Does being an expat make you fat?


“You were a lucky bitch!”

A friend snapped at me when we were talking about expat life and how it makes one fat – most of the time. But the first time I became an expat, I was not fat – and because of that, I earn the title, “lucky bitch”. 

I was 19 when I landed in Japan from the Philippines. I was on a scholarship program, had a room all to myself in the school dormitory and was given monthly stipend. You know what a young girl would spend with sudden money landing on her lap month after month?

If you guessed clothes, wrong. I was not into clothes. Or shoes. Instead, I was on a mission to buy all the food I didn’t have before. Back home, life was tough having to share everything with five other siblings. I send some of my monthly allowance back home but still had extra. The fear of gaining weight didn’t grip me with fear. I bought and ate whatever I fancied.

When you’re 19 or in the early 20’s, you can actually get away with eating junk and lots of carbohydrates (hello late night ramen!!) and not look like a sumo wrestler. Your metabolism level is kick-ass. My typical days always included lot of whole fat milk, Pringles, sugary drinks, candies and chocolates. I had one ambitious goal that time: test and taste ALL the chocolate brands I could find! And I think I achieved that goal on the first year itself. Too bad this was in 1996-1997 when there were no blogs, Facebook or Instagram!

I remember I used to wake up in the middle of the night and creep through the lonely halls towards the direction of the vending machine in the dormitory ground floor. The vending machines in Japan fascinated me. I’d put coins and press one new button per day. I got hooked to the awesome strawberry milk the most. I also got hooked to Mister Donut, paired with hot chocolate on winters. Whoa.

Graduation day in Japan  2001 – the year I graduated from the university in Japan (I am the one in pink), 4.5 years after I landed

My friend started her life as an expat in the UK last month. She’s 28. Like me, she is amazed by what is available right in front of her eyes. Those things she could not find at home, most importantly, the ones she could not afford before. But at 28, her metabolism is not on kick-ass level anymore and paired with the UK’s ever gloomy, depressing grey and cold weather, she is in no mood to exercise. On the contrary, it makes her want to be in the comfort of chocolates and buttermilk pancakes and hot chocolate drinks.

“Help, I’m getting fat!” was the SOS message I got a month after she landed in the UK. “I know I will get fat but the Toblerones, Cadburys and Ferreros are always on sale and I can actually buy them now. I’ve been hoarding.”

Oh, life abroad. I was indeed a lucky bitch for having to taste it all without having to buy bigger jean sizes.  But those were the days – I am feeling the pinch right now, being an expat again in Dubai at a much older age. With all the fantastic dining options available, it is hard not to gain weight. In fact, there’s a popular term called “the Dubai stone” – a catchy expression of the theory that living in Dubai will result in your regular weight increasing by somewhere in the region of 6.3 something kilograms.

But at least I am done with my chocolate experiment. 

Are you an expat? Did you gain weight than when you were back home?

Top photo credit

School in Japan

Taiken nyuugaku: Experiencing local school in Japan

School in Japan

This has been a long overdue post but I really wanted to share this with you and most especially for families like ours, with mixed-race children.

Pristine was born in Japan and she was only 3 years old when we moved to Dubai in 2007. She only spoke Japanese then but as our stay in the UAE became longer and longer (7 years in a few weeks!) and with Pristine attending British curriculum international school, she has lost her grip not just on the language but also being away from Japan too long, been detached from the Japanese culture and tradition aspect.

When we went for vacation to Japan this summer, we enrolled Pristine in the local Japanese public school – something we’ve always wanted to do for years now. She has spent more of her years here than in Japan and we didn’t want her to forget half of what she is.

More specifically, we want her to experience both worlds.

Taiken nyuugaku: a special program for Japanese kids who lived overseas. They come home for the summer, and experience life in a Japanese school. We knew lots of children who did it. We thought it was a great way to reconnect with her roots, not mention hone her Japanese language skills and most importantly, to be with Japanese children her age, in Japan.

