludge, the logo in the top left and Fuji in the bottom right make sense but we have a weirdly bare part in the middle right and a weirdly busy layout in the top left. Also we have a box explaining where the Kit-Kats are hiding, because apparently Nestle thinks most people can’t figure out what perforations might mean. Thanks Nestle, I sure can’t guess that I’m supposed to open them up to get my chocolate. If you hadn’t explained I would have just stared at the box in mute fury that there clearly aren’t any Kit-Kats in it.
Although thinking on maybe people prepared to pay £50.00 for 30 chocolate bars can be assumed to be quite stupid.
The real magic happens though when you open the box and unveil these contents.
Again everything here is selling an image of Japan first and foremost with the Kit-Kat brand really subservient to the idea of Japan as a brand and of Kit-Kat’s being a Japanese thing (which they’re not, they’re British). The only big Kit-Kat thing we get is another logo and even that is tucked out of the way, instead all the elements here are intended to evoke a certain Japanese feel. I mean it’s a map of Japan guys; it’s hardly going to evoke Bud Leigh Salterton.
But that map has loads of little symbols and other Japanese iconography, we get the famous bear from Hokkaido catching a fish, two dudes sharing a bath together, Mt Fuji, Shisa dogs from Kyushu, lots and lots of Japanese things and…
Is that a camel? In Japan? Are, are camels a Japanese thing?
To the internet…
Sooooo according to this guy and a few others camels are not native to Japan but there is a small desert area in Japan called Tottori and camels are kept there for the benefit of tourists.
So it’s a non-native animal in a tiny area known mostly for the fact that it differs from the eco-system in the rest of Japan. Hardly representative guys, maybe some tanuki would be better? Are the Nestle Japan offices located in Tottori or something? No apparently they’re in Kobe.
Wait, Kobe! Oh man! I lived there for three years, I never knew that! I could have gone on a pilgrimage and met the guy responsible for the new flavours! What a waste! Oh man now I feel depressed.
I’d better eat some chocolate to cheer me up.
Not a Kit-Kat though, I’m starting to go off them a bit.
Ha, had you fooled. No, I’m hopelessly addicted, to my eternal shame. No fear of me giving up on the Kat. As the kids call it.
No, no they don’t. The kids don’t call them that. I think I’m just rambling now.
Two last things about the packet I’d like to draw your attention to. Firstly I like the use of the golden clouds. Here they’re only meant to fill up negative space and make the packet more aesthetically pleasing but they also convey a certain sense of ancient Japan and harken back to a Japanese drawing technique I’ve always liked.
Check out this image from Christie’s for a sense
Although that’s a small image you can see that we have lots of images surrounded by golden clouds. In a sense this is an early form of sequential art (or comics if you’re not a pretentious arty type person like myself) with the clouds serving the separate individual scenes in a story, in the image above the story is the tale of Genji. Of course modern Japanese sequential art (or Manga if you prefer) uses standard panel borders, just white lines but I’ve always liked golden clouds, they add an air of fantasy and an atmosphere of history and elegance to a piece. They’re something uniquely Japanese and they really set a tone.
Last cool thing about the box it’s kind of like an advent calendar with several boxes, each containing two Kit-Kat minis and also with a picture in each box building up a new picture of Japan once you’ve opened every box. If your country doesn’t know what an advent calendar is they’re calendars with an image on the front and several windows, one for each day of advent or more normally these days one for every day in December. People use them to count down to Christmas. When you open the window you get a different picture of a traditionally Christmassy thing (angels, bells, snowmen, holly, etc) and usually some chocolate.
This is similar in that you open a window, get some chocolate and see another picture only without the Christmas theme.
Oh man Kit-Kat advent calendar, I need to pitch that one. Man why did I not realise the offices were in Kobe all along. So many wasted opportunities.
So let’s try our first flavour. Let’s start at the top right and work our way down to the bottom left, Japanese reading style. So we start with Tohoku and Edamame.
Edamame is an increasingly common snack outside of Japan but not so common I don’t feel the need to show off my superior foreign cultural knowledge to you. Ha ha, I have been to a foreign land and you have not peasant, come let me explain these strange green beans to you.
Edamame are soy beans boiled and salted in their pods. They have a nice savoury taste and go very nicely with a beer, making these possibly the first Kit-Kats intended to be eaten with a beer than with tea.
I heartily endorse this approach, indeed I want beer flavoured Kit-Kats as soon as possible and on my next trip to Kobe I will be making a special visit to the offices to explain my ideas (it can have sherbet so it’s fizzy and everything).
The packet confuses me because although the English on the back of the box promises me that this is an edamame Kit-Kat the picture on the front is clearly not some edamame.
Here is some edamame
Here is what we have a picture of
The Japanese says zunda edamame and some goggling mostly returned references to zunda Kit-Kats but I did eventually discover that zunda is a kind of cake made from a paste of ground up edamame
So it is a cake, and thus, not intended to be eaten with beer at all.
Before we move on can I point out how disgusting that stuff looks? I’m sure it is delicious but it looks like someone already ate it once and it didn’t agree with them. That particularly shade of baby poo green has to be one of the least appetising colours a chef can achieve. It’s almost artistic how gross that looks. Not helping, the fact that its pasty and glistening, it really helps sell the vomit comparisons in my brain.
Anyway moving on…
Also this means the English is lying to you guys either maliciously or possibly because translators are even more expensive than I thought.
Design wise the packet is basic but fine. The Kit-Kat logo is still too big and, par for the course with minis, the design is far too cluttered. I do like that the name of the flavour is shaped like a soybean, that’s a cute touch, I also like the Japanese font used which is kind of fresh feeling.
So soy bean cake flavoured Kit-Kat, how does it taste?
Like bland sweetness.
This Kit-Kat tastes of something, it doesn’t taste like white chocolate, it also doesn’t have the usual waxy or soapy taste of a coloured chocolate Kit-Kat but it emphatically does not taste of edamame and I couldn’t tell you what it does taste like. It’s not unpleasant though, it’s a nice clean flavour reminiscent of a melon almost. It also has almost no aftertaste and wipes your palate clean straight away. That makes it quite refreshing in a way which is unusual for chocolate. I’d compare it to eating sugar then drinking a glass of water, sweet without any particular flavour and then gone.
So that’s it today guys. We’re working our ways through these Kit-Kats over the next few weeks so come back next Saturday and see what bizarre flavours Nestle has ready for us.