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Kobe Chocolate Guide: Best Chocolate in Japan?

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I was stunned, absolutely floored, to learn that one of the things Kobe is known for throughout Japan is chocolate. I was also skeptical, given the reputation Kobe beef has garnered, but I’ve been converted into a true believer after a large sampling of the Kobe chocolate selection.

We found some amazing chocolate in Japan, and in Kobe itself, but none of it was from any of the chocolate brands that made Kobe famous. It started at the same time as the rest of Japanese chocolate culture, in the early twentieth century. Two Russian immigrants (Goncharoff and Morozoff) started separate chocolate shops in Kobe during that time, crafting both a good reputation and a lot of confusion.

But neither of those chocolate companies impressed me on my visit.

I was more taken by the recent round of local Japanese chocolatiers, many of whom spent years training in Europe. Even though Tokyo’s chocolate has become more famous in recent years, Kobe deserves its domestic reputation. But I warn you again: for every tremendously memorable truffle as we had, there were three that I almost wanted to spit out in an effort to save calories. These are their stories (and their stores).

For more chocolate nearby, check out this Guide to Kyoto Chocolate Shops!

Downtown Kobe

L’avenue Chocolatier

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide L'Avenue PastriesKobe Chocolate Japan Guide L'Avenue Bonbons Box

Shigeo Hirai is one of the few Japanese chocolatiers whose shop is known around the world. Named World Chocolate Master in 2009, Mr. Hirai is one of few chocolatiers whose confections are so much more than just hype. When we visited on a Sunday afternoon, there was a long line waiting across the street, slowly seeping over to the other side and then inside. Immediately get in this line; you won’t regret it.

The bonbons are sold in collections of pre-determined flavors, which an employee can explain to you in English. The Yuzu Caramel and Rose Lychee Framboise were my personal favorites, but not a single one of the half dozen bonbons we tried were anything less than stunning. Before you reach the counter you’ll pass by pastries and artfully composed confections, along with a wall of cookies. Everything is crafted in the French style, but without the airfare to get you there.

Address: 3 7 3丁目, 3 Chome-7 Yamamotodōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 650-0003, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10:30am-6pm, daily; closes 5pm Sun./Holidays (¥300 per truffle)

Caffarel

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Caffarel Guianduja Pastry

With 2 locations in Kobe, this small Italian transplant is best known for its melty guianduja, a chocolate confection made with roasted hazelnuts & almonds blended until smooth. It’s the Italian chocolate spread which nutella imitates, and is a must-have for a visiting Kobe chocolate lover.

The small 10-person cafe area is perfect for sitting down with a cappuccino and a tiny dessert, by yourself or with a friend. The staff speak some English, but the desserts definitely speak for themselves. All of their confections are made with imported chocolates made in the Italian tradition— full of nuts and sugar.

Address: Japan, 〒650-0003 Hyōgo-ken, Kōbe-shi, Chūō-ku, Yamamotodōri, 3 Chome−7, 兵庫県神戸市中央区山本通3丁目7-29 (see map below)

Metro Stop: Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 11am-7pm, Wed.-Mon. (¥200 per guianduja bonbon)

Joice Chocolate (open 2019)

I met Takeshi Joike himself, the year before he’s set to finally open his shop, and I feel absolutely blessed. A sweet man with over a decade of experience as a chocolatier, he finally decided that it was time to branch off and start his own business. Set to open in 2019, Takeshi’s storefront will feature a wide selection of his handcrafted truffles, crafted with local ingredients and bean-to-bar chocolate made in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

The most remarkable of his flavors are his Chestnut Flower Honey and his Tonka Bean, local flavors I didn’t experience anywhere else in Kobe. I’m already jealous of those of you who get to experience his shop before me!

Address: coming soon (location forthcoming)

Metro Stop: coming soon

Hours & Prices: TBD

Yasuhiro Seno Chocolatier

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Yashuhiro Seno Storefront

As soon as I walked into this tiny storefront they brought a young woman out from the back to speak English with me. This chocolatier only sells his wares in set boxes and bags; no picking and choosing, here. However, I vote that having a choice makes little difference when your creations are as high quality as this.

