So, back in December I said something like, Can you believe I’ve never seen a peanut butter KitKat? Never mind that as far back as 2003 or 2004 I actually did have a Peanut Butter Chunky KitKat bar in Canada. I didn’t write about it at the time and wouldn’t even have remembered it if I hadn’t dug up an old point & shoot snapshot while nostalgia-diving.
Anyway, fast forward to last week, when some friends returning from Mexico brought me a little package of goodness:
Look familiar? It’s the same Nestle travel pack that the earlier Hazelnut Cream KitKats came in, except this is a variety pack containing milk chocolate, white chocolate, and… peanut butter! Like the others, these were made in Bulgaria, presumably for sale in airports around the world. So without further ado:
The Big Kat / Chunky / KitKat Bar form factor is really nice if you’re a chocolate lover. It’s thick enough that you get a really nice, toothy bite, it’s not likely to melt beyond recognition, and if the chocolate is tasty, there’s no better way to show it off. As we saw from the World Variety KitKats, Japan’s milk chocolate is just okay, and America… not so much. But in Europe, it’s definitely a winner: sweet, but not cloying; creamy; with maybe just a touch of marzipan on the tongue.
Better yet, the top layer of wafer has been replaced by a thick well of pure, creamy peanut butter, not noticeably sweet & with a nice hit of salt (this in distinct contrast to the hazelnut cream from above, which was much more candylike). The saltiness is a beautiful complement to the chocolate, like a super-luxe peanut butter cup, and with a silky smooth texture combined with the crunch from the wafers you have a really nice bonus interplay of textures. Plus, it’s a Chunky bar, so you get a lot more of it! Wins all around.
I only wish the box just had six peanut butters in it instead of two of each flavor! I’m going to have to find more — a lot more.
In related news, the supply of Japanese KitKats seems to be drying up on this side of the Pacific. I don’t know if Nestle is scaling back in general or if people have stopped importing them for some other reason, but none of my usual sources here and in Canada have seen a new flavor in months. If you’re lucky, you can find white, dark or matcha adult sweetness bars, but otherwise nothing. End of an era? Would be sad.
So I was on a cruise. I have some things to say about that but they’ve been coming slowly. Also sunburn! In general, though, it was really great.
Somehow this is the first time we’ve had a hard liquor-based KitKat flavor? I have to say, I fully approve of this trend. On the other hand, rum raisin as a concept is like the nightmare stuff of my candy childhood. I’m pretty sure those horrible lollipops were always at the bottom of the Halloween bag, right between the Good & Plentys and candy corn.
As an adult, though (read: well past college), I have managed to learn to appreciate rum as a beverage (it helps to be surrounded by lushes at work). And since Tokyo is synonymous with quality rum, …! Um. Anyway.
These KitKats are fresh from Narita Airport, thanks to Jet & family, and are the first regional flavor I’ve tried since finishing up the motherlode. There are twelve sets of foil-wrapped minis inside the attractive gift box, and the first thing you get on tearing open the wrapper is a super-strong wave of more-raisiny-than-rummy sweetness. The flavor is kind of that in reverse, tasting distinctly of dark rum with only a hint of raisin, but still very sweet. It’s fairly one-note, but the liquor prevents it from being boring.
I don’t know if I love it, but they’ll do for now. I certainly wouldn’t mind if this meant some bourbon or other whisky-based KitKats in my future. No ouzo, though — Good & Plentys have not gotten any more appealing with age.
Shogoin yatsuhashi are crispy cinnamon-flavored confections from Kyoto. I’ve never tried them, but I do love cinnamon! And that’s a flavor we haven’t seen in a KitKat yet, so I was excited. I’d had no clue what these were when I first pulled them out of the box, so I’d left them for the end. I’m glad I did, because they’re a really nice way to end the tour of the motherlode we started over a year ago.
The bars are coated in a pale yellow white chocolate covering, speckled with brown. An inviting cinnamon aroma wafts from the wrapper, and biting into them delivers on that promise in a big way. The flavor has a real punch, kind of like chewing on a handful of red hots: not super-spicy, but definitely more than the mild hints of cinnamon I was expecting. And those little flecks? Something like flakes of hard cinnamon candy, which deliver additional explosions of flavor in addition to a beautiful crunch that I’d never encountered before in a KitKat. The spice is balanced perfectly by a good but not overpowering sweetness.
Fifteen minutes later, my mouth is still tingly and comfortable. Mmmm. Would definitely eat again.
Well, that’s the end. I’ll write up what appears to be a Kyoto limited edition matcha flavor, left in the box, at some point in the future, but I’m expecting it to be more or less identical to the normal matcha flavor we know and love. I do have to give a shout out to my wonderful sister-in-law, Amy, who was the Secret Santa who had this motherlode sent to my door. Thanks, sweetie! I love you! Now I’ll have to get back to doing my own legwork.
Amaou strawberries are super-premium strawberries grown in Fukuoka province, plump, round, and apparently delicious. The name means “Sweet-Large,” which I guess is really on the nose, but hopefully not ironic in the way “Red Delicious” seems to be. I’ve never been lucky enough to try these strawberries, but I have tried a ton of different strawberry KitKats, so I was really curious about these.
The bars are coated in a light pink, flavored white chocolate. The fragrance is very candy-strawberry — that is, a lot like most of the other strawberry KitKats I’ve had. Flavor-wise, they’re nice. I had been hoping for some acid, especially after reading some articles about Amaou strawberries, but these are not even remotely tart. Let’s not beat around the bush — they’re quite sweet. But they also have a round, very fruity flavor that lingers in a pleasant way for a good while after you eat them. They’re probably most comparable to the old rich strawberry KitKats from 2009, or 2012’s Takagi Strawberry Tarte.
Long story short, they’re good. And for some reason, I really want to have a glass of red wine now.
Speaking of regional luxury foods, they haven’t made a Kobe Beef KitKat yet. As far as I know! But I would totally eat that. Once.
Shikoku is a region known for producing mandarins and sour citrus fruits like sudachi, and yuzu. This limited edition KitKat highlights sudachi and mandarin orange, as well as lemon. The fragrance and flavor, combined with the white chocolate base, pretty much exactly resemble a creamsicle. Was I complaining about fruit flavors the other day? Because if you know me, I’m a cheap date if you’ve got orange cream.
Ew, that sounds about a thousand times grosser than it was when I thought it.
ANYWAY. The bars are pale orange, like you might expect, and the initial flavor is quite sweet, but smooth. What really wins is the aftertaste, which is subtly tart with bitter overtones, very much reminiscent of zest or candied peel. The effect is almost effervescent, without being as in-your-face as the Lemon Squash KitKats from a couple years back. And I’m kind of glad there’s some exotic fruit in here. I’ve been wanting to try a yuzu-based KitKat for a while, and sudachi is a nice substitute.
