Growing up in Hawaii meant exposure to many different cultures and their traditions. Other than Hawaiian, by far the most predominant cultural influences are Asian in origin. I grew up following the adventures of Japanese super heroes. While most of you were playing Superman, Batman, or Spider Man, my friends and I were posing as Kikaida (pictured below), Kamen Rider V3, and Rainbow Man (a lot less gayer than it sounds, though come to think of it he did cry a lot. What the hell did I know? I was 8). Japanese heroes, before all of this freaky manga crap the kids are in to now, were what kids in Hawaii aspired to be, regardless of ethnic origin.
I've sort of been thinking about this lately because a friend recently returned from Japan with a bag load of Japanese candies. Now, I have had my share of these candies as a child, and they were not always what you would expect. There was a Tomoe candy that was basically a soy flour covered flavored gelatin wrapped in rice paper. You didn't even have to unwrap it, just pop it in and wait for the rice paper to dissolve. This was exceedingly cool for a lazy fat ass kid who didn't have the time or inclination to unwrap his sweets.
There was also a strange tasting gum that smelled kind of like oranges soaked in kerosene. The gum got thrown away most of the time, because that wrapper had a tattoo on it that would sort of transfer if you hocked a huge loogie on it and held it to your skin for 3 days or so. The pictures were always of these weird japanese characters that looked like Elmo and Barney had a love child that they then fed large quantities of LSD to. We also ate Haribo Gummi Bears, bubble gum in the shape of hamburgers, and this chewing gum that would turn your mouth black (which was a big hit with parents and dentists). There were also rice crackers covered in a sweet glaze and dried, dehydrated plums covered in a sweet salt based powder, or soaked in their own liquid syrup. All tasty and all strange to anyone not born and raised in Hawaii or Asia.
The point is that I thought I had lived, you know? Like the savvy veteran, I was content to sit back and mock the neophyte visitor who was too much of a pussy to try my childhood favorites. Much like that smug Irish asshole in the pub who laughs at the Yanks who can't stomach Guiness, I was the Lord and Master of all things sweet and yummy. So imagine my surprise when I came across this:
That, my friends, is regional variety writ large. Apparently chocolate is simply not enough for our Japanese brethren. They have taken the sweet, familiar, chocolatey goodness of your average Kit Kat candy bar and added all sorts of crap to it, which I can only believe is a savage attack on the American way of life. Blueberry Kit Kat? Check. Green Tea Kit Kat? Here. Coca Cola and Lemon Lime Kit Kats? Fuck and Yes. Banana? Pumpkin? Apple Vinegar? You're damn skippy, junior. All of these and more, just waiting for your gaijin ass at any store on the Ginza.
Oh, that's nothing. I was given the...honor...of trying three distinctive flavors. First, Grilled Corn. That's right. A grilled freaking corn Kit Kat. Here:
It tasted surprisingly like...corn. It wasn't something I'd eat again, but there was a definite burnt corn kernel flavor with what seemed like a hint of butter. But what the fuck do I know, Bourdain I'm not.
Next, Wasabi Kit Kat. Yeah, that hot shit you use on sushi. Here's a look:
This I was unsure about. I could see this having the potential to ruin Kit Kat candies for me forever. At first taste, you think it doesn't even taste like wasabi and you figure you're good. Then it creeps up on you from the bottom. Bottom. You like that, huh? Learned that from watching the Food Network. In any case, it wasn't that bad and I would try it again.
Then there is this:
That is a Soy Sauce flavored Kit Kat. And it tasted like ass. It actually tasted like deep fried ass smothered in onions THEN covered in soy sauce. The truly disturbing part? This is reportedly the most popular flavor in Japan. Damn. I mean just...damn.