The Yuzu is viciously present, while the crunchy Rocher surprises you with nibs of candied fruit. But the Vanilla Caramel was my favorite, creamy and sweet as it melts in your mouth. I wish I’d invested in a few boxes from Yasuhiro. Who needs a flavor chart? The shop is a little out of the way and rather nondescript, but easy enough to find and certainly worth the walk.

Address: Japan, 〒651-0087 兵庫県神戸市中央区Chūō-ku, Gokōdōri, 2 Chome−1, 御幸通2-1-26 M&Cビル 1階 (see map below)

Metro Stop: Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 11am-7pm, Tue.-Sun.; closes 6pm Sun. (¥250 per chocolate)


The Outskirts of Kobe

Ichiji Chocolate

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Ichiji Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate Maker

The chocolate maker himself directed us towards the samples and told us about the cacaos’ origins and tasting notes. In line with typical expensive Japanese craft chocolate, these bars are not cheap, but they’re worth trying. Plus, the shop also sells butter and a few different desserts. You read that correctly, butter. Oh, Japan.

The high ceilings and large seating area feel luxurious, considering that it’s in one of Japan’s largest metropolises. But even if you only want a cup of cocoa in Kobe, this is the spot— it’s hard to beat gorgeous ambiance and elegance in a large chocolate shop.

Address: 1-20 Narihiracho, Ashiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: JR Ashiya Station South Exit

Hours & Prices: 11am-8pm, Wed.-Mon. (~¥1400 per bar)

BeBeBe Chocolatier

“BeBeBe” is actually short for Belgium, three times, as BeBeBe Chocolatier is an outlet for three Belgian chocolatiers: Goossens, Van Hecke, and Manon. The trio were carefully selected by the shops proprietor, during their travels in Belgium in 2006. They fell in love with the Belgian flavors and style of chocolate, and decided to bring them directly to Japan.

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Dutifully, they carry around a dozen flavors from each chocolatier, along with an array of chocolate bars and confections and couverture disks. Feel free to be tempted by the samples, and keep an eye out for the Belgian flag which guides visitors to the entrance.

Address: 4 Chome-1-15-111 Tamondōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 650-0015, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kosoku Kobe

Hours & Prices: 11am-7pm, Tue.-Sat. (¥220-¥400 per truffle)

Nakamura Chocolate

Rather out of the way and unremarkable from the outside, Nakamura is so much more than it appears. The shop, an outlet for a chocolatier based in Perth, Australia, sells ice cream and a wide selection of colorful chocolates crafted with unique flavors. There’s always calming music playing in the background, likely an attempt to slow your excited heart as it observes the variety of uniquely Australian flavors.

Our favorites of the half dozen we tried were the Murray Salted Caramel and the Finger Lime with Coconut, but the skill of the chocolatier is undeniable. All the flavors are strong and delicious, with any & all textural elements being manipulated for effect, like ground cardamom teasing the top of your palate. A box of Nakamura Chocolates might have you wanting to move in.

Address: 2 Chome-5-16 Okamoto, Higashinada-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 658-0072, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Settsyu Motoyama Exit 1

Hours & Prices: 11am-6:30pm, Tue.-Sun. (~¥360 per truffle)


Kobe Sogo Department Store

Mon Loire Chocolate House

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Mon LoireKobe Chocolate Japan Guide Mon Loire Chocolate-Covered Orange Peels

Mon Loire can best be described as a Japanese fast chocolate shop, offering a bit of everything already wrapped up. They have fresh cut ganaches, cookies, truffles, chocolate-covered orange peels and squares of molded chocolates.

The offerings are not amazing, but the quality is surprisingly good, especially the orange peels; it’s with good reason that they have four locations in Kobe, alone. Bonbons are only sold in set boxes with a you-get-what-you-get mentality, but the staff is all friendly and smiling.

Address: 8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (¥250-¥300 per truffle)

Morozoff

This Kobe chocolate brand has set up inexpensive stalls in numerous department stores throughout Japan. They sell their chocolates inexpensively, and offer innumerable small confections to be added on to presents bought in the mall, all of which seem to sell.

Like the Whitman’s samplers of my youth, they have vibrant red-wrapped boxes of bonbons, as well as some chocolate bars. Cookies, puddings, and shaped plain chocolates are other offerings, though nothing stuck out to me as unique.