I’ve only got two more left to try in the motherlode. I’m already worrying about finding a new source! But it’s been a nice run.
I might as well just rename this site The James Bond Kit Kat Blog. Come to think of it, I could use a redesign around here. But!
Strawberry cheesecake! We’ve tried a bunch of cheesecake flavors before (pumpkin, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry), as well as at least four other strawberry varieties. The ones that haven’t been too sweet have been very good. How do these measure up?
These are another regional specialty from the motherlode box. I’m not exactly sure how Yokohama is known for strawberry cheesecake, but it seems like their variety is probably not too different from your standard version, at least if the flavor of the KitKats are to be trusted. I’m not sure these aren’t exactly the same as the other strawberry cheesecake bars from four years ago. The chocolate coating is very pale pink — almost white — with a slightly tangy fragrance that doesn’t really translate to the flavor. There is just the tiniest hint of tartness, and I don’t know if that’s supposed to be from the cheese or the fruit, and it doesn’t really remind me of strawberry at all. And mostly, it’s just sweet. Too sweet.
Guess that seals the deal?
So far the winner of the cheesecake KitKats is not even a cheesecake at all, but European Cheese, which is also still the weirdest flavor I’ve ever had. And for strawberry, I think I put the Takagi Strawberry Tarte on top, although there’s still a strawberry something-something in the ‘lode. We’ll see that soon enough, promise!
Also, may I just say I appreciate that Nestle’s packaging these things in 69-calorie servings? My waistline is grateful.
Le Lectier pears are a variety of European pear, grown in and associated with Niigata Prefecture. As far as I can tell, they’re only called “Le Lectier” in Japan, named after a 17th-century French pomologist who collected and grew hundreds of pear varieties in his orchard. In other news, that the word “pomologist” exists & that I could use it in this review makes me very happy.
We’ve covered several varieties of apple KitKats to date, but never pear. I actually like pears quite a lot, so I was excited to see these in the Niigata drawer. Opening the package reveals a milk-white coating, with a strong, somewhat strange fragrance that’s a little pear and a lot butter. The smell wasn’t promising to me at all — there was something a bit off about that combination. I think I was afraid it would translate into a heaviness of flavor, but I needn’t have worried. Biting into the bar, the flavor is purely fruit, and quite reminiscent of a real pear. Quite sweet, too, but fitting for the flavor.
I don’t think I could ever eat any reasonable quantity of any fruit KitKat I’ve tried so far, but they’ve mostly been quite good as one-offs. I’m glad this wasn’t an exception. There’s a few more fruit flavors in the box, but I’ll probably change it up a bit for next time.
Wikipedia says: “The science of Pomology has somewhat dwindled over the past century, with the number of accredited Pomologists at less than 200 worldwide, 12 of whom are in the US.” OMG THEY’RE DYING OFF.
Was going to work on something else tonight, but I was in a car accident and I don’t really want to do much thinking at all. KitKats, I can do, however. So!
Moving on to Kyōto:
I love tea. And consequently, I also love tea KitKats. You may recall we’ve covered a large number of matcha-based flavors here, as well as Jasmine. This time, we have a regional flavor based on hōjicha. Hōjicha [/ hojicha / houjicha] is a tea which is roasted over charcoal and has a pleasant, toasted flavor and distinctly brown color. Needless to say, I was excited to try it.
Things didn’t start well when I opened the package. The color of the bars is… not appetizing, sitting somewhere between Japanese curry roux and baby poop. Getting past that, though, things immediately started looking up. The flavor is really reminiscent of the tea, with nice grassy overtones but distinctly toasty. The bars are sweet, with a white chocolate base, but the bitterness of the tea balances the sweetness quite harmoniously. If you’ve ever had the straight matcha KitKats, you’ll know what I mean. They’re really delicious.
This is the first of the motherlode flavors I’m really sorry I don’t have a ton more of. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them in the future. And I’m really sorry about mentioning the baby poop. Just close your eyes!
Returning to the motherlode after a short break. This time our KitKat is from Okinawa!
So. I have to be honest here, I’ve never been a fan of those orange sweet potatoes that get roasted at holiday time with syrup and marshmallows and whatever else goes into that nasty casserole dish. I know, I know, I may need to turn in my midwesterner card for this. Yellow sweets? I love. Okinawan purples? Maybe even better. If you’ve not had them, they look pretty much like other sweet potatoes, only their skins are light-greyish or greyish-brown with marbled white and purple flesh. When they’re roasted, the flesh is moist, slightly gummier than other varieties but delicious. Their earthiness sits somewhere between yellow and orange. I put them in the oven, wrapped in foil, until they’re done, cut them in half and just scoop out bite by bite with a spoon — no other ingredients needed. Yum! And they’re so, so pretty. You can find them at Asian markets; I totally recommend them.
Oh yes, KitKats. Tearing open the wrapper reveals a pale purple, white chocolate coating, melty to the touch. The fragrance has a nice hint of earthiness. I’ve had sweet potato KitKats before — Satsuma imo, based on a snack made from yellows, candied, and sesame seeds. The purples have a purer flavor, with a good amount of that earthiness coming out in the flavor, which seems quite accurate. They are somewhat sweeter than I like, which may either be Nestle being Nestle or a reflection of how Japanese people like to eat purple sweets. I’ll admit I have no idea what that is.
As far as a straight comparison, I think I really liked the Satsuma imo KitKats, while these are enjoyable but mostly just okay. But it’s been quite a while. As for the specific tuber I’d like to taste, I’m still hoping someone will send me those elusive baked potato KitKats someday. A girl can dream!
Back to the Motherlode! I’ve been sick the last couple weeks so I didn’t trust my taste buds, but I think it’s time.
Red bean sandwiches! I didn’t even know these were a thing, but the idea sounds amazing, especially grilled in butter, piping hot, maybe a pot of oolong standing by. Maybe that’s not how it’s done, but the picture on the package suggests it, and really, how else would you do it?
These bars were in the Tōkai drawer of the box. I’ve had red bean-based KitKats before, but unfortunately that was before I did more detailed write-ups, so I’m not sure I can compare. I think there are oshiruko bars further down in the motherlode, so we’ll get a chance to revisit them, I hope. But really, these azuki sando KitKats aren’t kidding around — they taste exactly like red bean. I don’t even know if there is milk chocolate in the coating, as the bean flavor is so strong. There’s an initial hit of sugar, but overall it’s more muted. There may be a hint of salt in there too. It’s a nice, balanced sweetness.
