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Wonka Would Approve: In Japan, KitKat Bars as Train Tickets

In Japan, KitKat bars just got a whole lot sweeter.

The popular chocolate bars can now be used as train tickets for those traveling on the Sanriku Railway network starting this month, according to a press release from Nestlé S.A. The promotion will last through the end of May 2015.

This new chapter in the partnership between Nestlé Japan and the rail company commemorates the resuming of rail service in Iwate Prefecture, the northern region of Japan devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that led to the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

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The company started its partnership with the rail line after it heard reports that KitKat bars were being distributed to workers fixing the railway to boost morale.

The special edition “Kippu-Katto” KitKats sell for 108 yen (about $1.06) and can be used for railway tickets up to 190 yen ( about $1.86) at no additional charge. “Kippu-Katto” roughly translates to ticket cuts. Nestlé will donate 20 yen (about 20 cents) from each pack of chocolates sold to help rebuilding efforts in the region.

The promotion promises to be a crowd-pleasing one, given the popularity of KitKats in Japan and how easy it is to redeem, according to tourism officials.

“It’s working really well,” said Nori Akashi, public relations manager for the Japanese National Tourism Organization’s New York office. She added that it’s incredibly common for people in Japan to buy a KitKat bar “in the newsstand right before you hop on the train.”

Besides the train ticket promotion, Nestlé Japan also decorated two trains and two train stations in the Sanriku Railway network with images of cherry blossoms. These flowers are a common symbol of hope in Japanese culture.

As part of the collaboration between Nestlé and the local railway network, trains and stations have been painted with cherry blossom designs, as a symbol of hope following the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck the region. Nestlé S.A. / Nestlé S.A.

KitKat bars have also become a symbol themselves, due to the similarity between the candy’s name and the phrase “Kitto-Katsu,” which means “you will surely win,” according to the company’s press release. Since 2012, KitKats have been the most popular candy in Japan, the company said.

Driving the popularity are the regional variations on the candy’s signature wafer-and-chocolate recipe, with popular regional flavors such as Purple Potato, Wasabi, and European Cheese. Certain types of KitKat bars are only sold in specific regions.

In recent months the confectioner has also unveiled other marketing promotions including a new baked version of the KitKat bar and a KitKat boutique in Tokyo.