Aji WOW is a new series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: special KitKat flavours!
Japan's got a thing for KitKats. This is because saying 'KitKat' in Japanese sounds like you're saying 'totally gonna win' or 'kitto katsu' (きっと勝つ). It's common to give KitKats to kids studying for exams, as a kind of 'good luck' gesture.
There are regional KitKat flavours, limited editions, and tastes which are just unique to Japan. At the last estimate there were close to a hundred types. The following list is nowhere near exhaustive.
And, before the reviews, I want to mention that I did also see wasabi KitKats. Saw them, definitely not buying them. Wouldn't touch those with a bargepole.
Sake (Nihonshu) - Japanese rice wine
I'm stunned I managed to find these, as I assumed they were just a special edition for spring this year. They even come in a pack shaped like a little sake bottle.
Sake powder has been mixed into the white chocolate coating. There is little to no proper alcohol in these KitKats. A warning on the pack says children and lightweights shouldn't eat them, but at 0.8% alcohol they're not so boozy. They weren't an age-restricted purchase, at any rate.
Even so, I made sure to give them a sniff beforehand like I was appreciating a wine. You can definitely smell the sake in these. The taste isn't overly alcoholic, but it has the heat in the aftertaste - like doing a shot.
Verdict: 7/10, would buy again.
I picked these over the standard strawberry KitKats, for the added cheesecake flavour and the nicer box. Look, it's meant to look like Mt. Fuji.
This is another flavour specifically marketed to tourists. After eating some, I take it that's so you don't realise how synthetic they taste until you've got them home.
You get the hit of strawberry first, with a vague cheesecake aftertaste. Both are very artificial. (Okay, I'm not sure what else I was expecting...) My tasting notes from this include a reference to Angel Delight - it's fake strawberry, but not a bad taste. Gets a little cloying if you eat more than one mini bar at a time.
Verdict: 5/10, could take or leave.
Premium 'otona no amasa' - the kind of sweetness only adults are allowed to enjoy.
The packaging makes it look like these were inspired more by mint ice cream than proper mint. On opening the pack, the smell is definitely After Eights. And I love After Eights, so I had high hopes.
These KitKats were surprisingly crunchy, more like Matchmakers. I'm running out of chocolatey-minty things to compare these to. The chocolate coating was darker than I anticipated. A tad more sweetness would've gone a long way. But that's the trend of 'otona no amasa', they're not as sweet as standard KitKats on the whole.
Verdict: 6/10, decent.
Houjicha - roasted green tea
At the moment, matcha - the kind of green tea you'd recognise as 'Japanese' - is the literal flavour of the week. The shop I went to had entire aisles of matcha-flavoured snacks. Green tea Oreos, anyone?
My confession: I'm not such a fan. Houjicha is a taste I far prefer over matcha.
Or it was, until I tried eating these.
The off-brown colour is not appetising in the slightest. Chocolate brown is appealing. This brown has a notable resemblance to sewage. It doesn't make you want to eat one.
On biting into a houjicha KitKat, I was met with the undeniable taste of grass. Houjicha is meant to be grass-y. Hints of grass. Nuanced grass. It is not meant to be just grass and nothing else. And it was strong! Akin to leaving the teabag in the water for far too long.
Verdict: 3/10, would rather eat grass.
Next time: part 2. Yes, I bought that many KitKats.