What I do miss is any hint of “sandwich.” Maybe not being so sweet is supposed to evoke white bread? It’s a stretch, but that wouldn’t actually be far off from the effect. The real problem is that there’s neither a hint of butter or smoke to evoke toasting or grilling, which I was really looking forward to. Without the picture on front or the name, this is really a solid and unusual KitKat, but I can’t help feeling a little let down.
Still! Any KitKat day is a good day, right?
I really need to write some entries that aren’t KitKat-related, but they keep appearing in my life!
These were at Uwajimaya on Friday, just a bit late for Halloween, but I’m not going to complain. I’ve always been a big fan of pumpkin-flavored dessert, as long as it doesn’t go crazy with the pie spices — too much nutmeg can kill almost anything! From Japan, Pumpkin Pocky is still my favorite flavor of that treat, and last year we got Pumpkin Cheesecake KitKats, which were non-descript but were still better than the fakey orange-colored Halloween bars we get in America.
The packaging is super-cute, with each of the 13 pairs of wrapped mini bars illustrated with kawaii costumed characters, pumpkins and ghosts. Opening the foil you get a nice whiff of cocoa and cream. Coated in what (I think) the bag says is a mix of white chocolate, cocoa and pumpkin pudding, it looks like milk chocolate but isn’t at all bitter. In fact, the difference between the flavor and appearance kept confusing me as I ate.
Inside, there’s supposed to be pumpkin powder mixed into the cream filling. Hard to say, since the coating is much stronger in taste than what’s inside. The overall flavor effect is on the sweeter side, but not excessively so — very rounded and smooth. On the other hand, the pumpkin is extremely subtle, and there are no pie spices either (not necessary, by any means, but it would have added character), so it’ll probably be hard to remember what was so special about them in a few days. I would really like it if they gutted up one of these years and went with a truly earthy pumpkin flavor. Nestle, do you hear me? Roasted kabocha KitKats?
Still, if you filled my trick-or-treat bag with these, I wouldn’t complain!
Continuing the Shinshu tray of the motherlode, we have Shinshu Apple limited edition KitKats. These are the third apple-flavored KitKats I’ve tried, although unfortunately I don’t have detailed notes on the other two so I can’t really compare.
Opening the package, the fragrance is powerfully apple-like. The flavor when biting in is similarly strong, although it takes on a kind of artificiality, like a gala apple that rolled into the uncanny valley. If you’ve ever had a Kasugai apply gummy candy, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The coating is a soft milk chocolate, not overly sweet but distinctly cocoa-flavored, with strong hints of hazelnut. That’s nice.
Overall, I liked it, but it wasn’t one I’ll remember forever. I think a more realistic apple flavor could have taken it over the edge, but it’s worth trying as is.
Oh! I did an accounting the other day and realized these were the 73rd variety of KitKat I’ve tasted. 73! I don’t even know how that happened.
Remember The Motherlode? I’ve been really bad about tearing into it, mostly because the box is so pretty. But it’s time.
The top drawer in the box is labeled “Shinshu / Tōhoku.” The only flavor from Tōhoku is zunda mochi, which we’ve already covered. Shinshu has Shinshu Apple, which we’ll try next time, and these:
Ooh. Shiny. Gold.
Ichimi is a Japanese ground red chili, similar to Korean gochujang but spicier and not as sweet. I like some spice in my chocolate on occasion (most recently in Frost’s Aztec Chocolate Doughnut), and it does seem pretty trendy lately. I don’t know if the fad’s hit Japan yet, because it sure took a while to get some spicy KitKats. But were they worth the wait?
The first bite is subtle — the coating is soft, slightly melty, very dark. Not quite as dark as the Semisweet, but close: slightly bitter, strongly chocolate in flavor, it’s really a nice change from Nestle’s usual, over-sweet approach.
It’s only after a moment that the bitterness just kind of becomes heat, a transition so smooth that you almost wonder whether the taste was really bitter at all, or if it was just the first stage of spice. The fire is surprisingly strong, though it builds up slowly. Two bars and five minutes later heat was trailing all the way down my throat, warm and toasty.
If that all sounds very mellow, it’s because I’m super-happy now. This was probably my favorite new flavor in a very long while — well-balanced, delicious, and perfectly timed for the turn in the weather. I’m really glad that Nestle trusted the flavors enough not to blast us with sweetness for once. I’m also suddenly curious what a shichimi KitKat would taste like.
Well, that’s one down. Hopefully the rest of the box continues this trend!
I found these quite a long time ago at Uwajimaya in Bellevue. They’re all chocolate-flavored, but sourced from three different countries: Australia, England (United Kingdom), and Japan. If you’re wondering why the United States isn’t in there, it’s probably because Nestle doesn’t make American KitKats at all, and it wouldn’t be a very good comparison anyway.
This bag contains five double mini bars from England and Australia, and three from Japan (because the target audience would presumably already be familiar with them).
So! You don’t often get a chance to sample regional versions of well-known products side by side, so I think this was a really neat idea on Nestle’s part. Personally, I’d previously tried chocolate KitKats from the United States, Japan, Dubai and Canada, and aside from the American ones I don’t think I ever noticed a difference. So I was excited!
The printed descriptions are more informative and complex than anything I’ve tried to half-assedly translate before, so I’ll defer to this translation from MMM-FRUIT!:
- The UK (イギリス), also known as “The Birthplace” or Origin chocolate, features a burnt sugar and milk flavor, with a subtle amount (0.38%) of almond paste to bring out the flavor.
- Australia (オーストラリア), or “Proud of Mother Nature” chocolate, has a creamy vanilla taste. It contains 0.36% of a cream powder to give it a sweet taste.
- Japan (日本), or “Balance” chocolate, is just that: a balance of aroma and flavor.
Both the Australian and British bars were very noticeably, surprisingly, creamy — as described. If you really pay attention, you can pick out the marzipan-like flavor in the UK version, which is a nice little bonus treat, but they’re both quite similar in character.
The Japanese version suffered in comparison. Nestle describe it as “balanced” but there was kind of a metallic sourness to it that was unpleasant after the other two varieties, followed by a generic sweetness that wasn’t creamy at all. Honestly, if you’d put me in a blind taste test and told me one of these was from Hershey, PA, I would have picked out the Japanese one for sure.
… But maybe familiarity breeds contempt.
One way in which none of these are like American KitKats — careful when you handle them! They melt something like instantly in your hands.
Nestle’s back with a brand new invention. Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know. I… Uh, I’ll stop now. Promise that won’t happen again.
