When you live in the tropics, there’s not much you can glean off the supposed winter season that graces other continents. You can, however, experience the cold winds of the monsoon season come December – what we fondly refer to as sweater weather. 😉
For me, sweater weather ignites a particular (okay, year-long) craving…for the comforting taste of chocolate! So today’s post is a little throwback to one of my absolute favourite place to visit in Hokkaido, Ishiya Chocolate Factory. 🙂
One of my reasons for travelling to Hokkaido some six months ago was to visit the home of my favourite Shiroi Koibito 白い恋人 (literally, “white lover”) cookies, which is wildly popular outside Japan but only found in Japanese snack specialty stores. Though known worldwide for its iconic European-style cookies, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that it houses a chocolate and collectibles museum, cafe and sweets shop – even a rose garden on top of its biscuit manufacturing facility.
With its decidedly Western facade and towering height, the factory-cum-mini theme park certainly stands out from other buildings in the vicinity, so finding our way there proved to be no trouble at all. Nothing, though, could quite prepare us for the grandeur within:
One gets the impression that the Japanese (or at least, the people behind Ishiya Chocolate Factory) have a deep-seated fascination for Western culture, given the Tudor-style exterior overlooking the theme park. The area had a whimsical vibe about it, with cutesy animatronics that would come to life every hour when the clock tower struck (be sure not to miss that one!). I can almost picture many a couple spending an afternoon together here. 🙂
Summer was in full swing during our getaway to Hokkaido, so some iced chocolate and ice cream was definitely in order. This cuppa here was rich to the very last drop, and the generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of that helped to stave off some of the heat. No surprises where that rich, velvety chocolate came from. 😉
Admission to the theme park is free, and you can spend as long as you want with a cuppa in hand. But the main attraction, of course, is the factory itself. One ticket gets you access to two collectibles museum (one chocolate related and the other on toys) a walk through a series of dioramas depicting the history of chocolate and last but not least, the viewing gallery.
If you want to witness Japanese efficiency at its finest, I highly recommend watching the hardworking folks down at Ishiya Chocolate Factory. We spend a good half an hour just watching the rhythmic pace at which they worked, and how precise they were in getting the smallest details right. Some wafers that were cracked were immediately selected and scrapped. So if you ever wondered why every single biscuit is so perfect, you have ‘em to thank. 😉
If Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been written for girls, it would be set in a place like Ishiya Chocolate Factory. I highly recommend giving this place a visit if you’ve grown up on their chocolate biscuits and drinks, and even if you haven’t, why not? It’s a nice place to escape the weather for an afternoon, not to mention the many activities and memorabilia available for the shopper in you. I’d love to re-visit this place in the winter season if I have the chance in the future. 😉
Address: Miyanosawa 2-jo 2 chome, Nishi-ku, Sapporo
10am – 5pm daily
Factory Tour: 9am – 6pm daily (last admittance at 5pm)
Shop Piccadilly and Candy Labo: 9am – 7pm daily
Restaurant Owls: 10am – 6pm (last order at 5pm)
(accurate as of Dec 2014)