Pristine in Japanese school in Japan


A family or friend in Japan needs to visit the local school where you want your child to attend school and ask about the possibility of taiken nyuugaku. Most local public schools will say yes. Your child can attend the local school for up to a month. The procedures will vary from school to school so be sure to check. You will need to speak to the school principal before you go back to Japan and when you arrive, you might need to visit the school personally to pay the fees (tuition fee is very low as elementary education is compulsory in Japan – we only paid for the meals served in school during lunch and books). And if your child has specific food allergies, like our daughter is allergic to eggs and shell fish, you will need to speak to the health administrator beforehand.

Luckily for us, our former neighbor took all the trouble with the paper works so Pristine was ready when we arrived in Matsumoto.

So, what’s it like going to school in Japan?

First, there are no school buses like in Dubai! Children in Japan walk to school every day, for the whole duration of the school year. Be it in the hot summer or cold winter, in sunny weather and even during rain or snow.

During the first few days when Pristine wasn’t familiar with the other kids walking to school and the route so her father had to take her there – in a bicycle! We were traveling on a budget and had no car nor wanted to rent one for this purpose. Our lovely neighbor friend however, lent us their good, old sturdy bicycle we used.

bike to school in Japan

After a couple of days when Pristine found friends who attend the same school and live nearby, she and her dad would still bike off every morning but only until the meeting place where kids gather and walk in groups.

walking to school in Japan

School starts at 8:00 am and since it is located about 2 kilometers away (no kidding!!), everyone has to wake up early, have a full breakfast (very important – reason later!), meet up with friends and start their journey to school.

walking to school in Japan

A long walk is easier when with a friend…

crossing the road

Here they are crossing the pedestrian. The children are trained to raise their hands when crossing the street so they are more visible to the drivers. Japan, up to this day still remains as one of the safest places in the world. Sure, there are crimes reported but today, children in Japan still walk to and from school everyday.

walking to school in Japan

~ the girls stop by to pose for mommy paparazzi ~

This below photo is taken from the school after school hours. The children go home together in groups too. Outside of the school, I saw a group of elderly people with arm bands that read “safety guardians” or something. They guide the children at checkpoints ensuring they go home safely. And the volunteers (retirees, I presume) do this on volunteer basis, unpaid of course.

going home

This is the school policy that enumerates the school’s objective for the children.

School Policy

From right to left (because that’s how you read Japanese – trivia for you!)…the school aims to ‘produce’…

1. Karada wo kitaeru kodomo – Physically strong children

2. Minna wo daiji ni suru kodomo – Children who makes everyone feel important

3.  Yoku kangaeyarinuku kodomo – Children who think and persevere

True enough, as part of their aim to produce physically strong children, they have swimming classes everyday since it was summer and the weather was just perfect for water play. The school also have a rigorous physical education program all throughout the year.

swimming in Japan school

See those mountains? We used to live in Nagano Prefecture in Japan and our city is 800 meters above sea level. It’s beautiful.

swimming in Japan school

Children in Japan learn swimming from when they start going to school which amazed me because in the Philippines, we had no swimming lessons, not until I was in college!

Indoor and outdoors shoes

Removing shoes in school

One of the distinct things about going to a school in Japan is that while children are not required to wear uniforms (in public schools), they need to wear a different shoes when they are inside the building. The pair of shoes is the same for everyone. They change shoes at the school entrance before entering the school halls.

Last walk home

And change to their usual shoes at the end of the day. The indoor shoes will be left at the school.

No school uniform but that bag…

Children in public schools in Japan are not required to wear school uniforms however, there is a prescribed school bag for all. The randoseru is a sturdy, functional backpack that has become a hallmark of Japanese elementary school. The randoseru dates as far back as the end of the 19th century, when Western military structure was first adopted in Japan. Soldiers carried square bags called ransel, a Dutch word, which changed into randoseru in Japanese. Lately, there had been variety of colors sold but it used to come only in two colors: red for girls and black for boys. (Our neighbor lent us Pristine’s red randoseru from one of their daughters who finished elementary school)

The randoseru bags are not cheap ranging from 9,800 yen to 30,000 yen but the intricacies of these backpacks are incredibly well designed with long-lasting sturdiness in mind that they usually last beyond the child’s elementary years in immaculate condition.