The bag (which contains 13 minis again! Yay!) features a picture of a vanilla ice cream cone, and that’s pretty much what the idea here is. Instead of wafers or cookies you get a filling of “crushed sugar cone,” and vanilla white chocolate coating. It’s somewhat over-sweet and one-note, and I’ve never really been a fan of sugar cones, so you can imagine my initial reaction. But wait — what’s this on the packaging?
“Delicious when frozen!”
Well! That’s a neat gimmick, and I can’t say it’s not a good one. Like most frozen desserts, the sweetness is cut somewhat by the temperature, and the softly brittle texture of frozen chocolate is a nice change. And on a warm summer’s day, refreshing as well.
Still, it’s doesn’t end up any less one-note, and the best takeaway from this experiment is that better flavors will probably benefit more from being frozen.
Oh, look, another one? Surprise! The “Adult Sweetness” in these raspberry KitKats doesn’t come from a cookie center like other flavors in the line — these have wafers like regular KitKats do. Instead, in between the wafers are thick layers of tart, gooey raspberry jam. It gives these bars a toothsome quality which is really appealing and both the texture and flavor counterbalance the sweet coating nicely. I’m not the hugest fan of raspberries, but these may be the best KitKats I’ve had in a while.
Like the matcha flavor, these come twelve to a bag, and I found them in Uwajimaya in Bellevue. I only bring that up, because, you guys! There is a gigantic liquor store next door now. Which is relevant to my interests.
It looks like Nestle has found a concept it likes (or maybe their customers have spoken), because not only do we add Matcha to the previously released dark and white chocolate “adult sweetness” KitKats, but also Raspberry (to be reviewed soon).
Whereas the chocolate varieties were less sweet than typical, with dark chocolate biscuits inside (instead of the usual wafers), this has what seems to be a vanilla biscuit, and tastes quite sweet — about as sweet as Matcha Latte KitKats, which is to say: a little too sweet for my liking. Like all of the adult sweetness flavors, the wrapping is very elegant, and sweet or no, these will satisfy a green tea dessert craving if you’ve got one.
Nestle appears to be skimping a little, since recent bags of minis have come with twelve individually wrapped pairs rather than thirteen. That’s sad in itself, but practically speaking, it also means I have to zoom in a little tighter when taking pictures! Boos all around.
So many KitKats on the backlog. So! Without further ado:
Found a bag of these at Uwajimaya in Bellevue a couple weeks ago. I guess Takagi is on a strawberry kick, because this was hot on the heels of the Strawberry Tarte KitKats from Vancouver — so soon, in fact, that I still had some of them to compare.
The flavors are very similar. They both have the same basic strawberry base, but while the Tartes were rounded and fruity, the Cakes were sweeter, with a distinctly strong hint of buttercream. Frosting, cake, makes sense, right? Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of buttercream, so I’d choose the Tartes any day, but I’ve been told by cake enthusiasts that these were “awesome.” So make of that what you will!
I’m totally hoping for red velvet KitKats someday. I wonder if they’ve even heard of red velvet in Japan? Maybe I’ll start a campaign.
As promised a few weeks ago, a size comparison of all kinds of KitKat bars:
It took a bit of doing gathering all these different sizes together, and I couldn’t actually get ahold of a Japanese Big Kat bar so I’m not sure I can call this 100% representative. I also wasn’t able to get any of the other type of “minis,” which are basically shaped like little balls. I’ve only ever had one bag of those, which were banana flavored, and I sent most of them to Loli, because she is both awesome and likes, um, balls.
The other problem was that I had to open them all for the picture and that meant they had to be eaten. My life sucks, right? (Right.)
As you can see, the mini mini bars are basically two petits put together, which I kind of suspected would be the case. I’m pretty sure also that the standard Japanese bars are more or less the same size as standard American bars. The standards almost seem too big to me now, after so many minis. And the Big Kat is just comically large, like a Starbucks Trente or everything in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
Anyways, I hope this was educational. Mostly, though, I just wanted to use Futura for something.
Once upon a time, there were Matcha Green Tea KitKats, which will always be one of my all-time favorites. Then there were these. Finally, almost a year ago, I got a bag of minis at Uwajimaya that contained both Matcha and Matcha Latte KitKats, and (because I am nothing if not prompt) I’m only now getting around to writing them up.
(Sadly, I’ve completely forgotten everything about the KitKats with the reclining woman on the wrapping, so unless I find them again, that’s lost to history. However they tasted, I’m guessing they were far more glamorous, thin, and popular than me.)
The basic difference between the two flavors, which will become more relevant in a moment, is that the Latte KitKats were a whole lot sweeter than the non-Latte ones. Much too sweet for my taste*, in fact, and I do clearly remember thinking it was my least favorite of the four flavors from that day.
*As a total aside, this may come as a total surprise to you, but I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth. Now, I’m the KitKat lady. If you can figure out how that happened, let me know — I’ll hit you up for career advice.
So, parallels. In January, I reported on Sakura Matcha KitKats, which I noted were “nicely balanced, but far less memorable [than plain Matcha].” Well, it wasn’t very long afterwards that I found this box of a Latte variant at Candyland in Richmond, containing six pairs of mini-mini bars (the same form factor we saw with Takagi Strawberry Tartes).
Like before, the main difference is that these are noticeably sweeter, but this time it’s not actually a disaster: something about the sweetness brings out more of the grassy matcha notes against the cherry, making the flavor more distinct and pleasant. Still, I wish it weren’t quite so sweet. Enjoyment-wise, this is probably a wash with the non-Latte flavor, but in a much more attractive box.
Shopper’s alert: I just saw these today at Bellevue Uwajimaya, along with bags of Takagi Strawberry Cake mini bars (which I promise will be next). Grab them while you can!
If you’ve ever been in South Korea or Japan, one of the surprising things you might notice is how much melons cost at supermarkets. It’s insane! And wow, do they love their melons. The Yubari King Melon is a cantaloupe variety from Hokkaido which sells for $50 - $100 in Japanese department stores, and now there’s a regional limited edition KitKat as well.
This colorful box contains four full-size bars, wrapped in pairs. I usually tend to prefer the more elegant box designs, but this one is just so warm and happy and gaudy that I can’t help but like it. Which is interesting, because you never hear about Hokkaido being warm at all. Snow, yes, and sheep. Wild sheep chases. And sheep men.
One thing that Nestle does really well is that first whiff of fragrance when you tear open the foil wrapping. This one is no exception, with a bright, clearly identifiable melon aroma. The color is a little strange, a rich reddish-brown, with little hints of bright orange near the corners. Texture-wise, the chocolate seems a little firmer, waxier maybe, than other Japanese KitKats I’ve had recently.
