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February 04, 2009

Japanese kids break off a piece of that KitKat bar for good luck

Posted on Wed Feb 4 2009

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If I were an actor about to appear on a Broadway stage, you might tell me to "break a leg" for good luck. If I were a Japanese student about to take my college entrance exams, you'd simply break me off a piece of that KitKat bar.
  In Japanese culture, it is believed that KitKats bring good luck to students each spring. Students sometimes spend a year or two at pricey private schools prepping for the tests, so a lot rides on them. It is therefore customary to engage in various superstitions—likethe use of lucky language charms—to increase one's chances of doing well. "Kitto Katto," as the candy is called in Japan, sounds similar to the Japanese phrase "kitto katsu," which roughly translates to "You shall surely win/be victorious." Conversely, there are "unlucky" soundalike words in Japanese, according to the Web site Snopes.com, so households may ban the use of those for, say, "slip" or "fall" around students during test time.
  Nestlé has launched a limited-edition "Sakura KitKat" in honor of these students cramming for exams. (The chocolate bars are marketed by Hershey's in the U.S. but by Nestlé in Japan.) The wrapper features a pink-and-white cherry-blossom design that serves as a symbol for the April test-taking season. The confectioner's Japanese Web site features a TV commercial in which a grandfather mails a special KitKat care package to his hard-studying granddaughter. The term "sakura saku" translates to "the cherry-blossom blooms," and is used to congratulate someone who has passed a college-entrance exam.

—Posted by Becky Ebenkamp

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