Chocolate On The Road: Japan

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If you want to run a successful business in the United States, you need to locate it in an area with a high volume of foot traffic. On the other hand, in Japan, if you offer something that is truly valuable, people will come to you.

-Greg D’Alesandre

In the land of the rising sun, where Hello Kitty and cat cafes co-exist with hostess bars and EDM clubs, there also exists a thriving chocolate culture that is full of contrasts. This culture centers on chocolate as a means of expression. Japanese chocolate is one of the most multifaceted products in the world, encompassing everything from inexpensive candies to multilayered bonbons and bars crafted with cacao sourced from all over the world. This makes Japanese chocolate one of the most multifaceted products in the world. Everything seems to be organized in a hierarchical fashion.

There is a compelling rationale for the proliferation of chocolate firms’ interest in the Japanese market.

In this episode, we have conversations with three people who work in the chocolate industry about the beginnings and development of the chocolate industry in Japan. Japan’s chocolate market and chocolate makers are on the cusp of exploding within the craft chocolate scene. This explosive growth has been in the works for decades.

Simply clicking this link will take you to the article version of this episode.

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Topics We Cover

  • The development of chocolate production in Japan throughout history
  • The part that Meiji played in the conception of making chocolate from beans to bars in Japan
  • The history of cacaoken as well as the development of chocolate manufacturing in the rural areas of Japan
  • The celebration of Valentine’s Day in Japan
  • The cultural interaction between Japan and Europe
  • The meteoric rise of artisanal chocolate production in Japan and the United States’ involvement therein
  • The choice that Dandelion Chocolate made to enter the Japanese market, as well as its subsequent expansion
  • Why Japanese chocolate made by hand is so darn costly
  • Possibile challenges that may be encountered by Japanese manufacturers in global marketplaces

Show Timeline

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. Examine Cacaoken’s Instagram account, as well as their website and Facebook page. In my interview with Yukari, I go into further detail about Cacaoken.

Julia Wirtz is a blogger at Wattwurmnashi, an international site that reviews chocolate and pastries. She has been a chocolate enthusiast for a very long time. You can find her on Instagram and her website.

Greg D’Alesandre is the cacao sourcer for Dandelion Chocolate (both in Japan and the US) and gives the occasional lecture on chocolate and cacao. Check out Dandelion Chocolate Japan’s Website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Resources Mentioned

  • Julia’s Blog
  • Minimal Chocolate
  • Meiji THE Chocolate
  • Pierre Marcolini


Can I bring chocolate to Japan?

An import inspection is not required for highly processed foods and items such as wooden furniture, tea, canned or bottled goods, and so on. For instance, it is not against the law to bring Tim Tams, chocolate, or other candies into Japan.

Why does Japanese chocolate taste different?

The bars are manufactured in a way that results in the chocolate pieces themselves displaying a variety of distinct patterns, including a zig-zag section in some of the pieces. When you consume the pieces, you will notice a distinct change in their “mouthfeel” as well as a subtle shift in their flavor. Even the individual bits of chocolate have been crafted with a diversity of textures and flavors in mind.

Who introduced chocolate to Japan?

The Development of Chocolate in Japanese Culture

It is believed that Spanish colonialists were the first to bring the cacao tree from its native Central America to Asia in the late 17th century. The cacao tree is native to Central America. However, widespread use of cacao and chocolate did not begin in Japan until the 20th century.

Does Japan produce chocolate?

In 2021, the volume of chocolate produced in Japan reached approximately 244.1 thousand tons, which was an increase from the volume of approximately 208.8 thousand tons produced in 2012.

What food is not allowed to bring to Japan?

(crocodiles, cobras, turtles, ivory, musk, cactus, etc.) Rice, vegetables, fruits, live animals and plants, meat and meat products (including sausage), and vegetables and fruits. (The inspection at the Quarantine Station must take place before the inspection at Customs.)