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!