Review: Kit Kat Gran Wafer

Purchased: October 2012
Best Before: July 2013
Review: January 2013
Manufactured by Nestle Japan

You know you’ve got great friends when they e-mail you from Japan to go “Hey I just got here and there’s a new kind of Kit Kat called ‘Gran Wafer’, want me to grab it for you?”

The answer of course is yes. It is always yes. The awesome person is Jocelyne Allen, and you can read more about her at her literary review website (lots of manga and Japanese culture there too!).

I didn’t see Gran Wafer very often on my November trip, but it was notably found on the top shelf, with only one or two boxes remaining at any given time. Good placement for this product, I think.

Packaging: Released in special packaging that recalls some of the stranger and more upscale flavours such as “Cheese” and the ‘Air-In’ Kit Kats, the Gran Wafer box is a pretty remarkable piece of packaging, and is probably the most ornate yet. Consisting of a fairly large box with 10 single-stick individually wrapped Kit Kats, the package’s fairly prominent mention of only 26 calories identifies this snack as being for the calorie-conscious eater. In addition, “Gran Wafer” is spelled out on the box in romaji (English), with a katakana translation underneath, and prominent English packaging is a general hallmark of “modern and sophisticated” in candy packaging design.

The printing on the packaging is simply phenomenal, possibly the nicest I’ve seen for a mass-market snack. Extremely hi-resolution images of the Kit Kats are printed with a matte finish on four sides giving a luxurious feel, and every side of the box features spot gloss accents on the Kit Kat logo and the product image, making it pop! But if you want your product to leap off of the shelves, you need foil stamping, and the GRAN WAFER logo is stamped with a standard gold foil too, which would be the height of luxury… if there weren’t another type of foil stamping on the box as well! Yes the intricately-patterned textured gold foil diamond on this box pushes it over the top, as the fold foil diamond seems to exist simply to extol the surprising crunchiness of this product. Amazing.

The box then opens from the back, and up, and is nominally resealable indicating that this is not a single-serving portion of Kit Kat, much like the treasure-chest themed ‘cheese kit kat’ container. The back of the box then contains still more glamour (heh), as we learn that this Kit Kat featured an entirely new way of opening your Kit Kat packaging, involving snapping the package apart at the middle.

I’ve written 3 paragraphs about this before I got to the actual Kit Kat. Can you tell I was impressed?

So, we’re finally greeted with a single Kit Kat stick, wrapped in a shiny gold foil package (complete with the “Wow it’s Crunchy!” diamond), and pictographic instructions printed on the back detailing how to open these new Kit Kats. Step 1: “hineru” or twist. Step 2: “hibbaru” or pull informally. Seriously Google translate said “informal pull” which is awesome. Anyway, maybe I am a dullard, but despite direct instructions it took me 3 or 4 tried to actually get the pulling-apart correct. There are apparently micro-perforations that make it easy to twist and tear the packaging, but if you don’t find one of those, well, you may freak out a little. Anyway, we’re all good now, I’ve become a master at getting into these new Kit Kats, so I can tell you what they’re all about…!


Scent and Taste: The strongest scent is of cocoa, which is a first in my Kit Kat experience. Even the “mature” dark chocolate Kit Kats didn’t have a scent that reminded me of straight-up hot cocoa, and this does. It’s really pleasant.

This is a unique Kit Kat in that it’s the first I’ve ever tried without an outer shell of chocolate. It’s just wafers held together by a chocolate filling, and so my first thought was that the texture was wrong. I mean, not ‘wrong’ wrong, just, not a Kit Kat. It’s like the cheap wafer-cookies that you’d get at the supermarket. That surprise was followed by another—the wafers here are chocolate flavoured and coloured chocolate brown, which is another Kit Kat first for me as usually the wafers are just a standard sort of ‘cookie’ flavour, though honestly they have almost no flavour at all. These tasted alright, not spectacular, but it was nice to get a little something extra. All this before the first bite.

