Here is a list of True Things About Japan:
1. High school girls in Tokyo are capable of wearing short skirts and knee-high socks at 3 degrees Celsius.
2. There are religious cult groups disguised as soccer clubs at certain Japanese universities that shall remain unnamed.
3. Japan’s favourite word is gentei.（限定）
The last one may be a slight exaggeration, but I am becoming convinced that that’s how the Japanese economy hasn’t completely tanked yet – it’s being propped up by the sheer volume of sales made on gentei items. Gentei means ‘limited edition’, and you can find them everywhere. In particular, this is how the Japanese anime market stays afloat. You like a certain series? Oh, there’s a gentei keychain featuring this character, and you’ll have to pay 800 yen for a special festival ticket so you can have the privilege of queuing up with 4531 other fans for two hours to pay another 3500 yen for the actual keychain. (Yes, I’ve done that. Not that I’m complaining, really) So I bet this is how the chocolate industry makes its money: All The Goddamn Gentei Candy.
Seasonal products are big in Japan. You can learn a surprising amount about seasonality just by watching candy turnover on convenience store shelves. During the summer it was all about fruit flavours. Along with autumn came a slew of chestnut and pumpkin products – Japan, surprisingly, gets the Halloween spirit down pat. And you know it’s winter when they start dotting the packaging with snowflakes…
…which brings me to some of my favourite chocolate in the world, ever. Behold the Meltykiss. Or Meltykisses, as it were. My first memory of them is actually my Year 7 English teacher mentioning that they were some of the best things he’d ever tasted in Japan – trust that remark to have stayed in my head all these years.
The matcha Meltykisses pictured above are part of meiji’s gentei (of course) chocolate winter campaign, the ad for which you can watch here (pretty girl sings about a winter’s kiss being melt-in-the-mouth like snow). They revamped and ‘winterized’ their usual milk chocolate and strawberry flavours for the seasonal sales, but since I am a Sucker For All Things Matcha, I’ve ignored those in favour of this.
True to standard Meltykiss packaging, it’s a stylish box, appropriately wintery with its pale green colouring, gold snowflakes, and gold ribbon proclaiming ‘Limited Winter Edition’. But the best part is, obviously, what’s inside.
‘Melt-in-your-mouth’ is kind of a cliche that’s applied willy-nilly to every other chocolate on the planet, but… there’s a reason it’s called Meltykiss. It really does melt in your mouth. Each individually-wrapped Meltykiss is a cocoa-dusted cube that disappears all too quickly when you put it into your mouth. With this, you first encounter a smooth, unctuous dark chocolate coating. After that melts you meet the matcha center. It’s a gorgeously restrained, barely there sweetness verging on the point of almost too bitter, like drinking a very fine matcha in chocolate form. And then it’s gone, at which point you will unwrap another, and yet another, until it’s all gone.
Seriously recommended for all green tea lovers, except those like N who abhor all such bastardised forms and only drink matcha in tea ceremony-style settings. Pfft.
Enter the kinako, or soy nut Meltykiss. My first thought when I spotted this at Lawson’s was: who the hell woke up and farted this colour scheme? It looked like someone threw darts at a screencap of The Festival of Fools, took the colour swatches and called it a day. But I guess a soybean-coloured box would have looked too boring on the shelves. Pink for strawberry, green for matcha, beige…sand…for soy nuts. Live in Japan long enough, and weird ad campaigns just become part of your normal train ride. Like this fried chicken ad for Family Mart. But I digress.
This seems to be a very new product. Right now, it’s not even on meiji’s website yet – that’s how new it is. But I hope it stays on the shelves for a while, because it is amazing. You begin with that same smooth dark chocolate exterior, and it yields to a nutty kinako interior – imagine a sublime blend of roasted nuts and coffee notes, and that’s where we are. Again, they’ve a light hand with the sugar levels in this, which really allows the nuttiness and the bitterness of the dark chocolate to come through. A fine, fine piece of work this is.
Has there ever been a case where a gentei chocolate was so popular that the companies just had to keep it on the shelves? I’m not sure. But feel free to enlighten me. In any case, this makes me very sad, because I like these Meltykisses a lot. Enough to have stocked up on several boxes (the exact number is a secret) before they disappear from the shelves. Enough to have shared the joy with some friends in America, one of whom reported having eaten half a box within a day.
My local Seiyu was selling the matcha, strawberry and milk chocolate Meltykisses for 187 yen a box some weeks back, but have since jacked the price per box up to 218 yen; most convenience stores, on the other hand, are selling them at the standard price of 258 yen. Do yourself a favour and find a supermarket – or the Higuchi pharmacies, currently selling them for 198 yen a pop.
In conclusion, damn Japan and its fucking delicious gentei chocolate. Next installment: Limited Edition Sasha Uji Matcha Chocolate. Stay tuned.