Jugyou sankan

Jugyo sankan

We were lucky that during the time Pristine attended the school there, there was a jugyou sankan – Class open day. These are opportunities for parents to view classes so that they can get to know how their children are doing in school and exchange opinions and information with their children’s teacher(s).

Pristine speech

After two weeks, Pristine’s last day of taiken nyuugaku came. She was so sad to have to leave her new found friends. She gave a farewell speech in front of the class. Aimed with her renewed, refreshed Nihongo skills, she faced them with her practiced speech. Not perfect but she powered through it from beginning till end.

farewell gifts

We bought little trinkets from Dubai to give to the kids. I hope they remember Pristine when they see that little camel paper weight.

farewell gift for boy classmates

We prepared a different set of gift for boys and for girls.

After the tearful exchange of goodbyes, we met the school principal to say thanks.

thank you Ms. Principal

Pristine loved the short ten days she spent at the local school in Japan. From new friends to the greener environment to the very enthusiastic teacher, the everyday swimming lessons and most importantly, the kyuushoku – school lunches!



We got this menu list for the whole month of July with detailed information of the dish that varies everyday. From Monday through Friday, schoolchildren attending elementary and middle schools in Japan have lunches prepared for them at school. The students take turns serving portions. The meals are healthy and well-balanced, containing all the nutrients and calories required for the healthy growth of youngsters.

kyuushoku 1

Lunches are planned by dieticians (you can hardly see any obese children in Japan) and are usually made from scratch, using local, unfrozen, seasonal ingredients. Portions are modestly sized, and the menus are carefully planned throughout the week to emphasize variety and nutrition. Every couple of days, kids might get to try Italian style pasta or Korean food or something a bit more exotic.

One more thing about kyuushoku is that you have to eat everything. For my husband who was born and raised in Japan, that is atarimae – just natural. The Japanese hate to waste food.

And the reason why it’s actually EASY to finish all of the food at lunch? There is no snack time! Classes start at 8 am and lunch is four hours later at 12 noon. Teachers expect the children to have that filling breakfast to last them till lunch time!


Also one thing I really want to share about our Japanese school experience is that – there are no cleaners in school. The children tidy up the things around the classroom and are required to bring a 2 pieces of cloth with their names on it. This first piece of cloth is used to wipe the desks and the other one? for the floors. They wash it and hang it to dry in school.


Japanese schools teach children to become independent in an organized, careful way, including explicit instruction on how to walk to school on their own safely, how to pack for themselves for field trips, and how to care for their things.


When Pristine left the school one last time, it wasn’t only her shoe box that became empty, her heart too. She wished she’d stay longer. Maybe next time. Surely, next time.

How does the Japanese school differ from the school in your country?

Would you give up your citizenship?

Before relocating to Dubai, I’ve lived in Japan for a good 10 years plus a couple of months. Initially, I never thought of staying there for long but so much can happen in ten years – I graduated from a Japanese university, met my lifetime partner, landed my first job, had a baby, etc. I came to love the place and decided I take the next big step: living there permanently with minimum hassle, if possible.

You can apply for permanent residence in Japan if you have lived there for 10 years consecutively, or 5 years with a work permit. You can also qualify for permanent resident status if you’ve been married to a Japanese national for 3+ years.

Reference: Guidelines for Permanent Residency in Japan ; How to Get Permanent Residence in Japan

I had a student visa for 4.5 years, 3 years work permit and decided to apply for naturalization instead of permanent residence. Permanent resident status would require renewals every 1-3 years, it has perks close to being a Japanese citizen without becoming a Japanese citizen.

A “PR” holder will retain his/her original citizenship and passport. Naturalization means you obtain Japanese citizenship and passport.

The difference between permanent residence and naturalization can be summed up like this:

Permanent residency and other visas give you permission to be in Japan. Being a Japanese national gives you the right to be in Japan.

