Why is Kit Kat popular in Japan?

Other former Rowntree’s sweets sold by Nestle like Polo mints have quickly disappeared in Japan and most Mars and Cadbury sweets (Milky Way, Fruit and Nut etc.) are limited to import shops, but for some reason every convenience store and airport shop in Japan has Kit Kats, often in bizarre flavours like cherry blossom. It could well be this use of the very Japanese approach of innovation into craziness by lots of small changes that has made Kit Kat a success here, and foreign tourists buying molasses syrup and bean powder Kit Kat to “impress” their relatives back home can’t hurt. However, the latest edition of the British Chambers of Commerce Japan newsletter has another explanation:

“In Japan, those studying for entrance exams consider the chocolate good luck, because the name, as pronounced by the Japanese, sounds like the phrase kitto katsu (you’re sure to win)”.

Not sure how much of their market that could explain, but buying foods due to ridiculous and tenuous connections between their names and good luck has a long history in Japan, probably originally borrowed from China. See the Japanese New Year page for many examples of this.

For more practical tips on getting British (and kind of British) food in Japan, see my other Japan blog Tips for Brits in Tokyo.

Why the random selection of British foods in Japan?

Like the selection in international shops generally, it doesn’t seem to be stuff the average Japanese person wants to buy and it’s not generally stuff I want to buy either… I finally worked out a pattern, however. Most of the stuff is British food that is sold in the US, and in fact is often imported from there to Japan, for some reason. For  example:

Newcastle Brown Ale

Fullers ESP


Some apparently British brown sauce that I’d never heard off and turns out to have been bought up by Kraft foods, rather than the Daddies Sauce that you normally see at home

Sure there must be others, and does anyone know if that explains the strange occurance of Sarson’s Malt Vinegar in just about every import shop?

Should that selection match your demands more than mine, here’s a whole blog of mine on the topic:

Tips for Brits in Tokyo

Why has the price of imported foods gone up in Japan?

Coming back to Japan after two years in Korea I really expected the price of imported food to have gone down, seeing as that had happened in Korea and here there is also the high yen. Quite the reverse, however. Here are the only explanations I could come up with:

– As I wrote in my last post, one tactic of the importers was to undercut local retailers by importing and so missing out the middle men. They now seem to have mainly switched to selling imported foods and luxury premium goods, possibly because unlike the rest of the us, the rich are getting richer.

– I also have a feeling that those same middle men they were trying to avoid have now got involved, which would also explain why all imported shops have virtually the same goods nowadays.

– Unlike Korea, there has been virtually no liberalizing of trade

Why are bananas by far the cheapest fruit in Japan?

There is sometimes a big bunch for 98 yen next to apples which start at 298 yen a piece.

I’m guessing the government puts few restrictions on their import because they aren’t grown here and so there is no danger of Japanese farmers being hurt. There is also a Japanese free trade agreement with the Phillipines, where most or all of them (including those sold by American companies like Chiquita) seem to come from.

Same explanation seems to work for why fruit salads in convenience stores and supermarkets are always at least 80% pineapple.

Why does a big box of cornflakes in Japan have the writing and picture sideways?

Smaller shelves in the supermarkets??

Not sure why it looks sooooo odd to me either, but might need therapy to work that one out…