As we’ve discussed before, Japan has become famous (infamous?) in recent years for its startling variety of Kit Kat flavors. I’ve had my share of winners (mmm, strawberry), as well as my share of ones I’d never touch again with a ten-foot pole (I’m looking at YOU, Sake Kit Kat). But there’s one which the mere thought of eating makes some people’s heads spin: the Wasabi Kit Kat.
Kit Kats in Japan
Like Japan itself, Kit Kat is a confection with a long and storied history. Born in the UK in 1935, it wasn’t until 1973 that Kit Kat made its way into Japan. But in the year 2000, a play on words really shot it into stardom.
Winning With Kit Kat
Japan loves wordplay! Watching any comedy skit or variety show will tell you that much. The name ‘Kit Kat’ is awfully close phonetically to the Japanese expression, ‘kitto katsu,’ which literally translates to ‘you’ll definitely win’. It’s another way to say ‘good luck’!
High school students in Kyushu began exchanging Kit Kats before exams to wish each other luck. Nestle quickly capitalized on the trend, launching the ‘Kitto Katsu’ campaign. This included Kit Kat wrappers with encouraging messages on them, and a collaboration with the Japan Post Office to create ‘Kit Kat Mail’, a postcard-like service in which you could mail these auspicious Kit Kats to friends.
A Variety of Unique FlavorsKeeping up with Japanese convenience stores' demand to rotate products requires a steady flow of new ideas. Click To Tweet
To say that Kit Kat is popular in Japan is perhaps an understatement. According to Toyo Keizai, nestle sells some 15 million units each year. Partially owing to that popularity is the huge variety of flavors. Since the launch of Matcha Green Tea Kit Kat in 2004, Nestle has released over 350 flavors to date.
The reason for this variation is the demand for Japanese convenience stores to constantly rotate items on their shelves. However, keeping up with the demand requires a steady flow of new ideas. Many Japanese prefectures even develop Kit Kats based on local specialties. This leaves plenty of room for experimentation.
An interview with Kaori Murata of Nestle Japan, who developed around 100 of the 350+ flavors, reveals the difficulties getting Kit Kats to actually taste like the flavors they’re supposed to represent.
While some prefectures have delicious delicacies that make great candy bars – such as Shinshu Apple from Nagano, and my personal favorite, Momiji Manju from Hiroshima – other delicacies are less chocolate-friendly…
Birth of the Wasabi Kit Kat
You probably know wasabi as the spicy, sinus-clearing green paste that goes on sushi. But would you ever pair it with chocolate?
A certain shop in Shizuoka did just that. Shizuoka, the birthplace of wasabi, produces 80% of Japan’s annual supply. Tamaruya Honten is a specialty wasabi shop boasting 140 years of business, famous for authentic, high-quality wasabi products.
Partnering with Kit Kat, Tamaruya Honten decided to create a local flavor true to Shizuoka’s pride. They sprinkled some of their high-quality wasabi powder onto some white chocolate wafers, and voila! The Wasabi Kit Kat was born!
Do Wasabi Kit Kats Taste Good?"It's delicious. Even people who don't like wasabi can enjoy it." Click To Tweet
Curious about what people thought of the unusual flavor, I tore into several online blogs and surveys. How popular is the Wasabi Kit Kat in Japan? What do people think of the taste?
One blog describes it as “not extremely spicy,” and “easy to eat” for children. Another blogger describes its smell: “When you open the package, you smell the faint scent of wasabi. When you eat it, that scent passes gently through your nose…”
A third blogger describes the taste: “The flavor is definitely recognizable as wasabi with your first bite. However, it is also really sweet thanks to the white chocolate. The wasabi powder sprinkled may make your tongue tingle, but not enough to cause irritation or sting your nose. It’s delicious. Even people who don’t like wasabi can enjoy it.”
The verdict: it definitely smells and tastes like wasabi. But with the chocolate balancing it out, it’s nowhere near the nostril-opening impact you’d get from actual wasabi.
Wasabi Kit Kat Popularity
Next, I checked out some rankings. A Tabizine survey ranks their top 15 Kit Kat flavors, based on preference. Wasabi is nowhere on the list! Several other ranking sites yielded similar results.
However, according to another survey of the top Kit Kat flavors to buy as souvenirs, wasabi ranked 3rd!
My theory is that the majority of Wasabi Kit Kat purchases come from tourists as souvenirs. Though I didn’t see any blatantly negative reviews, it doesn’t seem very high on people’s lists of top flavors, either. Which surprised me, considering Japan’s variety of and love for unique dishes, the wasabi brand’s great reputation, and Shizuoka’s pride in their products.
Try It Yourself (From Anywhere in the World)
Wondering whether the wasabi Kit Kat is right for you? Wonder no longer! Thanks to the wonders of modern shipping, you can enjoy it anywhere in the world.
On Amazon, you can pick up a box of 12 mini bars of wasabi Kit Kat. Think of it as the perfect party challenge! (Links to Amazon are affiliate links; Unseen Japan earns a commission if you make a purchase.)
If you’re just one person, that’s a bit of a commitment. You may instead consider Nestle’s more well-rounded box of 18 miniature Japanese Kit Kats. And yes, Wasabi is included! But you also get a chance to try other assorted Japanese favorites, including strawberry shortcake, green tea, and rum raisin.
I did try Wasabi Kit Kat once myself some years ago. However, unlike the wasabi powder used in the Kit Kats, the experience is no longer fresh in my mind.
I’m pretty sure I’d remember if I hated it. Likewise, I’d also remember if it ranked amongst my favorites. Since I don’t recall either of the two, I probably sided with most of the reviewers – that it was decently good, but nothing to write home about.
However, I just may have to give the Wasabi Kit Kat another chance with fresh tastebuds. And I’d encourage any curious readers out there to try yourself at least once!
What to Read Next
 キットカット・ヒストリー. Nestle JP
 キットカットは「きっと勝つとぉ！」 受験生応援で日本化に大成功. SankeiBiz
 ｢キットカット｣が､こんなにも愛される理由. Toyo Keizai
 キットカットを100種類作った人が、いちばん苦労した味は？TBS Radio
 Tamaruya Honten
 静岡のお土産にキットカットの田丸屋わさび味を買ってみた. Turbulence
 キットカット 田丸屋本店わさび. 北の暮らし
 自然豊かな静岡の名物を使った「キットカット わさび」試食レビュー. GigaZine.