In Japan, dual citizenship is not allowed so I need to give up my original citizenship. But it wasn’t a difficult decision: it was the best for my family in terms of travel convenience, for example. Japan passport holders get entry to most countries without a obtaining a visa.

Our children would get instant citizenship because one of their parents is a native Japanese. Japan only honors Jus sanguinis – the right to a nationality or citizenship given because one has an ancestor (e.g. a parent) who has the nationality or citizenship of the state in question. Spouses of Japanese nationals can not adapt citizenship through marriage, contrary to what others assume. Spouses will only get PR but retain their original birth country passport.

That meant if all my family members have Japan passports and I don’t, we face the difficulty of applying for visas whenever we need to travel together (and we intend to do a lot of traveling in the near future). And I know how tough it is for a Philippine passport holder to apply for visas. I’ve been denied tourist visa to the US, twice before.

I readily signed the forms and submitted. The process for naturalization is tedious. I received my notice of approval (1.5 years after submitting my application) one spring day in 2004. I know I should feel lonely or something but I also know that naturalization only requires me to give up my previous (original) nationality. It does not ask me to give up my ethnicity or my culture or my heritage or my identity.

So I wonder, are any of my expat readers given up their citizenship for a new one? How did you feel about it?

Top photo credit

At Narita Airport

Week four in Japan

* We’re back to Dubai, this is just a recap of our trip to Japan. *

On our last week in Japan, the older child asked, “why do we have to go back (to Dubai)”? I understand her plight – it’s hard to say goodbye to days like this.

week 4 - 1

She has a point. If we were there, they can be at the park, even have water fun outside all throughout the summer. Every freakin’ day.

week 4 - 2

week 4 - 3

And then they can have this after playing. Green tea ice cream with ogura (sweet red beans) on kakigori (shaved ice). Mmmm.

green tea kakigori

Or watermelons! Japanese watermelons are not cheap (this one is US$20 per piece) but they’re totally worth it.

watermelons in Japan

We will miss the nights when we had hanabi (fire crackers).

week 4 - 4

And that strange Italian restaurant that has buffet menu not only for pizza and pasta but also Japanese osouzai (appetizers)!

Italian restaurant

On our way to Narita airport, we pass by Suwa Lake. My first job was near this lake and during our training, we were made to walk around this lake to “refresh” and “start our working life fit and healthy. I was like, they’ve got to be kidding, this lake is 13.3 square kilometers in area!

Suwa Lake

Family portrait at Suwa service area in the expressway to Tokyo, with Suwa Lake on the background. Sorry the kids look like they just got out of bed…because they just did.

week 4 - 5

Pristine in front of Tokyo station, must be one of the most photographed train stations in Japan.

week 4 - 6

I love this photo of my kids. I love how Ben is clinging to his big sister as she confidently feeds the bird off her hands. He is super curious at the bird but a little scared and big sister got his back on this.

week 4 - 7

M had an errand at Okura Shukokan, an art museum in front of Hotel Okura in Tokyo. Sitting with the big statue of the museum founder, Kihachiro Okura.

week 4 - 8

You can almost tell what she’s praying for.

week 4 - 9

We arrive in Narita Airport.Ben is fascinated by anything moving – trains, buses, cars, planes. We’re lucky this little guy is such a trooper during our long flight to Japan and back.

week 4 - 10

And then, bam! Just like that, we’re back to Dubai.

week 4 - 11

That wraps up our 4 weeks in Japan, in photos. The kids are missing Japan already. Right now, we only have pictures, videos and lot of memories.

See here for other photos of Week OneWeek Two and Week Three.

* Want to read more stories like this? Read up on my past posts about Japan!

Japan's unmanned store

Japan’s unmanned store

Let’s talk about honesty.

I’ve been lucky to experience living in two places where honestly still exists – Japan and Dubai. I dropped my wallet one snowy night on my way home on a bicycle so many winters ago in Japan and received a call from a local policeman telling me he has my wallet in his hands. This was before I knew I even lost my wallet!

