Back home, KitKat was never really my go-to chocolate candy whenever my sweet tooth kicked in. I think that’s due in part to the wafer involved when, truthfully, I just need a solid piece of chocolate to satisfy my craving. And even though my preference has always been dark over milk chocolate, the only time I enjoyed a KitKat was when I had the urge to swoop in on the snack sized ones from my son’s trick-or-treat stash on Halloween. That is, until we landed in Japan!
Once we arrived in Japan, we quickly noticed the familiar brand but were confused with the flavor assortment. Why is there a teddy bear face on this white & yellow KitKat wrapper? Oh, yeah, it’s Rilakkuma Maple Syrup (Rilakkuma is a popular Japanese character and pancakes are his favorite). That totally makes sense, right? Sure, let’s try it! Our newfound attitude on the plethora of KitKat flavors in this innovative country.
According to Nestlé, “KitKat has been the country’s favorite chocolate since 2012. KitKat fans in Japan have been able to choose from varieties including Purple Potato, Cinnamon Cookie, European Cheese, Bean Cake and Wasabi - unwrapping sticks of pale green, delicate pink and lilac chocolate that look and taste very different from those anywhere else in the world.” I haven’t been privy to the flavors mentioned above, but I can definitely vouch for the unusual selection available at convenience shops, grocery stores and the mother lode, Narita International Airport!
Buzz about the grand opening of KitKat Chocolatory on January 17, 2014 quickly hit social media last week. Located on the ground floor of Seibu Ikebukuro, follow the signs for Seibu Exit from JR Ikebukuro Station. You’ll immediately notice the KitKat Chocolatory signs at Seibu’s entrance or eventually run into the vibrant display of advertising on the pillars.
Frankly, what I had envisioned was nowhere near reality. In fact, I was disappointed for several reasons. First, “Chocolatory” did not play out to be a chocolate factory (I guess that was already covered by Willy Wonka). Bummer! Second, two of the three premium flavors were sold out. We ended up with “Special Chilli,” a combination of sweet & pungent kneaded pepper roasted carefully as cream between the layers of the wafer (it is actually pretty good!). Third, where are all of the other non-premium flavors? That’s right, this is definitely not the store to visit if you’re looking for a one-stop shop for exclusive flavors, regional specialties or to admire the colorful artwork designs of each package.
On the other hand, there were a handful of touches that made the exclusive trip worth visiting. The KitKat chandelier and the KitKat cake immediately caught my attention. So, yeah, it’s a chocolate boutique! On a Monday afternoon, the wait time was only ten minutes. In the process of getting to the goods, you’re entertained with a promotional video that showcased the making of the KitKat premium flavors by renowned Pastry Chef, Takagi Yasumasa of Le Patissier Takagi. We learned a smidgen of history dating back to 1937 and its original packaging, but unfortunately could not read the descriptions in kanji. However, the name of the premium flavors were also written in English! For a limited time, you will receive a gift with purchase if you spend 4,200 yen. We ended up with a 12-piece mini pack of Amaou Strawberry from Kyushu island in southern Japan, known for their very sweet strawberries.
If you’re already going to be in the Ikebukuro area, then definitely give KitKat Chocolatory a visit. I wouldn’t add this to my itinerary as a first time visitor to Tokyo either. Unless this chocolate boutique improves on stock of premium flavors, offers samples, or continues the gift with purchase, you’ll be just fine by visiting your nearest convenience store for that KitKat bar!
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Originally from San Diego, California, I lived in Japan for 4-1/2 years and now I am currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. In December 2010, I arrived in Yokosuka with a new outlook on my future. Mainly, to refocus on family and let my curiosities take us to places we’ve only dreamt of. Along the way, we’d hopefully develop new friendships and simply collect memories to last a lifetime. Then, there was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. I will never forget that experience and the devastating effects it had on the entire country. I asked the community, “What can I do to help?” Collecting, sorting, and packing donations, was the least I could do. I also ended up going back to California for one month, raised a small monetary donation for Red Cross, and secured a few phone interviews to help spread the word on how others from the United States could assist. I was determined to show my family, friends, and folks across the world that it would be okay to return to Japan. After all, I wanted them to know that all of the little things that make up this beautiful country still existed. What better way than to use a platform such as JapanTravel.com to share photos and stories full of life, history, and culture. It is a pleasure to say I have contributed more than 150 articles to a database that now collectively holds more than 15,000! This journey has not only allowed me to realize my initial goals, but I’d like to think that it has somehow played a role in sparking an interest locally and across the globe for others to experience all that is published here and more. I invite you to also share your wonderful stories, offer comments, and ask questions right here on JapanTravel. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Safe travels! ٩( ๑╹ ꇴ╹)۶