Chocolate in Japanese is pronounced: “chyo-ko-rey-toe”. The word, like most foreign loan words in Japanese, is written using the Japanese writing system of katakana, like this: “チョコレート”
To check if your Japanese sweets are chocolate flavored, or contain chocolate, simply look for those characters on the packaging.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to French pastries, cakes, and confectionary, the French loan word for chocolate is used in Japan as well. This word is pronounced: “shyo-ko-ra”, and written in katakana as: “ショコラ”
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If you’re at a Japanese supermarket looking for chocolate, this phrase could come in handy: “I want chocolate!” which is pronounced “Chyokoreto ga hoshi desu” and written “チョコレートがほしいです。”
If you want to tell someone how much you like chocolate, what about using the phrase: “I like chocolate”? This is translated as “Chyokoreto ga suki desu” or written as “チョコレートがすきです。”
During the Edo era, Dutch traders were some of the only people allowed into Japan. These Dutch traders introduced many Western goods, but most importantly, they brought over chocolate! The first record was in a note dating back to 1797 of gifts that a courtesan had received from a Dutch guest, amongst which was chocolate. At the time, the Dutch consumed chocolate in the form of a drink, which was popular amongst the wealthy in Europe. A few years later, historical records of this chocolate drink in Japan call it a “medicine you melt to consume”.
Chocolate in bar form was not introduced into Japan until the Meiji era. The first chocolate bar in Japan was pronounced using the now familiar term chyo-ko-ra-toe, but not written with katakana. Instead, the word used the kanji: 貯古齢糖. These kanji individually mean “save, “old”, “age,” and “sugar”. Later, during the occupation, American soldiers would give out chocolate to Japanese children. Japanese children even learned how to ask for chocolate in English as one of their first English phrases
Since chocolate in Japan itself was only mass-produced and readily available after the end of the occupation, it’s still a far newer treat in Japan than it is in Europe and America. Perhaps that’s why chocolate still to has a bit of that novelty factor in Japan. Chocolate here has even kept some of the air of a luxury product, with even snack brands like Pocky producing exclusive, expensive, and more luxurious flavors.
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Chocolate is still very popular in Japan today, for both consumption and to give as gifts. There are many major Japanese chocolate and sweets brands including Meiji, Lotte, Morinaga, and Glico. These brands produce chocolate-based sweets like the Meiji almond and the mushroom-shaped “kinoko no yama”, which are sold in Japan and now worldwide!
Japanese chocolatiers are also becoming increasingly prominent. Many Japanese chocolatiers have traveled to Europe to learn their craft. They made a name for themselves abroad, then returned to Japan, where they — and their chocolate — were welcomed back with open arms. These high-end chocolatiers include Koji Tsuchiya, Shigeo Hirai, and Shunsuke Saegusa. Now, Japan has its own culinary schools and celebrity chocolatiers, who constantly innovate new techniques and flavor combinations. Tokyo even hosts a yearly Salon du Chocolat, its version of the world-famous chocolate trade show from Paris.
If that wasn’t enough to show Japan’s love for chocolate, the country also has not one, but two chocolate-based holidays!
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The first is Valentine’s Day, which you are probably already familiar with. However, in Japan, Valentine's Day is celebrated a little bit differently. February 14th is a day for girls to give chocolate to the boys they like! Not only that but the chocolates are often handmade by the girls themselves, to give a personal touch. Around Valentine’s day, stores all over Japan start carrying chocolate-making supplies, cooking chocolate, sprinkles, edible stars, etc.
The second chocolate holiday is White Day, celebrated exactly one month later on March 14th. This is a day for boys to reciprocate, by giving chocolate (or other sweets) back to girls who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s day.
It’s clear that the chocolate craze is far from over in Japan, especially with new types of chocolate, like ruby chocolate coming out.
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