Address: 8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (¥50-100 per truffle)

Saison de Setsuko

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Saison de SetsukoKobe Chocolate Japan Guide Saison de Setsuko Bonbons Box

As may be expected in the basement of a Japanese department store, there’s not much English to describe the products, but there are also no single truffles for you to pick and choose from. They make it easier for you with simple boxes of pre-determined collections, along with cookies and truffle pops.

After trying a box of ten, some of the truffles were so strongly flavored that it was nearly impossible to enjoy them (imagine a mouthful of almond extract), but the vanilla truffle was decent. As pretty as the box is, I’d recommend against this investment. They also seem to be owned by Mary’s chocolate, another inexpesive chocolate brand in Japan.

Address: 8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (~¥200 per truffle)

Goncharoff

The second Kobe chocolatier on this list also struck me as being of lower quality, probably because of their cutesy animal-shaped bonbons, very popular with locals. The focus here is on their large product line of cookies, truffles, cafe-exclusive desserts.

Their offerings are inexpensive and sweet, though as a Japanese sweets’ staple, they would still impress all but the most discerning dinner party guests. I would direct you down the aisle to a different shop if you were hoping to buy a unique collection of Japan-inspired flavors, though they are remarkably cheap.

Address: 8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (¥50 per truffle)

Bel Amer

osaka chocolate guide chocolat bel amer jelly truffles

Just a tiny outlet of the main Tokyo branch, this setup offers a smaller selection of their madeleines and an assortment of their circular chocolates, as well as set boxes of truffles. It’s the same confections as you can buy at their main store, so unless you’re dying for a hit of it, I’d head elsewhere, preferably by leaving the basement.

They are some of the prettiest options in the store, however, so this would be my choice for a box of truffles from Sogo Kobe Department Store.

8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (~¥300 per truffle)

Godiva

Like the bottom of your shoe, Godiva seems to be just a step behind me everywhere I go. The $2.50USD truffles are sold for ¥400 to ¥450 each in Japan, making these cheaper-in-quality truffles some of the most expensive in the mall.

As it’s an outlet, all they offer are boxes of bonbons, but if you’re only willing to eat Belgian chocolates, this is an option. Godiva is all over Japan and the rest of Asia, and it certainly seems to be here to stay. Their ice cream is amazingly popular in the summertime.

Address: 8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (~¥400 per truffle)

Wittamer

Kobe Chocolate Japan Guide Whitman's

Wittamer stuck out to me due to their larger bonbons and their artsy molding (bumpy raspberry top for the framboise, a glittery top for passion fruit). The staff speak a little bit of English, so I decided to indulge in a few pieces. More uniquely, they have massive molded chocolate bunnies and high heels, as well as a fresh selection of pastries and madeleines.

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But at ¥300 for the over-sized and normal truffles, these Belgian imports are not the best bargain in the place. I found both the massive raspberry and the passion fruit to have a strange industrial aftertaste, like a chemical preservative of some kind, and relatively little fruit flavor. In this case I may actually size for Godiva’s Belgian creations.

8 Chome-1-8 Onoedōri, Chūō-ku, Kōbe-shi, Hyōgo-ken 651-8511, Japan (see map below)

Metro Stop: Kobe-Sannomiya

Hours & Prices: 10am-8pm, daily (¥280-¥350 per truffle)


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Malaysia Travel Ideas

Saturday 22nd of June 2019

[…] guide from a local […]

Kacie Morgan

Sunday 13th of May 2018

I'm drooling. I need to get to Kobe! I love chocolate. In fact, I'm actually off to Grenada Chocolate Festival on Monday!

Max

Sunday 13th of May 2018

Ooooh, I am so jealous!! I've been wanting to go to that festival for the last several years, but I've always had to be somewhere else (almost always school)-- have so much fun! I hope you make it to Kobe sometimes soon, as well. :)

Sarah - Borders & Bucket Lists

Saturday 12th of May 2018

Oh my gosh! This post is amazing! Now I just want all of these chocolates lol.

Max

Saturday 12th of May 2018

Thanks, Sarah! I'm glad you're enjoying all the eye candy. ;)

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