Biting in, the taste is really quite nice, an initial hit of milk chocolate giving way to a pretty spot-on cantaloupe flavor. I have to comment on the size as well: it’s been so long since I had a full-size KitKat that I’d forgotten how much bigger they are! Having that much more helped me appreciate the flavor in a way that’s hard with, say, a tiny petit-sized bar.
My only gripe was a lingering aftertaste that turned a bit unpleasant after a minute or so. You might want to chase these with a glass of water.
By the way, there was a time I would’ve thought this was the grossest thing ever. When I was young I actually used to gag on the flavor of honeydew and cataloupe. Can you imagine? Luckily, this is one of those things that has gotten better as I get older. Mmm, melons.
This entry is totally for David, who is constantly reminding me that he’s been waiting for me to get around to these.
So I’ve finally found the Men’s Pocky of KitKats — now with less gender stereotyping! “Otona no amasa” means “adult sweetness,” which will probably never, ever get less awkward to type. It at least definitely takes the prize for naughtiest-sounding flavor to date. One’s got a white chocolate coating, the other dark chocolate, but the common element is that between the wafers there are layers of dark chocolate cookie. It’s actually texturally very pleasant! I don’t remember the Cookies+ flavors well enough to compare, but I seem to recall they were a similar kind of thing.
The dark variety is very nice — not as bitter as the Semisweet flavor. Just a nice dark chocolate coating, but paired with the cookie layers the effect is of a very subdued sweetness and two distinct but harmonious chocolate flavors.
The coating of the white, on the other hand, seems to be the same as the standard white chocolate KitKat. However, it also pairs well with the cookie filling to create an overall, nicely balanced sweetness. I thought it was interesting to compare this flavor with the recently-sampled Cookies & Cream; despite my expectations, the coatings really didn’t have much in common other than color. That other flavor also had cookie crumbs mixed into the coating, which was a nice effect, while this one pretty much evoked straight cocoa butter rather than something more dairy-like.
And may I just say the way that the cookie part crunches in the mouth is really satisfying? Funny how a little thing like that makes these tiny bars seem so much more substantial.
Nestle seems to consider these flavors to be a thing, since I’ve seen them in all sorts of packaging: a standard box containing four full-size bars, a slightly larger box containing six mini bars, and a large bag containing twenty-six mini bars (all wrapped in pairs). Maybe these flavors will stick around for the long haul? I hope so.
Maybe in a related note, you might be able to find these locally, more easily than usual. I’ve seen them at all three Uwajimaya locations in the Seattle area, which usually don’t get any interesting KitKat flavors. So keep an eye out.
Happy, David? ♥
The tease is here saved for posterity, because navigating Facebooks past is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience.
Picture, caption, picture, caption seems to be what this blog is becoming, lately. I guess if you don’t join tumblr, tumblr joins you. Apparently!
I know, I know, ALL THE KITKATS!
Sometimes, I start typing an entry and all that shows up on the screen is “OMG. OMG. OMG.”
Two weeks ago, my friend Dom sent me a photo from Japan of some store’s giant KitKat display and the caption “Try to contain yourself.” He offered to get me a box of something and I honestly picked one because it looked like it had a picture of Pedobear on it.
An hour later, I got this message:
“Sweet Jesus, the hotcakes flavor is AMAZING. It might be the best candy bar I’ve had anywhere ever. I got an assortment of flavors, but I wish I’d just gotten five boxes of these. It will take every ounce of restraint I have, but I’ll make sure these survive the trip home and send you a couple.”
Bless his soul, because today the mailbox contained possibly the most adorable candy packaging I’ve ever seen. Also, not Pedobear.
So, Rilakkuma is a San-X character who loves hotcakes and relaxing. I imagine that means he likes Suntory whiskey too, but that’s not explicitly stated on his wikipedia entry. The box is an hexagonal solid made of corrugated cardboard, much thicker than any other KitKat box I’ve run across. Originally it contained twelve wrapped sets of two standard issue mini bars. I wonder if they’ve ever made a Tarepanda-themed KitKat flavor? Please say the answer is yes.
The entire thing is infused with cuteness. Example:
Flavorwise, they’re really, really good! (Come on, they’re pancake KitKats.) Opening the foil you get a big whiff of butter and pancake syrup. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to describe it as maple, but it does have the caramelized flavor of a dark syrup. Flavor-wise, it’s spot on. The white chocolate-based coating is very sweet, as usual, but it fits with the flavor this time. I might be imagining things, but I think they’ve cut the sweetness in the wafer section, because it evokes hotcake batter very well (and contrasts nicely with the coating). Also, butter! I’ve been wanting to try a buttery KitKat for a long time, ever since reading about baked potato KitKats (omg, someone please hook a sister up!). All I can say is: I approve.
Sorry this didn’t materialize as the promised Adult Sweetness* entry. I just couldn’t wait.
Also! Yesterday was the seven year anniversary of my very first KitKat entry. Light a candle, okay?
* that will never feel less weird to type.
Half of the take from Candyland this weekend:
So now we have yet another KitKat form factor. The box describes these as “mini mini” bars, and there are six wrapped pairs inside. Let me illustrate the difference between these and the fairly common “mini” bars, which you can usually find boxed in sets of three or bagged in larger quantities. Here, the brown, “adult sweetness” dark bars are mini, and the pink strawberry tarte bars are mini mini.
(If you want to compare against your standard full-size bar, those tend to run between 100 - 110 kcals per pair)
This is maybe the sixth different shape of Japanese KitKat I’ve run across. If there’s interest, I can maybe do a photo comparison of all of them together! I think I may have them all at hand.
At any rate, the first thing to notice is the “Le Patissier Takagi” logo in the upper right of the box. The last time I saw that was on the yummy Wine and Noir flavors from 2005. Takagi-san is a premier confectioner in Tokyo and it looks like Nestle is happily continuing its association with him. I really, really loved Wine, so I was super excited, even if this was the millionth strawberry flavor they’ve done.
Well, that familiarity did play against it a little. I mean, there’s only so many ways you can do such a familiar flavor, but this managed to be pretty tasty nonetheless. The white chocolate base held a nice, rounded strawberry flavor and a vanilla-y, custard-y finish. I was still hoping for more complexity, or maybe a textural thing between the wafers to hint at a tartlet shell, but couldn’t detect any. Oh, well — still, I enjoyed it.
Next up: sakura matcha latte! And I still haven’t dug into the Motherlode yet.
These two boxes came from a friend of a friend, who got them in Japan. I’ve never seen packages like these before, with six individually-wrapped petit-sized bars (about half of a regular stick) in each. I like how … cheerful? they look.
