It’s been 8 years since I was in Japan last and have been enjoying every minute since our arrival 2 weeks ago(hence the long pause in blog postings). One of the things I was really looking forward to was getting at some good chocolate in Tokyo. All my European favorites are here including Hevin, Marcolini, and Bonnat and I planned to see them all at the Tokyo Salon du Chocolat.
I slowly made my way to the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, which has been hosting the salon for the last 10 years. I was excited to walk around a bit by myself, without kids, and husband and luggage and I breathed in the atmosphere of one of the busiest and brightest districts of Tokyo. When I couldn’t control my curiosity anymore, I took the elevator up to the 6th floor of Isetan and stepped into the overheated and crowded exhibition hall.
The first thing I noticed that was different from the Paris salon was the lack of space; every booth was crammed next to the other. The second thing I noticed was the lack of samples! That was one of the best things about the Paris salon. The third thing I noticed, which may be tied to the second thing, was that the prices were outrageously high. The average price for a assorted box of about 10 chocolates was a whopping $50!!!! That’s $5.00 per chocolate. The prices scared me so much that I bought only a few gifts for friends, and nothing for myself(ok maybe a couple of things).
I took great interest in watching the buying habits of the Japanese and what they were interested in. The Japanese are very savvy about food and they know and love chocolate. Many MOF’s(meilleur ouvrier de France) were present at the salon and people were gobbling it up. Most chocolatiers were French but brands from Switzerland, the U.K and the U.S. were also present. Popular items included chocolate bark in various flavors, cute, animal shaped chocolates, and beautiful hand-decorated chocolates in extravagant boxes. The Japanese are really conscious about presentation and aesthetics, so packaging is as important as the product itself. One could say the chocolate here is over packaged, they are often wrapped individually or presented in such a way that they don’t touch each other. I guess if you are paying $5.00 per chocolate you want them to be spotless when you pop them in your mouth.
I decided to escape the mob and take a hot chocolate break at Jean Paul Hevin cafe. I chose the yuzu(a type of Japanese citrus fruit) hot chocolate for $12.00. It was rich, hot and not too sweet. The yuzu was concentrated on top so you would get a whiff of it’s aroma as you drank it but it didn’t overpower the drink. I was happy to be in the land of chocolate again. If the Tokyo Salon was a bit disappointing, my cup of hot chocolate was decidedly not.