In Dubai, I leave my office drawer open (nothing to steal but my precious Lindt chocolate bar or two) and nothing had been missing so far. ATM cards left at the machine? We’re lucky no one has taken advantage of our forgetfulness (yet).

In Japan, honesty is being taken to another level with this.

Japan's unmanned store

This is just one of the “unmanned stores” you can find in Japan, more in the suburbs and little towns, but apparently, there are many in Tokyo. Yes, you read it right, UNMANNED. This is a small store selling stuff without anyone to manage it.

How does it work?

Usually in the summer season, people grow vegetables in their own garden and it becomes too much for them to consume (most households are small). So they sell their harvest to others. Local people would buy vegetables on the way back from a morning walk, so it would all be all gone by noon. If you want to get the best veggies, the early bird gets the worm.

unmanned vegetable store in Japan

We chanced upon this unmanned store near where we lived at 2 pm and it was almost all gone. The things on sale were seasonal vegetables. These are potatoes inside a paper bag, with a remark saying “good for curry or stew”.


Organic spring onion.

Spring onion

This is the price of the vegetables – one plate is 100 yen (US$1). One hundred yen comes in one coin so it’s easy for the buyer since most people carry these loose coins in their wallets.

unmanned store in Japan

Plastic bags according to size for your veggies.

plastic bags at the unmanned store

So this is unmanned – there’s no one to hand over the payment. How will you pay?

Unmanned shop in Japan

There’s this simple can where you’ll put your coins, marked with “thank you”. I took a peek at the can and saw a few coins inside. Business solely based on the honor system – amazing, isn’t it?

Some of you might be wondering how you go about selling vegetables on the street. Well, in Japan you don’t need a special permit to operate a business on your own property. You just need a basic hut in order to provide shelter against the sun, the price tags and a coin box. That’s it.

Do you think these unmanned shops can work in your neighborhood?

* Want to read more stories like this? Read up on my past posts about Japan!

summer is popsicle time

Week three in Japan

* We’re back to Dubai, this is just a recap of our trip to Japan. *

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? We feel that our days in Japan is coming to an end. It’s still hot but that didn’t mean anything for these kids who are overwhelmed with the idea they can actually go outside and play in the summer!

week 3 -1

When we first came here, Pristine was terrified of insects and bugs. It’s amazing she’s come this far to holding one! Pristine caught a dragonfly and gladly posed for a picture. She released it afterwards.

week 3 -2

Benjamin and I continue our strolls around the neighborhood.


week 3 -3




Pristine, who had been going to the elementary school there walks with a friend to school. I will write a separate post about going to school in Japan and why we put her in.

walking to school in Japan

Japanese sake – have you tried it? I am cautious of these things as I had a very unforgettable hangover from this stuff years back. Something I don’t want to repeat! Think of a hangover that don’t want to go away. For days.

Japanese sake

Did I tell you it’s hot? The summer temps rose up to 35-37C but since we don’t have any aircon at home, we looked like this on most days. And lived in front of the electric fan.

week 3 -4

Summer = Popsicles.

week 3 -5

And ice candy.

week 3 -6

Too much cold stuff led to this.

week 3 -7

He had been holding up really well with the heat but near the end of our vacation, I couldn’t ignore Ben’s coughing anymore. This was at a nearby clinic.

Random view from the newly renovated train station. A friend of mine used to live here while we were working for the same company. Brings back so many memories.

Hirooka, Shiojiri City, Nagano, Japan

The foodie tandem. They took a pic of our ramen, I took a pic of them taking a pic of our ramen.

week 3 -8

Week four photos coming next! Here are photos of Week One and Week Two.

cold summer

Week two in Japan

* We’re back to Dubai, this is just a recap of our trip to Japan. *

I actually attempted to publish this post without writing anything. But I can’t help it. I need words. The below photo is taken in Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture in Japan, where we lived before moving to Dubai. What an awesome scene, yes?