The first impression you get with these is a strong flavor of fake strawberry. The yummy kind of fake strawberry, if you know what I’m talking about — pretty much exactly like strawberry Pocky. Once you get past that there’s a nice second stage of pleasant hazelnut cream, between the wafers. If you’ve had hazelnut Quadratini cookies, you’ve got the idea. Someone said, “it tastes like a terrible peanut butter and jam sandwich.” Which is true, it would be a bad sandwich! But for a bite-sized candy, it’s pretty good.
These were really, really good! Almost the opposite of what you’d expect (from the flavor and from the fact these are Japanese KitKats), they weren’t too sweet, and tasted exactly like a good Oreo-type sandwich cookie. There are bits of cookie mixed directly into the white chocolate coating, which makes for a nice textural effect. Really, enough said, they’re great!
Because of the motherlode, I have quite the backlog of KitKats to get through. So without further ado:
So. I absolutely love tea-flavored KitKats, and I love floral flavors as well, so I was really excited to try this one! Unfortunately, this ended up not referring to the hoped-for sakura flower, but the fruit. Still! Not a bad thing.
I had some regular matcha KitKats left, so I had both flavors at once as a kind of control. In the plain matcha, the grassy character of the tea is smooth but readily apparent. In the sakura matcha, the grassiness is cut substantially by a kind of generic fruity flavor, presumbly cherry. It’s actually nicely balanced, but far less memorable — still, you’d never mistake it for a regular white chocolate KitKat, which is good.
Also! I also updated my review of the tiramisu KitKats from back in July with the following addendum:
I have to revise my opinion here, having had another chance to try the tiramisu. There may have been something off about my palate that day, but it now tastes very authentic to me. It may help that in the intervening months I’ve developed a taste for coffee, which helps, but I think it was the liquor flavor that I found off-putting the first time, and this time it was fine.
So! With the caveat that your appreciation may wax and wane with the seasons, I now have to change my verdict on tiramisu to a “recommend.”
I was at Uwajimaya, and… uh, what?
You may notice that I occasionally insert new stories into the backlog. The last few years I’ve spent mostly microblogging and leaving neon epiphany neglected, and that makes me sad. I’m patching in the holes with some of the more amusing or substantial entries, but only a few.
First dump, in case you’re curious:
I totally hit the KitKat motherlode, thanks to a secret Santa! Received a nice package from Japan containing sixteen separate flavors, including fourteen in a limited collector’s box of various regional limited editions that were released over the past few years. SO MUCH LOVE. This is image heavy because I haven’t had a chance to taste any of them yet*, and I already have enough problems with my diet with the holidays and all.
Rest assured, though. To be continued.
Oh, and merry Christmas, everyone!
A surprise, today. These came directly from Japan, and arrived a little worse for the wear, so I don’t know how accurate the textural notes will be. Anyway! Zunda mochi is a regional snack made of sticky rice balls (mochi) covered with mashed-up young soybeans. You know, candy.
The color of the bars was a pale green, darker than the wasabi bars and lighter than matcha. Flavor-wise, these were definitely nicer than the pumpkin cheesecake KitKats from the weekend; sweet, but not too much so, and there was a subtle, but present earthy flavor which I attribute to soy.
The white chocolate itself had somewhat melted and rehardened, so again, take this with a grain of salt, but there seemed to be a complexity of texture that makes me think maybe the tiny mochi balls which were placed in between the wafers in previous mochi-based KitKats were mixed into the chocolate coating this time. Either way, it was a nice touch.
Wandering around Uwajimaya today looking for Italian chestnuts and Buddha’s Hand citron, I found a bag of these KitKats. So cute! So surprise, you get a blog entry!
So my favorite Pocky flavor ever is pumpkin, so I was super happy to see these. First of all, you have to notice the adorable packaging! The Pocky was cute too — I didn’t even really know Halloween was a thing in Japan, but I’m happy for it.
The flavor is basically white chocolate, and — nothing. I actually didn’t taste anything pumpkiny or cheesecakey at all here. The latter wasn’t a huge surprise because the previous cheesecake flavors we’ve covered (blueberry and strawberry) didn’t have much tang either (contrast this with the gourmet cheese flavor, which was nice). Not tasting pumpkin, though, was a huge disappointment. Oh, well, white chocolate is never really a bad idea, so these certainly won’t go to waste.
I realize these have been few and far between. Have not made it north of the border in awhile, which is my usual source. Maybe in January!
I know I’ve been promising a KitKat entry for awhile now, but there’s going to be a little bit sleight of hand tonight. Please keep your eyes on my attractive assistant as I…
What? No attractive assistant?
Sigh. Well, the real story is that I misplaced my notes on the haul I purchased at Bellevue Uwajimaya’s grand opening celebration. Fortunately, I did find a bag of “Desert Assortment” KitKats there over the weekend, so! Here we are, as if nothing ever happened!
I guess “custard pudding” is conceptually like flan, indeed, the first thing you notice when tearing open the wrapper is a super-cloying, somewhat artificial caramel scent. It pretty much tastes like it smells — a super-sweet, vanilla-esque flavor followed by a really long aftertaste of caramel. It’s almost a little smoky, like maple syrup, but it’s hard to tell after your taste buds are blown out by sugar.
I’ve never really been a fan of these super-sweet KitKats, and I’m not this time, either. I’d really love to be able to taste something balanced and smooth like the chestnut flavor again.
Full disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker. I usually can’t stand it, and especially not in desserts. Tiramisu has probably been the least offensive coffee-based dessert in my experience, but I wouldn’t ever call myself a fan.
Now, you may remember that all the way back in 2006 I tried some limited edition British Big Kat bars, one of which was tiramisu. I remember it being pretty authentically flavored and, well, tasty. I didn’t have the same reaction at all to this one, and I don’t know if it’s the flavor or me that’s changed in the meantime.
I’m pretty sure the main problem is whatever they’re using to simulate the liquor flavor. Whatever it is, it doesn’t react well with the other flavor components, and affects the smell too. Not really sure how to describe the odor. Musty, maybe? All I know is I opened the wrapper and nearly gagged. Let’s just say that “musty” is not a word I want in my candy descriptions! The taste’s a little bit better, but still weird — there are times when the flavor does recall tiramisu, but it keeps changing in the mouth, occasionally transforming into that same weird flavor-smell.
I normally like being girl reporter on the KitKat beat, but this time I’m really wishing I’d bought the kinako Aero bars instead. Anyone fancy an Aero blog?
Addendum (2012/1/11): I have to revise my opinion here, having had another chance to try the tiramisu. There may have been something off about my palate that day, but it now tastes very authentic to me. It may help that in the intervening months I’ve developed a taste for coffee, which helps, but I think it was the liquor flavor that I found off-putting the first time, and this time it was fine.
