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Unexpected and Surprising! Five Surprising Facts About Japanese Food

Even in Japan, something like KitKats and McDonald's can be completely different to the West. Today, we're going to tell you five interesting pieces of trivia that span from Western staples to traditional Japanese dishes.

1. There Are Numerous KitKat Flavors in Japan

KitKat is a candy bar made with milk chocolate and wafers that is familiar around the world. It was introduced in Japan in 1973, and since then, more than 100 different flavors have been sold. Even now, there are close to 50 different flavors on the market, with regional ones available at souvenir shops in places like Kyoto, Kyushu, and Okinawa. There are also limited-time flavors on top of the standard ones. Be sure to check the souvenir shops at the places you visit. The discount chain, Don Quijote, is a popular place to purchase them.

1. There Are Numerous KitKat Flavors in Japan

2. There Are Approx. 2,900 McDonald's in Japan

There are many fast food chains in Japan, but McDonald's has the most outlets by far. At one time, there were way more than 3,000, but now it is down to about 2,900 outlets. Japan has the second most number of McDonald's outlets after the US, which is staggering considering that Japan is smaller than California. It is a testament to the popularity of McDonald's in Japan. It is not rare for there to be several McDonald's within walking distance of major stations. There are about 350 in Tokyo alone.

2. There Are Approx. 2,900 McDonald's in Japan

3. Japanese People Eat Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas

In Japan, where turkey is hard to come by, chicken is the standard main dish at Christmas. Behind this practice was a sales push by Kentucky Fried Chicken. During the 1970s, the manager of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan was invited to dress as Santa Claus and bring fried chicken to a kindergarten. This was so well received that it sowed the seeds for a "Kentucky for Christmas" campaign that was launched in 1974 and repeated every year since. The campaign's advertising jingle, "Christmas is Coming Again This Year", is so familiar now that many people feel it's Christmastime when they hear it.

3. Japanese People Eat Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas

4. The Broth of Convenience Store Oden Differs by Region

Oden is a Japanese dish of ingredients such as fish paste products, eggs, and daikon (radish) simmered in a soy sauce-based broth. It is a popular winter dish that is sold in convenience stores as early as August. The broth of convenience store oden is actually made with varying combinations of bonito flakes, dried sardines, horse mackerel flakes, flying fish, and kombu (seaweed) to suit local tastes.
For example, the oden served at Lawson is different between Japan's nine regions. Even the ingredients are different! This is an example of how the food at Japan’s handy convenience stores are made with thought and care.

4. The Broth of Convenience Store Oden Differs by Region

5. Slurping Sounds in Japan are OK

Have you ever visited a ramen shop in Japan to enjoy authentic ramen, but been put off by the loud slurping sounds other people make when eating it? It is inappropriate in Japan, too, to make noises when eating – but noodles are different. Noisily slurping ramen is actually a part of Japan's food culture and tradition. It is said that the practice goes back to when soba became a part of the Japanese diet, way back during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). When eating noodles with broth, such as ramen, soba, and udon, the flavors spread around the mouth better when slurped. Go ahead and give it a try!

5. Slurping Sounds in Japan are OK

Repeat these facts to your friends so you can impress them with your knowledge!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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