The neighborhood coin laundry. I loved that Japan is very convenient and offers a lot to make life easier. We lived in our previous house (the one we rented out but tenant left early this year) and there was nothing in it, only the floor, roof and walls. No appliances too, including a washing machine!

at the coin laundry

e love our daily strolls around the neighborhood. The shrines and temples provided a cool respite at the peak of summer. Benjamin was wearing a light jacket with hood here as it was still a little cool when we arrived in Matsumoto in early July.

Murai jinja

Pristine and Ben in a shrine in Nagaoka City in Niigata.

afternoon stroll

Looking at the wide, wide rice fields in Niigata, Japan.

rice fields

Such a different view from Dubai! We stopped our car so Ben can look outside from the window.

Ben looking out

RAIN. We miss rain and Benjamin didn’t understand that you can’t play outside when it rains. It rained a lot in Japan when we were there. He’s also fascinated with this transparent umbrella.


SUMO! I loved watching Sumo when I lived in Japan. In fact, I must confess that I even have a crush on one of the Sumo wrestlers (who’s from Bulgaria – yes, there are non-Japanese sumo wrestlers). I still dream of watching a sumo match live someday.


Seeing animals around is new for Ben and he is not afraid to touch them! I am always nervous when there’s a dog because he will always go near and give out his hand!


Yeah – I know what you’re thinking. We went to Japan during summer but why the fleece jackets? LOL After living in the desert for almost 7 years, we have all become so sensitive with (cold) temperatures. It was about 20C in Matsumoto that time and with cool winds blowing, we had to wear a jacket!

cold summer

Week three photos coming next! Here are photos of our Week One in Japan.

Pristine at Hamarikyu

Week One in Japan

* We’re back to Dubai, this is just a recap of our trip to Japan. *

The tots are excited as we leave Dubai. The last time Pristine was on a plane was four long years ago, of course she is ecstatic. It’s Benjamin’s first ever plane ride – I don’t know if he knows what’s in store for him this time.

Pristine and Ben at Dubai Airport

We looked out the windows as we approached Narita, Japan. Ben is mega fascinated by the clouds.

Flying to the east

Japan – the land of high technology, miniature gadgets and cars, robots and awesome vending machines in every street corner.

Vending machine craze

The hotel where we stayed had a good view of the train tracks. Here’s the bullet train approaching the station. Benjamin looks out the window every single morning to see the trains.

Bullet train

Pristine and Ben on our first morning in Tokyo.

in the street

Tonkatsu, a popular Japanese dish of breaded and deep fried pork cutlets. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I miss it already.


It’s summer in Japan and we get to walk a lot outside. Pristine secured her personal umbrella for that.

Pristine in Park

This was in Hama Rikyu Imperial Gardens. Simply beautiful, don’t you think?


We passed by the National Diet Building – this has nothing to do with “diet”, this is a government building. This is the place where both houses of the National Diet (Japan’s bicameral legislature) meet.

Tokyo Parliament

Enjoying the greens

Pristine at Hamarikyu

Takoyaki shop. Only took photos as I don’t eat takoyaki – a ball-shaped Japanese Japanese street snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus.


On our first week in Japan, the husband was working (official business trip) so I had to take over the task of keeping the kids out of our hotel room. There is so much to explore but the big city of Tokyo is unforgiving for those traveling with young children (another post). People lead fast paced lives running here and there, packed in trains during rush hour…nevertheless, we braved the commute and was able to visit a few friends, the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen Park and Hamarikyu Imperial Gardens (another post).

See: photos of our Week two in Japan.

Japanese rice

Eating Japanese food for the first time

tempura teishoku

We were out for dinner with a couple of friends in a Japanese restaurant. One of them has not tried Japanese food before and was very intimidated (but very curious and eager to try!). I know in her mind there are a lot of questions:

What will I order?

Will all the food be raw?

How on Earth will I be able to eat with a chopstick?

Why is the rice bowl so small?

First, there is a reason why Japanese cuisine is popular all over the world. There are a lot of options actually ‘edible’ to foreign tongue. For first timers, I won’t recommend jumping into sushi, sashimi or anything raw (unless you’re really that adventurous) – you can stick to global favorites like Chicken Teriyaki, tempura, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), sukiyaki, ramen (egg noodle soup) or curry rice.