And that first bite? Excellent. It continued the cocoa flavours I’d smelled, and was really rich and delicious. Better still, it wasn’t even close to as sweet as your average Kit Kat, perhaps even less sweet than the “Adult” bars. The bar is also much denser than your average Kit Kat—delivering on its promise of surprising crunchiness, sure, but also delivering a surprisingly satisfying little bite.

Verdict: This is a real success, and it shows that Nestle are finally spreading their wings a little after playing it safe for a few years. This is a mature, complicated flavour, featuring unique textures and with quality, tasty ingredients. I honestly didn’t have high hopes after being so disappointed with their other calorie-conscious offerings, but this was pretty great. It could be argued that chocolate is a safe choice, and a variation on chocolate will be an easy sale… and that’s totally fair. This isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind the way that Pancake Kit Kats did, for example, but this is a pretty big departure for the standard Kit Kat, and I’m pretty excited about it. Thanks Nestle!

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Review: Pepsi Salty Watermelon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReview: Pepsi Salty Watermelon
Purchased: Summer 2012
Review: January 2013
Manufactured by Pepsi Japan

So I don’t live in Japan, but I do seem very fortunate in that I manage—by hook or by crook—to try many of the special, seasonal, limited snacks and beverages produced for the denizens of that nation. I’m very lucky to get to travel there, and luckier still that I’ve made some friends there that are willing to hook me up.

Which is a round-about way of saying: I was totally sad when Pepsi announced their newest limited edition flavour, Salty Watermelon. I’ve really loved some of their recent flavours like Mont Blanc and Strawberry Milk (“Pepsi Pink”), but there’s no way that the limited-edition summer product would be on store shelves by the time I visited Tokyo in November, 2012. Luckily, my friend Aki was nice enough to pick up a few bottles and hold onto them for me… for the better part of 3 months! It was a seriously nice thing of him to do, and I’m very grateful for it. I assume you are too, as you get to read what I have to say about this very unique beverage…! ;)

Packaging: Weighing in at 490ml, this bottle is a good shape and easy to grab, but unfortunately the shrink-wrapped label isn’t glued down which actually makes it a little slippery. The design is great though, emphasizing the summery nature of the beverage with a warm blue sky and fluffy clouds over a beach, and a warm watermelon glimmering in the sun. The English language on the package is great too, and the slogan “Refreshing taste of summer” absolutely made my day.

Cracking the bottle open while sitting in my Toronto apartment immediately brought me back to Japan. The bottles there basically ‘snap’ open as the pressurized interior allows in air—it’s unique to Japanese sodas! Not this one in particular, but I figured I’d mention it as one of the things I love about soda-pop in Japan.


Scent and Taste: It’s a very rich watermelon scent right away. It smells crisp and watery, like a real watermelon, with only a hint of sweetness. Usually watermelon flavoured candies are overwhelmingly sweet, and this was mellower and nice.

It’s highly carbonated on the tongue, and the first taste is actually watermelon! The sweetness is dialled back from what you might expect watermelon soda to taste like though—I  actually like melon-flavoured sodas from Japan, but they’re generally so sweet your teeth hurt, and this isn’t like that. It’s a pretty rich taste right away. No immediately saltiness, but maybe that’s what’s keeping the sweetness of a bottle of Pepsi at bay…!

There’s definitely a bit of a salty aftertaste, after about 10 seconds, which is fantastic and unusual. Salty drinks aren’t a regular part of my diet, so it was nice and surprising. It’s still got sweetness in the aftertaste, but it seems to finish a lot cleaner than the last couple of special Pepsis that I’ve tried, with no sourness or residue from sweeteners.

I had let the drink warm up a little bit to taste the full range of flavours, but upon tasting it I immediately wanted it to be ice cold and crisp! So three ice cubes in a tumbler later, and the drink is exactly as refreshing as I want it to be.

Verdict: An unqualified success. If I were in Japan when these were available I would’ve been drinking one a day… which is probably a terrible idea now that I think about it. Seriously though, if you can go to the convenience store and pick up a delicious, refreshing, crisp watermelon soda that you know will only be available for a limited time? Why wouldn’t you do it?

