Thursday 9 March 2017

Eat a (Matcha) KitKat and Pass your Exams!

A front and back picture of a matcha green tea powder KitKat with an encouraging message for exam takers on the back
The matcha green tea powder KitKat for exam success
The KitKat is very popular in Japan - it is even sold in drink vending machines - and one reason for this might be because it has a unique captive audience: examinees or jukensha. This comes from the pronunciation in Japanese which sounds like kitto katsu or "you'll definitely win." The company has not been slow to exploit this lucky coincidence and has a whole support campaign to encourage examinees, including a high-school celebrity "character", promotions, and special products (see here). Interestingly, the new slogan is kitto sakurasakuyo (lit. the cherry blossom will definitely bloom), reflecting the season and again meaning successfully passing exams. With entrance exams for junior high school, high school, and university, the past few months have been a stressful time for many students. Although the old adage of "sleep 4 hours pass, 5 hours fail" (四当五落 or yontōgoroku) is undoubtedly an exaggeration, the pressure to study hard and get into a good school remains high. On a related note, the number of products containing matcha (green tea powder used in the tea ceremony) seem to have snowballed in recent years, and include not only chocolate, such as matcha chocolate Pocky, but also lattes, mochi (rice cakes), Oreos, and ice-cream. The most recent example was Starbucks' newly released Matcha White Chocolate Frappuccino. Matcha chocolates in particular make great souvenirs for friends and family back home, whether exam takers or not!