It’s a sushi set displayed at a Tokyo KitKat boutique store, featuring a sushi omelet KitKat, a sea urchin sushi candy and a tuna sushi bar. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Starbucks Japan releases a special drink almost every month, including this chocolatey banana cocoa. The sweet New Year beverage easily found its fans at 460 yen ($4.08) for a tall-size cup, 90 yen higher than a regular latte ($3.28). The newest seasonal drink is cherry blossom. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Mochi, a traditional Japanese rice cake that usually comes in the form of fruity ice cream in the U.S., is a special holiday treat in Japan. Mitarashi dango is a type of rice dough skewered onto sticks and coated with a sweet soy sauce glaze. You can get a skewer for 80 yen ($0.71). (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Cheese, soy milk and black pepper are among the 56 chocolate flavors from Meiji’s contemporary chocolate boutique, 100% Chocolate Cafe. It’s hard to tell if consumers buy the chocolate squares for the flavors or the colorful and modernist package design. The price ranges from 200 yen to 300 yen per piece ($1.77-$2.66). (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Matcha lovers, Nanaya offers matcha gelato in seven levels of intensity. Level 7 is said to be the the world’s most intense green tea flavor. A scoop of matcha gelato costs 370 yen ($3.28), except Level 7, which costs 560 yen ($4.96). (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Turns out they are plum-flavored seaweed that tastes a little like sour skittles with a pinch of salt. Very unusual. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Trump candy anyone? Traditional hand-made cylindrical candies can be found everywhere in the country with various cute designs. This year, a Japanese company released a timely version of U.S. President Donald Trump. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Although black sesame is rarely known as a flavor in the West, it is extremely popular in East Asian countries, including Japan. Black sesame paste, along with red bean paste, is a common occurrence in traditional Asian desserts. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)
Tokyo — Chicago may be a foodie’s paradise, but the city has nothing on Tokyo when it comes to quirky, innovative food flavors.
Take KitKat, one of the most common American snacks, as an example. In Japan, there are 300-plus gourmet flavors ranging from matcha and wasabi to butter and sake. There’s even a KitKat museum.
Green tea — or matcha — is the country’s signature snack flavor. With spring around the corner, cherry blossom is likely to be the star flavor for March.
Many novelty food producers release limited seasonal flavors throughout the year. Meanwhile, the delicate, artistic packaging, influenced by minimalist aesthetics, appeals to design-conscious Japanese consumers.
KitKat’s fancy limited seasonal versions, often in special packaging, can cost dearly. A pack of 12 regular matcha KitKat bars were selling in Tokyo earlier this month for 300 yen ($2.66) at grocery stores, while a piece of luxury “Moleson” cost 540 yen ($4.79) at the high-end KitKat specialty shops.
The company this month added a new wild flavor to its line-up – sushi. Its “sushi sets” were only available from Feb. 2 to 14, and were given out to the first 30 customers of the day who spent a minimum of 3,000 yen ($26.59) at Tokyo’s newest KitKat Chocolatory shop, located in Ginza.
Photo at top: A “sushi set” displayed at the Ginza KitKat speciality store in Tokyo. (Shen Lu/MEDILL)