Japan’s Cuisine couture

10 years ago by in Travel

Anyone who has stopped over in Tokyo for more then 24 hours must have noticed something’s up with the Kit Kats here and all the wonderful flavours to be had. Like, what’s the deal with that? Turns out Kit Kat in Japanese sounds like ‘kitto katsu’, meaning ‘you will win’. Awesome for Nestle, great for Japan. Sucks for the rest of us because we don’t get cool Kit Kats …

However, sometimes there’s a neat little story behind that wacky flavour chocolate you’re considering buying;

Daigakuimo 大学いも is a popular dish in Japan made from sweet potato. The first time I saw this it made me laugh, at loud, in a shop surrounded by people (embarrassingly enough) because it was in the shops around the time of the university entrance exams and the Japanese for ‘University’ is also ‘daigaku’ 大学. KitKat usually make special flavours marketed towards high school kids during the exam period so they can give them to each other as morale raising presents! Horaay!

And then there’s Setsubun 節分. The time of year when people throw beans at a loved one in a devil mask chanting; "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" 鬼は外! 福は内! Which means, Go away evil, I don’t like you. go away. Oh, Hey there luck … come on in!

So ‘setsubun’ red bean Kit Kat is avaliable for a limited time. Of course Aero, Kit Kat’s jealous and often neglected cousin, also gets in on the act here as ‘black soy bean’. The little devil guy on the wrapper is also being uncharacteristically helpful – advising that the luckiest place to throw your beans this year is to the south-south-west. Hmmm …

Food is much more than a tasty snack here – it’s a window into the culture of Japan. It’s also rather faddish. Look closely next time you’re in your local friendly convenience store and you’ll find certain flavours and foodstuff becoming in vogue;

Such as the present craze for texture – from the ‘jelly’ in drinks, being promoted as being super for your skin, to the fragments of fruit flesh in your cocktail can. Case in point – plum wine crammed with chucks of jelly …

and a new drink called ’slat’ – すっらと. As slightly suggestive as ’surato’ sounds (if you’re as puerile as me, I challenge you to say it out loud and not giggle … go on, I‘ll wait …) it means ’slender’ or ‘thin’.

If you wish to take this analogy a little further – strawberry is Japan’s darling, the little black dress of flavouring – it comes back again and again and you can NOT move for the ’berry stuff in the sweet aisle at the moment. Like the New Strawberry ‘Pucca’ buscuits

or the Strawberry Calpis (read: Yoghurt) drink. And yes, the yoghurt thing does have booze in it …

Lastly, Chocolate is totally in this season. Bringing you the amazing ”Chocolate Sparkling” chocolate flavoured soda water – which I am really addicted to *opens 6th bottle today* but it’s cool man … I can quit anytime I want.

In addition there’s the er … erm … interesting chocolate ramen. Yes. You read that right. Ramen. That’s a picture of instant ramen. it comes with chocolate you put in yourself. Just so you know.

There you have it. Go out and enjoy. Just try not too get too attached. Everything is transitory. Just don’t expect the latest hip product you feel you can’t live without to be around forever. One day you might walk into your local 7-11 and find it resting sadly on the impulse-buy-clearance-table … WAAAA! DAMN IT! >_<