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Friday, April 7, 2017

Side Quest: Kit Kats

Hey again! 

For this post, I thought I'd touch on a subject very important to me: food. Japan is very well known for its unique variety of excellent culinary experiences, particularly in the areas of seafood and noodles. While these dishes are undoubtedly fantastic and no trip to Japan would be complete without experiencing them, Japanese food culture is unique even in the most common foods, down to things like potato chips and candy.  

While I, for the most part, am not overly fond of the multitude of chocolate bars that are available, there is just something I enjoy about Kit Kats. Lucky for me, Japan is a veritable Kit Kat paradise. 

As such, I decided to make it a personal goal to collect as many different kinds of Kit Kat as I possibly could while in Japan. Look at it this way, if the main quest of my time in Japan is to study, then collecting Kit Kats is one of a multitude of side quests that I'm partaking in. One month in, I have found enough kinds that I thought it apropos to make a blog post about them. As my time here continues, and I (hopefully) find more kinds, I will edit this page to add the new flavors. 

So now to the good part!

For a frame of reference I would give the normal Kit Kat a 9/10 candy bar rating, or CBR.

Also, in the interest of transparency, I would like to note that I have also found dark chocolate Kit Kats here, but as they are very common in the United States as well, I did not feel the need to include them in my findings.

I'll start with the easiest one to find (aside from plain chocolate, of course). 

Green Tea. These are in almost every convenience and grocery store.

These are my personal favorite, so it's lucky for me that they're so easy to find. The flavor is hard to explain, but if you're a fan of tea, I'd recommend giving them a shot. They're not entirely different from the classic Kit Kat, but there's enough of a difference to give you a new flavor experience. 

CBR: 10/10

Next, comes raspberry. 


These are also very common. There is very little need to describe the flavor, as they basically taste like raspberries. They are very sweet, so they feel a bit richer than a traditional 'Kat. 

CBR: 8/10

Third, the other major berry: strawberry.


When I first tried these, I sort of assumed that there would be little difference between these and the raspberry ones. However, there was definitely a unique taste to each. While I can't say what it is in particular that makes me feel this way, I would give the slight edge in taste to raspberry. 

Edit: A brief internet search has led me to believe that I am likely in the minority in my belief that raspberry is better.

CBR: 7/10

Next, white chocolate.

White chocolate and classic mix.

While I believe white chocolate can be found in the States, I do not see it as often. This one, came in a package that was 50% white chocolate and 50% original. Again, the flavor is fairly self-explanatory. Would recommend.

CBR: 7/10

Now, off to the stranger flavors.
First on the list, comes Easter!


While I am aware that Easter is not a flavor, I have not had the chance to figure out what the actual flavor is yet. I will update this when I know. Upon testing it, I was still unable to make a guess as to what it is. This one is not one of my favorites, however. Though, to be fair, I tried it at the same time as some of the odder upcoming flavors, which may have impacted the taste. Wouldn't not recommend, wouldn't recommend either though. 

CBR: 5/10

On to the underdog winner of the group so far, what I can only guess is cherry tomato and almond!

Cherry tomato-almond

I definitely had my doubts about this one before trying it, but I found it to be a delicious surprise. As you can see by the packaging, the tomato and almond are there as a complement to the chocolate rather than a replacement. This allows the pair of ingredients to give a nice savory clash with the normal sweetness of the chocolate. Highly recommend.

CBR: 9/10

Next, ginger!

While I had no idea what this was when I purchased it, I have since been told that it is in fact ginger. Tasting confirms this. In my opinion, this is an average candy bar. While it is no way a bad bar, it seems to lack the greatness of the original Kit Kat. There is only a slight tinge of ginger flavor, not the true bite that comes from eating just ginger.

CBR: 6.5/10

Next, sakura and roasted soy bean.

Sakura and Roasted Soy Bean
This is probably the most conflicting bar of the group. While I quite enjoy the flavor that contributed by the sakura (cherry blossom) half, I do not particularly like the flavor of the soy bean. Unfortunately, the soy bean seems to dominate the flavor and texture, giving this bar the feel of eating an agricultural product rather than a sweet.

CBR: 3/10

Finally, sake.

Japanese Sake
This one is about what you'd expect. It smells just like the real thing, tastes almost like it, and very nearly gives you the headache that results. While I would recommend trying the flavor for the experience, I cannot recommend buying them as a daily sweet. Honestly, I've drank shots that went down easier than this bar. The actual drink is preferable to this in my opinion.

CBR: 1/10

Well, that's all for now! Be sure to check out this post periodically in case more flavors are added! I hope that perhaps this light-hearted post will add a little laughter to your week. :) 

And of course, I must give credit to this page for inspiring me to do my own review of the Kit Kats that I tried: http://kotaku.com/5983276/15-flavors-of-japanese-kit-kats-the-snacktaku-review 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The First Excursion

Hey again!

I know it's been awhile, so this will be the first post of a couple to make up for the missing time.

It's incredible how quickly things transition from being strange and new to normal. Things like riding the subway and sorting the garbage have gone from being confusing new experiences, to part of my daily routine. That said, sometimes I'm still not sure if I'm sorting refuse properly, but I'm not entirely certain that all the Japanese are able to either. The trips into downtown Nagoya that were big, new experiences, complete with guides and a helping hand, are now just day trips that we make when we have a free day. Of course, the reason that all these new things are so easy is really due to the locals. The people here are incredibly welcoming, and it's not uncommon to have strangers start a conversation. Even if you don't speak Japanese very well, just the knowledge that you're attempting to learn and want to visit their country makes many Japanese happy to help you. 

Now, for the actual trips!

Our first school excursion was a day trip to two different places. First, we stopped in Kōka City, Shiga Prefecture, where we painted our own ceramic cups. We are waiting on them to finish them, but as soon as I get mine back I will happily share my lack of art skills. The area is famous for the tanuki (literally, raccoon dog) and its ceramic artwork of the animal. 

Actual tanuki at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Ceramic tanuki in Kōka City

Our lunch after ceramics. The burner on the top right isn't just for keeping your food warm. It's fairly common for food here to be delivered uncooked and you're supposed to cook it while eating

A castle, whose name is unknown to me, that looked particularly scenic along the way. I love the contrast of the modernity of Japan as seen in both the foreground, through the gas station and apartments, and the background, through the windmills, with the older beauty of the forest and castle.
After finishing lunch, we moved onto our second visit of the day at Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in Iga City, Mie Prefecture. While I could not take pictures of the demonstration, it was quite a fun spot to stop. Along with the demonstration, there were many different exhibits with interesting historical items. It's a really great way to spend an afternoon.
A collection of shuriken (throwing stars) at the museum.

The museum itself was quite picturesque
Anyway, thanks again for reading! I'll be adding more soon!