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“In the US you have to build in a place where there’s enough foot traffic to support your business, but in Japan, people will go to you if you have something that’s really worthwhile.”-Greg D’Alesandre
In the land of the rising sun, where Hello Kitty & cat cafes co-exist with hostess bars & EDM clubs, there also exists a thriving chocolate culture full of contrasts. Japanese chocolate is one of the most multifaceted products in the world, encompassing everything from cheap candies to many-layered bonbons and bars crafted with cacao from all corners of the world. There’s a hierarchical feel to it all.
And there’s a good reason so many chocolate companies are eyeing the Japanese market.
In this episode, we talk to 3 chocolate industry folks about the origin and evolution of the Japanese chocolate industry. Decades in the making, Japan’s chocolate market & chocolate makers are on the brink of exploding within the craft chocolate scene.
To read the article version of this episode, click here.
Topics We Cover
- The history of chocolate manufacture in Japan
- Meiji’s role in developing the idea of bean to bar chocolate within Japan
- Cacaoken’s history & the evolution of chocolate making in the Japanese countryside
- Valentine’s Day in Japan
- Japan’s cultural exchange with Europe
- The explosion of small-batch chocolate in Japan & the US’s role therein
- Dandelion Chocolate’s decision to enter Japan, and their later growth
- Why Japanese craft chocolate is so expensive
- Potential struggles Japanese makers may face in international markets
0:00-3:40~ Background on Japan
3:40-14:25~ The development of the fine chocolate industry in Japan & the reasons why Cacaoken Chocolate started in the Japanese countryside
14:25-23:15~ Background on mass-produced chocolate & chocolatiers in Japan, including the inspiration of craft chocolate & creativity in Japanese chocolate
23:15-40:00~ How Dandelion Chocolate Japan developed, and their goals as a daughter company of Dandelion Chocolate USA + little eccentricities that makes the Japanese chocolate market unique
40:00-43:50~ Final thoughts
More About Our Guests
Yukari Nakano: co-founder & chocolate maker at Cacaoken Chocolate in Fukuoka, Japan. Check out Cacaoken’s Instagram, Website, and Facebook. Read more about Cacaoken in my interview with Yukari.
Julia Wirtz: long-time chocolate lover, and blogger over at Wattwurmnashi, an international chocolate & pastry review site. Check out her Website and Instagram.
Greg D’Alesandre: cacao sourcer at Dandelion Chocolate (Japan & US), and occasional chocolate & cacao lecturer. Check out Dandelion Chocolate Japan’s Facebook, Instagram, and Website.
Connect With Chocolate On The Road
On Instagram: @chocolateontheroad
On Facebook: @chocolateontheroad
Show music is Roadtrip by Phil Reavis, and our transition music is We’re Gonna Be Around by People Like Us.
To listen to the previous episode, click here.