Meet the genius behind the Japanese Kit Kat flavors

Green and peach-colored Kit Kat chocolate being poured into candy molds beside metal canisters full of ingredients
A demonstration of the art of Kit Kat-making
Photo: AFP Contributor (Getty Images)
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It is my dream to someday go to Japan. I tell myself I would like to see Tokyo and Kyoto and hike the Kumano Kodō (ideally with my dog, because in dreams, you can do anything), but I know myself and I know that the first thing I would do once I land is run to the nearest convenience store and buy up all the Kit Kats I can find. And then I will keep going to convenience stores because, as I have just learned from this video from Great Big Story, there have been 400 Kit Kat flavors in Japan since they were introduced there in 1973, and they vary from region to region.

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The current genius behind Kit Kat Japan’s flavors is Yasumasa Takagi, a classically trained pastry chef. He says that when he started at Kit Kat, all the flavors had a milk chocolate base, but he changed all that. He’s developed more than 50 flavors that have become part of the permanent Kit Kat canon—the first was passionfruit—and countless prototypes. In the video, he gives a brief demonstration of how he makes Kit Kats (which is not that much different from how Americans do it), but he is close-mouthed about his creative process. All he will say is that he wants to make people happy and “Unless there’s a wide variety of Kit Kats, it’s not possible for a wide range of people to be happy.” Amen, my brother!

One thing I learned from this video is that Kit Kats are popular in Japan not just because they are delicious and because they come in infinite varieties, but because the word “Kit Kat” sounds like the Japanese kittokatsu, which means “You’re bound to win.” Consequently, Kit Kats have become a popular way for Japanese people to wish each other good luck. There is even a little square on the packaging of some Kit Kats so people can write personal messages. This is something we Americans should really embrace, because we all need a little luck, don’t we, and why shouldn’t it come with chocolate wafers?

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

I went to Japan a couple of years ago with some friends. It’s more affordable than I had been worried about - we stayed in a lot of small, business-class hotels that were really lovely (especially the one that served breakfast). It was really easy to see a lot in a short amount of time.

Definitely try to at least book one night in a hot springs hotel. We went to one in Gero, which had a shop in town with little puddings you could buy that were warmed by hot spring waters, so you could put your feet in the hot spring in front of the store and eat pudding.

The food is amazing. The food is amazing. Even the convenience store stuff. If only there were a local option that sold the pre-packaged bento boxes you could bring on the trains...