I recently found a new flavor of Kit Kat that confounded me. I’ve asked multiple coworkers, friends, and even students to help explain, and I still feel like I’m not quite getting the whole picture. It’s definitely one of the most conceptual Kit Kats I’ve seen, and tied up with complicated Japanese cultural ideas and cliches. I’m surely over-thinking it, but I can’t help but be amused by this crazy flavor: Lucky!
Kit Kats are originally from England, and are popular in countries all over the world. But when they hit Japan, they hit gold. One of the big reasons for this is that in Japanese, “kitto katsu” sounds like the rallying cry of “surely win.” Nestle has brilliantly capitalized on this fact, and made it the go-to treat for students trying to pass their notoriously difficult school entrance exams.
Kit Kats are popular year round, but especially so during the late winter/early Spring exam season. Cashing in on the tradition of sending good luck wishes to students facing their future in the form of these exams, Kit Kat has branded itself as the perfect “edible good luck charm”.
But just what does lucky taste like?
There are three different bags available, but we picked up the gold bag to try. There are lots of explanations and descriptions on the bag, but I’ll freely admit I needed help to decipher them all.
Essentially, there are a handful of Big Littles, or the ball style chunks of Kit Kat. Most of them are white, but some of them may be pink. The insides are white and the filling is red (or really pink, in this case.) The pink filling made me expect a fruity flavor, but it seems to taste like a normal white Kit Kat. The pink doesn’t taste any different from the white, either, oddly enough. The focus here really isn’t on the taste, but the experience.
If you find a pink ball amongst the white, then that’s great luck! “Japanese enjoy finding something special amongst many normal things,” one of my coworkers explained. “It’s why fukubukuro are so popular.” Even though you may end up with a bag of rubbish, the excitement of finding one special object amongst the chaff is a prized cultural experience.
But wait! On the front it says that having a bag of all white pieces is lucky too! White is an auspicious color for the Japanese, especially when associated with red (or pink.) On the back the explanation says that white gives a “white star”, or shiroboshi feeling. I’m still a bit hazy on this concept, so if anyone could enlighten me, I’d appreciate it. One coworker said that when you are successful in baseball, you get a white star. I’ve also heard that it has something to do with Sumo. Is it like our American idea of a gold star?
Not to be outdone, the pink ball engenders the feeling of the sakura blooming, which according to my coworkers, is the best feeling for Japanese people. It’s hanami season, and this celebration of the great bursting forth of the cherry blossoms is certainly a cherished cultural institution. It is the delicious melancholy of ephemeral beauty mixed with triumph over winter and riotous celebration, reminding us of our own mortality and the particularly Japanese ability to feel nostalgia for something that is occurring, or has not yet occurred.
As you can see, we did get a single pink ball in our bag, and I’ll admit it was a little exciting. There is a special feeling, a tingle, to finding something different in a sea of sameness. However, when I discovered that all white was considered lucky too, I felt a bit cheated. It seems as if the marketing department is trying just a bit too hard to please everyone here, and I think it would have been better if they had left it with trying to find the single special item. After all, when everyone is special, no one is.
That being said, I really enjoyed this bag of crazy Kit Kats, and I also enjoyed the various conversations I had trying to figure this one out. In fact, one day I brought a bag in to work and shared them, offering it to all the teachers around me in turn. When the slightly prickly gentleman near me pulled the pink ball, we all cheered, and even this serious suit got a big grin. So, thank you, Nestle for this happy moment with my coworkers!
What do you think? Silly fun, or just silly?