Japanese love sweets. Sweets are the usual choice as souvenirs for coworkers and rewards for kid’s good behavior. Baskin Robbins, Godiva, and other shops are popular places to get tasty treats like ice cream and snacks. Trendy neighborhoods like Shibuya and Harajuku are lined with crepe shops and cafes catering to sweet lovers from all over the world. Of all the edible delights in Japan it seems that one sweet reigns supreme among them all: chocolate.
The exact year chocolate first came to Japan is unknown. It is thought that cocoa drinks, used for medical purposes, came to Japan in the 1700s, with other edibles like biscuits and coffee. The first recorded instance was in the late 1790s when a Nagasaki prostitute’s detainment papers listed “6 pieces of chocolate” that she received from a Dutch man. After that, there is little mention of chocolate until the 1870s, when Japanese noblemen toured Europe. While in France the noblemen observed chocolate production and felt that the small sweets, the mix of bitterness and sweetness, would appeal to those back home. Well, they were right! According to the Chocolate and Cocoa Association of Japan, Japan consumes over 230,000 tons of chocolate each year. Taking population into account, that is roughly 2kg of chocolate per person per year.
If you are looking for a chocolate bar or something small to nibble on than you can easily find chocolate at any convenience store. Be sure you know what percentage of chocolate you like because major brand Meiji sells their chocolates bars by percentage of cocoa. Meiji’s competitor, Lotte, also complicates the selection choices with a variety of dark, bitter, white, and milk chocolates. But if you are looking for more, like a chocolate experience, there are a few places around Tokyo that will satisfy your cocoa cravings.
The first stop is just a short walk from Tokyo Station to Ginza. If you have two or three hours to spare before your bullet train then Blondel is a great place for a cup of hot or iced cocoa. Blondel is a small two story building, with the first floor being the shop with assorted chocolates and the second floor being the cafe. The cafe itself is small, only consisting of seven tables and a little walking room for the waitresses to dish out the desserts. As far as the menu Blondel really shines with their chocolate drinks: they use fine quality chocolates and the taste is really distinct, almost like a malt. They also have several cakes and a cake of the month. You can also have a tea or coffee with your dessert.
When you are finished with your drinks stop back down at the first floor and pick out some sheets of unique chocolates. Blondel is one of the only shops that sells their chocolates in large sheets sold by approximate weight. They have everything from cafe au lait chocolates to chocolate dipped oranges. A great place to pick up a gift for any chocolate lover!
Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar
The next stop is truly a sight to behold. Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is a colorful and playful restaurant, reminiscent of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory but also drawing elements from pop culture. Brenner does Willy Wonka proud on the various selections of treats and drinks. Max Brenner’s menu not only includes many staples of normal restaurants like spaghetti, salads, and burgers, but also the chocolate eats like fondue fruit sets and marshmallow pizzas. On the drink menu there are a myriad of hot chocolates, cocktails, and milkshakes, that are all served in unique cups. The hot chocolates are interesting because they come in small pointed cups. To drink them it is best to cup your hands around the cup like you were drinking straight from your hands.
With four full size restaurants, one in Tokyo Skytree Town and one in Ikspiari shopping center near Tokyo Disney Sea, plus Osaka and Nagoya, Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is an ideal place to stop and appease your sweet tooth as you are catching in the sights.
Dandelion Factory & Café
If Blondel has the chocolate variety, and Brenner has the generally a larger food selection, Dandelion has the uniqueness. Nestled in the back alleys of Tokyo and Kamakura, Dandelion is sure to amaze chocolate lovers not only with the standard menu choices like brownies and cookies, but also the unique pairing of chocolate and spices. Ever had a spicy hot chocolate? How about drinking melted chocolate? Or a lava cake that is actually a marshmallow? Dandelion will not disappoint chocolate lovers. For those who don’t eat chocolate Dandelion offers coffee, beer, wine, and smoothies along other seasonal snacks.
Dandelion is a very popular place among locals, so expect a line. Many come to get a drink and watch employees churn cocoa beans into chocolate, because these shops are not only cafes, but factories. Dandelion even offers a chocolatiering workshop to learn the process of turning bean into bar.
While chocolate has not been in Japan very long it manages to be one of the most popular treats here. Chocolate sales don’t just depend on Valentine’s Day and White Day, but are bought year-round. These cafes and restaurants are not only for extravagant celebrations but also good for sitting back and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate in the winter or a milkshake in the summer. If you are a chocolate lover then these places are a must in Japan, your sweet tooth will thank you.
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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