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Review: Iwatsukaseika Ltd. Noukou Cheese Agesen (Cheese Crackers)

Hi there! I’m currently in Japan, and trying all kinds of different snacks and things. I hope you don’t mind this shortened review format while I blaze through some new snacks!

Iwatsukaseika Ltd. Noukou Cheese Agesen (Cheese Crackers)
Best before: 2013.02.07
Review: 2012.11.12

Packaging: Ironically, I picked up this up because of the packaging, despite the fact that there’s no English on it except for the words “Cheddar Cheese”, “Parmesan Cheese”, and “Camenbert Cheese”. That’s gotta be some pretty effective packaging, right there. :) The photography is big and clear, and communicates what these are all about. Crackers, or something like Japanese cheese straws, with lots of flavour. Since my beloved Cheeza crackers had become such a hit, the promise of a new, richly flavoured snack was welcome!

Scent and Taste: Opening the bag, I was happy with the low, pungent notes of cheese. Unfortunately, none of those were to be found in the product itself. In fact there is no cheese flavour to be found anywhere, in any bite of this. I tried it on its own, with alcohol, with coke, just to see if something would bring out a greater depth of flavour, and… nothing. These taste like fried crackers, and the texture and crunch are pleasant enough, but there’s no there there, if you know what I mean.

Verdict: Profoundly disappointing. I was just explaining to a friend that they aren’t bad exactly, they at least taste like food as opposed to some of the other things I’ve eaten on here. She said “if the nicest thing you can say is that they ‘taste like food’ then they’re better left uneaten.

She’s 100% right, of course.

I am mad at you, Iwatsukaseika, for promising me the big flavours of three cheeses and producing something that tastes like oily, run-of-the-mill cracker. I’m going back to Cheeza, and you will never see me again.

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Review: Kit Kat x Rilakkuma Hot Cake Kit Kat

Review: Kit Kat x Rilakkuma Hot Cake Kit Kat
Purchased: May 2012
Best Before: October 2012
Review: June 2012
Manufactured by Nestle Japan

While Kit Kat collaborations are something that fans have come to expect, they’re still somewhat few and far between when you’re covering the brand with a dedicated blog and an eagle-eye… which made the announcement a few months back of these Rilakkuma Hot Cake flavoured Kit Kats downright amazing. Not just a rebranding of an existing flavour, like the Mos Burger white chocolate or the Japan Post dragon Kit Kats, this is an all-new flavour and one of my favourites at that…!

Over on my ‘regular’ blog, I covered a pancake-flavoured beverage a few years back that still gets all sorts of crazy hits, and (spoiler) it was delicious, and so my hopes going into this collaboration between an exciting flavour courtesy of a cutesy icon rapidly approaching Hello Kitty levels of popularity and my beloved chocolate wafers… well… they were high. Let’s put it that way: I had high expectations.

Packaging: I know, I know, once you’ve seen a hundred flavours of Kit Kat literally anything out of the ordinary will get your attention, but this really is some pretty elaborate packaging… and excellent at that!

This is a box of 12 individually-wrapped 2-finger bars, exactly like the standard gift-sets, except the box is just tricked-out, there’s no other way to describe it. It’s got 8 sides, for starters (most boxes have 6), with the left and right sides shaped like irregular hexagons…! The frontspiece features a special die-cut so that brand-icon Rilkkuma and brand-logo Kit Kat actually appear larger than the boxes they’re printed on. Within the box is a clear-plastic bag filled with Kit Kat fingers. This is wholly unique Kit Kat packaging, and I have to say I was excited when I saw it on the rack…!

The box art is pretty great too, with big graphics of the leads, a nice bright yellow to make the box pop, and different illustrated adornments on every face. The flavour is communicated through Japanese and English writing AND illustrations, everything I want! The overall design is very young and cute—it’s clearly intended for actual children or the cute-obsessed (mostly) ladies in their 30s, but it’s hard to see this packaging as anything other than stellar. It feels like a real gift in your hands, is beautifully decorated, and contains the promise of even more.

I might be overselling this a little…?

