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11 Japanese Kit Kats To Know (and Love, or Skip)

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We'd already eaten two bowls of soba noodles, bought new luggage, picked up souvenir socks, and made three laps around the Narita Airport dining and shopping concourse when I found them.

Break me off a piece of *that*.
Break me off a piece of *that*. Photo by James Ransom

Not that bags of them weren't ubiquitous—but the little food stall hiding behind all the Hello Kitty and anime stands in Terminal 1 was exactly the kind of place I imagined tipsily purchasing $70 of duty-free Kit Kats. Or something like that.

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Because let's be real: Japanese Kit Kats, in their range of wacky flavors, are way more fun than their one-dimensional American cousin. (I hear they're even introducing a sake-flavored version.) I'd go even as far to say that this video of a Kardashian telling you how to eat a Kit Kat would be better if it starred a Japanese one.

But what was I more excited about? Getting all the excellently-packaged candy back in one piece to test out on fellow Food52ers. Because with flavors like rum raisin, Shinshu apple, strawberry cheese cake, and wasabi, I anticipated some triumphs of flavor (and perhaps some duds along the way). Below are all the flavors we tried, and a peek inside our Kit Kat taste test:

Red Bean Paste

Red bean paste shows up in all kinds of Japanese sweets—we had it in everything from pancakes shaped like fish to bite-sized chestnut morsels. This Kit Kat claims to hail from Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost region/island, and it pleased not one, but many, editors (well, with the exception of Kristen).

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Sarah: Smells beany! This is one of the best ones.

Kristen: I don’t think red bean pairs well with cheap chocolate.

Josh: Red bean gets a thumbs up.

Kristen: It’s just... the chocolate flavor is more present.

Caroline: The red bean is my favorite—very different, not too sweet, a little earthy, but still chocolatey, which, to be honest, will always be what I want from a Kit Kat.

Shinshu Apple

Japan's Shinshu Province is present-day Nagano prefecture, right smack dab in the Japanese Alps and often covered in a thick blanket of snow. Apples are prized from this region—hence its signature Kit Kat flavor. According to the editors, it tasted like a number of things, with the exception of apple.

Kristen: The apple ones smells like an Airhead.

Kenzi: This tastes like an apple Jolly Rancher.

Leslie: It reminds me of Dramamine.

Olivia: Definitely tastes like cough syrup.

Alexis: I taste bubblegum and banana.

Josh: I like what I’m seeing here. If I had to guess, I would have said fruit punch.

Wasabi

Wasabi is synonymous with Japanese cuisine—and this Kit Kat pays tribute to the spicy condiment, which is said to have its roots in Shizuoka, an oceanside city just south of Tokyo and Yokohama.

Leslie: I can't tell if it tastes like wasabi—I think it's just green white chocolate.

Kenzi: Yeah, this is just a marketing stunt…oh…actually…it just tastes like somebody buried wasabi under a million comforters. This is like princess and the pea.

Francesca: Not crazy overpowering. Kind of cool!

Olivia: The best, hands down.

Wa-Ichigo Strawberry

Strawberries are at their reddest in Japan—naturally plump and brighter than I've ever seen. They're a prized fruit among the Japanese, so it seemed only natural that there would be a Kit Kat in their honor. But alas, I only got one taker for this one.

Hannah: The strawberry one tastes... pink.

These are not Kit Kats, nor Japanese strawberries, but you get the idea.
These are not Kit Kats, nor Japanese strawberries, but you get the idea. Photo by James Ransom

Strawberry Shortcake

I really thought this one would be a hit—perhaps with hopes too high that the Mt. Fuji-shaped box these Kit Kats arrived in would sway opinions.

Jane W.: Chapstick.

Victoria: Too sweet!

Micki: How do I get this taste out of my mouth?

Rum Raisin

A Tokyo-specific Kit Kat for reasons I've yet to uncover (if you know, please save me from my ignorance), Rum Raisin seemed doomed for the shove-off to me, a flavor no one would deem worthy.

Victoria: It's good! Tastes like Christmas.

Jane W.: Grape?

Sarah: They all taste the same! I can’t taste this one at all. Also, who eats rum raisin?

Kristen: I actually like the rum raisin!

Give it the ol' one-two whisk.
Give it the ol' one-two whisk. Photo by James Ransom

Matcha

The most widely available Japanese flavor in the United States, Matcha Green Tea Kit Kats come in larger bags and I assumed they'd be the crowd favorite. Mostly true, but not 100 percent.

Carmen: The matcha one has a strong aftertaste.

Josh: Ok, I'm walking away. I like the red bean better than green tea.

Victoria: Pretty yum. White chocolate!

Francesca: This one's good, subtle.

Caroline: The matcha one really tastes like matcha! Or like matcha ice cream.

Kumamon Matcha

The only discernible differences between Kumamon Matcha and popular matcha, according to testers: They're filled with matcha and covered in dark chocolate. And its box is covered with the face of Kumamon, the giant bear mascot of Kumamoto prefecture in Japan.

Jane W.: Dope, but the dark chocolate overpowers the matcha!

Clare: This tastes like a regular Kit Kat. What gives?

Sakura Matcha

Third matcha's the charm? This version mixes matcha and sakura (cherry blossom) flavors, and perhaps, for some, is the ideal Japanese Kit Kat. For our one bold taster? Not so much.

Micki: Mostly just tastes like white chocolate. Definitely no cherry blossom or matcha.

No citrus were harmed in the making of these Kit Kats.
No citrus were harmed in the making of these Kit Kats. Photo by James Ransom

Citrus Golden Blend

Fresh fruit in Japan is wildly flavorful, so strong sometimes I felt it must be fake (no fear, all natural!). These citrusy Kit Kats, inspired by the island Shikoku region, use this to their advantage, employing orange, lemon, and lime.

Kristen: This tastes like Orange Julius!

Sarah: You think everything tastes like Orange Julius!

Kristen: Also, all of these remind me of Flinstone's vitamin flavors.

Purple Sweet Potato

While sweet potatoes don't particularly inspire tropical thoughts, purple sweet potato is native to the Japanese island of Okinawa—so why not make a Kit Kat flavor out of it?

Clare: This is boring. And too sweet.

Sarah: I ate Sweet Potato Kit Kats the whole time I was in Indonesia, and we thought it was creme brûlée.

Francesca: I like it more than the other sweet ones. But it's sweet.

Carmen: I think it definitely tastes like sweet potato.

If you've got a favorite flavor of Japanese Kit Kats, shout—and if you feel like we've got it all wrong, tell us why.