So! With the caveat that your appreciation may wax and wane with the seasons, I now have to change my verdict on tiramisu to a “recommend.”
Well! I almost forgot I had this sitting here. I guess an intense period of forced creativity can lead to a massive correction — since Thirty Pages ended I haven’t even felt a twinge to create anything, which has been both a relief and completely depressing.
But you’re here for the KitKats, and I have them. So!
Unusually, rather than four bars of a single flavor these came as two bars each of two different flavors. The box says “Which will you eat?” so maybe this is a his-and-hers kind of situation?
The cola KitKats are a prune-ish off-purple and give off a distinct smell of cola. In fact, the flavor is pretty much exactly like Coca-Cola, down to the slight fizzy sensation coming off the cream filling. There’s a nice lemony aftertaste, but overall the effect is not unlike “chocolate soda” or Survivor: Redemption Island: no matter how genuine it might taste something is just off. A novelty, but easy to forget.
The lemon squash, on the other hand, is definitely the “hers” candidate. Not as cloyingly sweet as the Valentine’s Lemon, it reminded me a lot of a Schweppe’s Bitter Lemon soda, which I like but haven’t had in ages. Citrus chocolates haven’t really ever been my thing, but I enjoyed these.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, and as far as I can tell online, you’ll either love these or hate these. Personally, I’m all about love! But I’m the one with the esoteric KitKat blog, so… grain of salt and everything.
There are ten petit bars inside each attractively illustrated box (which are identical in form factor to the special edition strawberry and blueberry cheesecake KitKats from 2009). Each is individually wrapped and about an inch and a half long.
The first thing one notices on opening the wrapper is the slightly pungent, cheesy aroma coming off the bar. This is where we lose the first lot of you. The color is pale yellow, which doesn’t look at all appetizing next to the rich golden wheel of cheese on the box — a few more get off the bus here. Finally the flavor: the white chocolate exterior contains “cheese powder” and “cheese paste” according to the helpful diagram on the back of the box, and there’s definitely a generic cheddar-ish tang present. No fooling, it’s cheese, but overall, a nice balance of creamy, salty & sweet. The filling, on the other hand, is on the sweet side so it’s still clearly on the candy side of the fence, but those of you who appreciate salt caramel or more pungent cheesecakes might find these pretty appealing.
Miss me? I miss you!
A journey from bitter to sweet, this time.
Pretty much exactly what it says it is — darker & more distinct than the easier-to-find dark chocolate flavor, with a bittersweetness reminiscent of 70% cacao bars. Liked it v. much, but felt it was something to be enjoyed at a measured pace, by a fireside, a glass of port nearby. But something tells me you’re not going to do that.
Raspberry & Passionfruit KitKats
These came in two different boxes, brown and pink, with a design that makes me think of Valentine’s Day (similar to last year’s lemon variety). Like most Japanese KitKats, the box has a place for you to write little To: and From: labels, but let’s face it, unless you’re dating me, KitKats are not a very good Valentine’s Day gift. So! Let’s talk flavor.
The bars themselves are coated in dark chocolate (sweeter than the semisweet, but still fairly intense). I’m really not a fan of passionfruit, and these KitKats didn’t change my mind. The bitterness of the chocolate and the astringency of the passionfruit combined in a really unappealing way for me — almost exactly like cheap, dark chocolate cherry cordials, especially the unpleasant oozy pink stuff inside. Yuck!
On the other hand:
Similar concept, but so much better! Milk chocolate and a lack of icky passionfruit result in a much more balanced, sweet flavor. The box seems to indicate that this is supposed to taste like raspberry cheesecake, but I didn’t really get that — certainly not to the extent of the blueberry and strawberry cheesecake KitKats from last year (to be reviewed, maybe?). I certainly didn’t miss it, though.
Verdict? Would eat again. And possibly again after that.
There you go — #3. How long can I string together KitKat entries? Any guesses?
I got all three of these flavors back in December of 2009, thanks to my friend Nic, who brought them back from Canada. From top to bottom:
Frankly, I ate these pretty much instantly — probably due to pleasant memories of the Kinako Big Kat from earlier in the year. Sadly, my memory is not so distinct on this one, other than:
- The kinako flavor was still noticeable, though less prominent than in the big kat;
- Definite red bean overtones, similar to the green tea - adzuki - shave ice flavor from way back, but more subtle than the oshiruko.
- Like the oshiruko KitKats, there were apparently little mochi puffs inside, but I don’t think I ever even noticed.
I think I liked it. It certainly would help my romantic view of my relationship with kinako if I did. Wish I could remember!
I admit that I totally forgot about these, to the point where looking in my pantry for backlog ideas I found the box, unopened. So you get a fresh impression! Ume is Japanese plum, very sour, and there is definite acid in this candy version. That hits the tongue first, followed by an expansive sweet mellowing as the rest of the bar spreads through the mouth, followed by a return of the tartness as a lingering aftertaste. The changing aspect is nice — previous flavors toying with sourness seemed fairly one-note and cloying. Lemon creme comes quickly to mind.
I’ve never actually had ume-flavored soda, but I can imagine it’s probably not too far off the mark. If anything, the KitKat doesn’t taste nearly as artificial as most Asian soft drinks I’ve had. Verdict? Surprisingly yummy, though probably not an instant classic.
Okay, I found some of this too, but it was one remaining bar in an opened, foil inner package. Super-stale after nine months? Given that my from-memory review would probably be the phrase “kinda weird,” in the interests of painting an accurate picture, I took the bullet. So…
If I don’t post tomorrow, please send the cavalry ~ and tell them I did it for love.
Yes, of course I did a sniff test first. Only thing is, when your recollection ends at “kinda weird,” it’s hard to judge whether the (admittedly strange) fragrance was due to spoilage or not. So into my mouth it went. And?
Well, it’s… kinda weird, after all. And I refuse to make it a matter of its vegetable-juiciness. I’m pretty sure the drink it’s modeled on is nothing like V8 — the box shows carrots and apples, which I’ve definitely had in juice form, and which I think wouldn’t make such a bad base flavor for candy. In fact, the first taste was pretty pleasant. But! That artificial feeling I mentioned as a characteristic of Asian soft drinks? It’s here, in spades, as an unsettling, astringent aftertaste. Astringent’s probably not the right word. Is there an opposite of umami?
Of course, that might just be nine months in the pantry talking.
See how much I love you?
As requested, four from the backlog:
Kinako Big Kat (June 2009)
Kinako is a soybean flour that I’ve mostly encountered as a coating for mochi. It’s got a nutty, slightly salty flavor that’s really quite appealing, though usually you’ll want to have a nice cup of tea on hand to wash it down. This bar was perfectly evocative of that, and the combination of kinako with the milk chocolate coating made for an experience that was not too sweet (a real danger with these larger-sized KitKats) and really delicious.