Scent: Wow. There’s a sweet syrup scent, but perhaps even more exciting? Butter! It’s so buttery it almost smells like popcorn… or maybe a popcorn jellybean? Heh. Despite this being a white chocolate Kit Kat, I’m not getting any of that tell-tale scent, just a really bright, sweet scent… sort of the platonic ideal of pancakes.

Taste: I know you go into these things thinking “Well it’s a pancake Kit Kat, of course it’s going to taste like Pancakes”, but having tried over 60 different sorts of candy for this blog, I can tell you that what it says on the box isn’t always what you get on your taste buds, dig? So when I say “this is like a stack of pancakes in a finger of Kit Kat,” please realize what an amazing accomplishment this is! :)

As suggested by the scent, this is one buttery Kit Kat, perhaps my first ever! The buttery flavour and scent (and even texture, I think) make it the predominant taste, which is a bit surprising as it would seemingly be pretty easy to drown this in syrup and call it a day—but the flavour is really something special, I think. Of course they don’t skimp on sweetness, the secondary flavour is the syrup (tastes more like table syrup rather than maple, sadly), but it’s not cloying or over-the-top. It’s just perfect, and if there’s any standard white chocolate Kit Kat in there, I can’t taste it.

About 5 minutes after, the aftertaste isn’t ideal, but if anything it’s just enticement to have a second… or third… bar.

Verdict: Everything about this Kit Kat just straight up makes you smile; the overdesigned box, the bold character graphics, the surprising taste. All of it works together to create a chocolate that people would love to receive as a gift or as omiyage, would love to share, or even just to try. I’m so happy that, after near two months off of reviewing for the site (sorry!) I came back and got to try one of my favourite Kit Kats ever. If there’s one thing that’s not perfect about this, it’s that the Rilakkuma Hotcake Kit Kat is a limited edition, already off most store shelves in Japan, and many of you will never get to try just how awesome it is.

If you see it? Get it. If you can order it? Get on it. It’s one of the greatest members of the Japanese Kit Kat pantheon.

Okay, I’m definitely overselling it.

But still. Grab some.


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Special Feature Review: Tsukuro! Obento! (Make it! Bento!)

Today we’re very fortunate to welcome our very first guest reviewer to Oyatsu Break, Jocelyne Allen! Jocelyne is a friend of mine and a translator, and she’s had the [mis]fortune to accompany me through dozens of convenience stores across Japan, looking for cool candy. She and her partner Todd encountered a pretty unique candy of their own, and they were nice enough to document their ‘create your own candy’ exeperience for the site! You can check out more of Jocelyne’s writing at
– Chris,

Review: Tsukuro! Obento! (Make it! Bento!)
Review by Jocelyne Allen, with thanks to Todd  Ferguson

When partner-in-crime Todd and I spotted the bright orange and busy packaging of “Tsukuro! Obento!” in the snack aisle of the T&T Supermarket, more than one question jumped into my head, but I guess one of the first was, “Are there English instructions?” Thanks to my powerful bilingualism, I could immediately understand the name of this treat: Make it! Bento box! And even the tiny letters on the back detailing each step of making it were no mystery to me. But, I wondered, what about the non-Japanese speakers that were likely in the majority in this supermarket and indeed, in the city? How will they make their own bento?

The answer, I learned, is simple: They won’t. The only instructions for this questionable treat are those tiny letters on the back of the box, and these are half-covered by a sticker in English detailing the nutritional value of the contents of the box (hint: What is the nutritional content of 100% sugar?). So if you are considering a trip to T&T Supermarket to procure your very own sugar bento, be forewarned.

Fortunately, my aforementioned Japanese super powers meant that the lack of English was no barrier, and in a moment of ill-advised spontaneity, we paid the $3.99 sale price for the “Kracie Bento Soft Candy” and ran to the nearest kitchen, eager to create our own lunch made of fructose and variations of glucose.