Extra reading: 100 Dishes from Japan

See? There are so many food options that is NOT raw. You can also ask for spoon and fork in all restaurants. Nobody will kill you for not using a chopstick.

Our friend is from India – a place so different from Japan, from culture to food to eating customs. The rice they eat look like this (they eat this with their hands):

Photo credit

She was really curious how to eat the rice using chopstick, not knowing that there is a reason: the rice in Japan is sticky, unlike the long grain Basmati variety that tends to ‘scatter’. You can easily pick up clumps of Japanese rice with the chopstick when you eat it. You can never eat Basmati rice with chopsticks otherwise it might take you forever to finish one small bowl!

Japanese rice

Photo credit

That said, the short grain Japanese rice is firm and very filling than the Basmati counterpart (my opinion as well as others who have tried both), our Indian friend couldn’t believe she was already full with only a small bowl of Japanese rice!

All in all, she was delighted with her first taste of Japanese food and said she’ll come again to the restaurant with her family. I think Japan gained another fan.

Do you like Japanese food? What is your favorite?

Region specific Kit Kat

Why the Kitkat is big in Japan

Kit Kat in Japan

Would you believe, Nestle introduced more than 200 KitKat varieties in Japan? Why the fad, you ask?

The term ‘Kit Kat’ has become a part of the Japanese exam-preparation time lexicon. High school and university students across Japan have been buying up the chocolate bar like there’s no tomorrow. The reason? The word ‘Kit-Kat’ in Japanese sounds ‘kitto-katto’, morphed into ‘kitto katsu’, which can be translated as ‘definite win’, or, in classroom lingo, ‘I will pass my exams’.

Kit Kats have thus become edible lucky charms and are very popular during exam season.

Basic flavors include the original chocolate, strawberry, white chocolate and green tea. And then there are these Mind blowing flavors such as  apple cider vinegar, sweet corn, blood orange, soy sauce (!) and wasabi (!!), among others. Actually, there are many different Kit Kat flavors available all across Japan – some are only available for a limited time and each region has their own specialties like Fuji Apple flavor from Nagano Prefecture and purple yam flavor from Okinawa, just to name a few.

Region specific Kit Kat

I thought there’d be shop somewhere in Tokyo that sells these limited regional Kit Kats so I have made it my mission to try and find as many varieties as I can while there. Because yeah, me and my addiction to chocolate + my despicable self-control or the lack of it!

Well, I was surprised to find out that local convenient stores do not stock Kit Kats other than the usual chocolate and I was told in souvenir shop stores around train stations that they are not stocking it because it is summer – when Japan gets too hot and air condition setting is limited due to the Cool Biz Campaign to conserve energy (and more so after the Fukushima Nuclear Plant failure).

I only found 4 varieties at the Duty Free shop at Narita airport: Green tea, Strawberry, Cherry blossom + green tea and Blueberry Cheesecake, a limited edition Kit Kat to celebrate Mt. Fuji being accepted as one of UNESCO’s heritage sites.


Lame, hey if you consider there are more than 200 varieties. I was aiming to get the region-specific ones but alas, it seems I have to travel all over Japan to get it or watch out for that special time when Nestle sells these on a limited time, I bet, during the exam season?

Here’s a Pinterest board dedicated to Japanese Kit Kats

Top Photo Credit


Anyway, I hope you aren’t tired of my travel feature about Japan yet. I still have so many stories to tell! I’ll spend the next few days writing about it since not so much is happening in my life here in Dubai right now except for the usual work and then home and then watching Glee and Dr. Who episodes with the children after dinner. We’re late to jump into the Dr. Who bandwagon but we’re surely glad we found it! Pristine is too excited to watch the next episode after the current one ends.

Also, I’m going to wrap up each week of our stay there with a photos-only post, mostly photos – I know I can’t help but throw in a descriptive line here and there!