This easily shot up to my all-time top five list. In fact, just writing about it is making me drool. Not really. Well, maybe a bit.
Banana Big Kat (July 2010)
This, on the other hand, was like a sugar bomb in my mouth. I don’t know if it was the coating or the cream filling, but this was sweet to the point of precipitating sugar crystals. The bright side? You know that super-fake banana flavor you get sometimes in candies? This was somewhat bit better than that — and about a billion times better than these, which were just dreadful! About one of these per year might be the right frequency.
Jasmine Tea KitKats (June 2009)
I love, love, love jasmine tea, and I love green tea KitKats! So when I heard that pastilla had gotten these, I was so insanely jealous that I essentially bribed a coworker into bring some back with him from Japan — if he could find them. Which, thank goodness, he did! (Along with the kinako, which makes him my favorite. Ever.)
These are definitely on the sweet side too, and the milk chocolate coating is definitely the dominant element here. So it’s not surprising that the floral notes come on almost as an overtone, a descant over the chorus of the normal KitKat flavors. They’re definitely there, though, and I thought quite appealing. I know a lot of people seem to think this one’s a miss, but you won’t be able to convince me of it!
Bitter Almond KitKats (August 2010)
I guess these are in right now, because you can find them everywhere. The almond flavor is in the fililng, and to me tastes of somewhere firmly between “sour” and “dead.” Just not appealing at all! I’ve had people ask me whether these taste like cyanide. Really? Are you expecting an “in the know” answer there?
There’s a lot more where these came from. Please do yell if these start to get tiresome!
Followers will recognize a long-standing obsession by the author with exotic varieties of KitKats, so it’s no surprise I had to pick these up when I saw them at the duty-free. These are apparently designed to taste like the local Japanese variety of Asia’s ubiquitous shaved-ice and red bean desserts, with a green tea & white chocolate coating (seemingly identical to that of regular matcha KitKats), and a red bean creme filling between its inner wafers. The taste is creamy and sweet, much like the dessert — distinct flavors of tea and red bean — but maybe a little too much so! They’re good, but I like the standard greens better.
These were 600¥ at Tokyo-Narita for a decent-sized bag of mini-bars.
Also sampled: Häagen-Dazs green tea crispy ice cream cookie — oh, good grief, yes. Sadly, I ate this before an attractive mug shot could be taken. Mustn’t let things get melty, after all. Priorities.
Have taken a turn for the better, somehow — health crisis averted for now. Still, no sense taking chances, so I spent today mostly sedentary, reading about cherries and felting wool and echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, the only surviving relatives of the platypus (warning: hatching baby echidna photo). Also started The Diary of Lady Murasaki.
I know it’s a horribly romanticized notion with little connection to reality, but I’ve always thought that if I’d had the chance to choose what era I could live in, that the life of a lady-in-waiting at the Heian court would be very appealing. But then, I’ve always felt (and have mentioned here before) a special affinity with Sei Shōnagon, planted at an early age. Oh, to have lived in an age of aesthetics! That’s the kind of decadence I can get behind. Being able to dress like Queen Amidala would be pure frosting.
I think the charm of tooth-black would wear thin very quickly, though.
Found at Candyland in Richmond:
Emily, of course, was first to let me know they existed, but I never expected to see them in the flesh. Should have known that Canada would be just the place to go — another example of how snack-deprived we are in the States!
Children in Japan do not like green tea taste. However, the adult like green tea taste. I think that it is a thing like the bitter chocolate.
By the way, There is a custom of presenting “Kit kat” to the examinee in Japan. Because the pronunciation of “Kit kat” is near Japanese “Kitto katsu” that means “Win without fail”.
They’re good; maybe a little too sweet, but not overwhelmingly so — about what you’d expect from a good green tea ice cream, but swirled with crispy KitKatty goodness. Since they’re imported from Japan, a little pricey, and then there’s that commute…
I know it seems tea’s been on my mind a lot lately, and you’d be right! Shaula over at tsuredzuregusa 徒然草 has a lovely entry on tea, for whose inspiration I can take some little, indirect credit (via Watermark & my Adagio Teas entry), which spurred a small tea shopping expedition: genmaicha is an old friend (this from Republic of Tea), wonderful and mellow, while lapsang souchong is a new acquaintance, smoky and nostalgic. I know a few of you vehemently dislike it — I wonder if it comes from not having often experienced warm winter fires on frozen nights, crackling & aromatic of charcoal, memories of which come flooding back to me as I sip. How could you not love?
Saw Miyazaki’s Spirited Away this afternoon, and it was just incredible. It was big, beautiful, weird, dark, whimsical… that last one, especially, a Miyazaki trademark I thought sorely lacking in Mononoke Hime and a big reason why I haven’t ever thought of that film (despite its wide acclaim) as one of his better works.
Truthfully, I’ve never really been able to rank Miyazaki’s output; each one is so different that at various times, any of his pictures have had special resonance with me. Totoro and Kiki talk directly to earlier versions of me, Porco Rosso to my hopelessly romantic core (and I suspect, something more complex as I get older), Laputa to my sense of adventure and wonder. Mononoke is the exception, because in many respects it’s a reinvention of his earlier Kaze no tani no Nausicaa rather than its own distinct work. It remains to be seen where Sen will stand; I suspect many more viewings will be necessary before I know for sure.
Hopefully Disney will market it well. I think it would appeal to kids hopped up on Harry Potter or Roald Dahl books.
Last night was Battle Royale, a film from Japan dealing with a class of high schoolers who are left on an island with weapons and explosive collars around their necks. Their task: only one can remain alive after the third day, or everyone dies. I would say Lord of the Flies on speed, but I haven’t read (or seen) it yet.
Can’t say I was a real fan of this film, but a lot of the recent hyper-violent Japanese movies that have been getting popular over here in the last few years (for example, about a billion pictures by Takashi Miike) haven’t done much for me, either. Come to think of it, this applies even to more introspective films, such as Shunji Iwai’s Lily Chou-Chou no subete. I think there’s something about the modern Japanese youth experience that I just can’t relate to, and that’s affecting my ability to enjoy these pictures.
Of course there’s something about lots of anime youth titles that I click with instantly, stuff like Kareshi kanojo no jijo. But most of what I like is at least four years old now and the live action films I talked about are all from the last two years. There’s also probably a noticeable age gap between the folks who made the anime and these new, hotshot directors.
Is this just a way of saying I feel old? I guess so.
Oddly enough, I’ve very much been enjoying youth-oriented Korean films from the same timeframe. Something else to wonder about?