The bento features onigiri (rice ball), tamagoyaki (fried egg) broccoli (seriously), kara-age (deep-fried meat), napolitan (spaghetti dish), an octopus wiener, and panda onigiri. Opening the box, we discover that the plastic acting as the second wrapper (because in Japan, one wrapper is not enough) also doubles as the “box” for our bento. We briefly debate getting an actual bento box out since we are doubtful that we will be able to achieve optimal piling without the walls of the box to hold our creation up, but eventually agree that it would be a shame not to use the cheerful yellow drawing that we paid almost four dollars for.

Naturally, inside the plastic “box” wrapping, more packaging awaits. It’s starting to look like we are in over our heads, but in the end, the basic idea is quite simple. Take packet of processed sugar, empty into the appropriate part of the plastic tray, use the plastic triangle cup to measure in the right amount of water, stir awkwardly with an awkwardly tiny plastic fork (stirring with a fork you can barely hold in your hand is not the greatest idea) until it gets gross. And with each food item, the making gets progressively grosser.

We follow the instructions and start with the broccoli. The smell when the water hits the sugar powder is overwhelming. My entire kitchen smells like a bubble gum factory. Todd stirs diligently until things start to gel up. There is the question of whether or not this candy is vegetarian since we are of the vegetarian persuasion. Fortunately (?), it’s not gelling up with crushed horse hooves (aka gelatin), but agar, so we are safe.

The egg and the octopus wiener are basically the same consistency as the broccoli, and the same overpowering sweet smell. But things change when we get to the onigiri. It has a texture. It rolls up into little, surprisingly rice-like balls. It also smells like a bubble gum factory. And instead of leaving it to set, like the other bento ingredients, we are instructed to shape it following the size guides on the side of our plastic bento “box”. I get to work on the panda, Todd takes care of the onigiri.

The nori (seaweed) stumps us for a moment. So far, everything we’ve done has required water, but this step just has us dumping black powder into parts of the mold. We question our understanding of the instructions, nervous about wrecking everything when we’ve come so far. We take the leap and forget about the water, press our rice balls into the black powder. The panda has eyes! The onigiri has a faint strip of nori! We spend a few moments back-patting.

The kara-age, as Todd notes, looks and feels very much like its real world counterpart.

We are both slightly disturbed at how well real food products can be mimicked with a mixture of sugar and water. Happily, the napolitan is very far away from its real world counterpart. Ostensibly spaghetti with tomato sauce, what we produce is a pile of red-orange goo. Todd remarks more than once that this would be the best thing ever if we were seven.

After everything is set and gelled, we pile our lunch into our box. And realize two things. One is that the picture on the box is not made from the same stuff our lunch is made from. And the second is that we are going to have to eat this oozing mess. We try the onigiri, both panda and regular, first.

The smell of cheap bubble gum is hard to get past, but we manage to bring fake rice treats close enough to our faces to take a bite. The texture is, oddly enough, like old bubble gum, crumbly and clumpy. The taste is chemically sweet, much too sweet. Even Todd, who enjoys nothing more than a supermarket birthday cake, grimaces at the sugar explosion.

The kara-age is less cloying, but with a similar texture. And like the onigiri, we can’t get past one small bite. Next, Todd takes on the egg, reports that it’s slimy and not delicious in the least. I tackle the wiener, which is supposedly strawberry flavoured, but I taste nothing even vaguely resembling a strawberry. It is also slightly slimy, like melting Jello. Todd screws up his courage and eats the entire piece of broccoli. It too does not taste like the muscat grape promised on the box, a flavour we wouldn’t have recognized even if it was there, but fortunately, it tasted like the chemical sugar goodness of all the other lunch bits.

Then it is time for the spaghetti. I pick up the tiny fork and pull a bite off the pile of goo in the corner of the bento box. The consistency is much less slimy than the wiener, but softer than the onigiri. It’s just thick enough not to be runny, and reminds me of a kind of chewing gum that I used to get when I was a kid, that started out as a semi-liquid and then firmed up in your mouth. (Does anyone know what this was called?) It’s probably the most palatable part of the bento, although it doesn’t taste anything like the grape flavour it is supposed to be.

In the end, all we have to show for our efforts are sore bellies and a pile of garbage. And Todd’s mouth is kind of a funny colour from the broccoli.

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