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Chocolate may not be the first thing you imagine for Japanese snacks. As I have said before, traditional Japanese sweets tend to have a certain aura to them.  So, you may be surprised to know that Japanese chocolate is superb. When we talk about quality chocolate, we often think of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, or another North-European country. But I would contest that Japan should be on par with its chocolate reputation.

Winter leaves a special note of flavour in Japan. Like many things in Japan, chocolate is seasonal: at different times of the year you’ll be able to find limited edition flavours. Because of this, I’m going to introduce you to the top five Japanese chocolates that I couldn’t stop eating through Winter 2015/16.

 

This chocolate taste combines brandy and orange and generate quite unique taste reminding us of Xmas

1. Meltykiss Brandy & Orange

The box looks very festive: gold and orange colours. It’s very warming and at this time of year I think that is just what we want. If you’re unfamiliar with the flavour combination of brandy and orange, then I will say that for many it is a festive favourite; the zesty bitter-sweetness of the orange sits with the warm timbre of the brandy, and well, personally it’s a quintessential taste of Christmas.

This is Melty kiss picked up from the box

Opening the box, I find four small individually-wrapped bars of chocolate. I must say that the size and over-packaging of Japanese chocolate may be it’s only downfall. The winter theme is continued, as each wrapper is adorned with snowflakes. Although Christmas is over, I can’t help but feel that nostalgic sensation associated with the holiday.

Biting into the bar, the middle isn’t quite as liquid as the box would have you believe. To be honest, I think it’s better this way –less messy. Sweet orange rind, warm brandy, and smooth chocolate. Meltykiss’s sweet chocolate mellows out the bold festive flavours; it’s like a cosy hug.

I can imagine that this would be perfect wrapped up on a warm sofa, watching some light-hearted movie, with a glass of deep red wine. Word of warning: eat this chocolate slowly. While I may have complained that Japanese chocolate portions are small, Meltykiss is very rich.

Available at most Combinis, found in Fresco supermarket.

This chocolate contains strawberry sauce in it

2. Torotto Strawberry

Firstly I am a little bit confused by all the strawberry-flavoured things around this time of year; I wouldn’t exactly associate them with winter, yet they are everywhere. Perhaps that is where the luxury lies. Torotto Strawberry confuses me for a second reason, as the word strawberry is written in katakana as oppose to Ichigo. The pack is otherwise pretty typical of the Torotto; we see some fondant being poured into a crunchy chocolate cube upon a square pattern. That firstly reinforces the gimmick of the square chocolate, and secondly is faintly reminiscent of a picnic blanket.

Inside there is a tray, and in that tray, nine small cubes of crunchy chocolate with a strawberry-chocolate-style fondant inside. Nine isn’t many, but this is another rich chocolate.  The nine squares go a long way.

I think the process of making Torotto is to make a chocolate with a lot of sugar in it, and then roast that chocolate so that the sugars cook and solidify. You might imagine that’s unpleasant, but this crunchy chocolate is great. The strawberry edition is a lot more subtle than some other variations and the fruit taste is quite pleasing; the right combination of sweet and sour.

These would be good as a movie snack, if there were more than nine in a pack. I would also like to cook them into some brownies.

Available at most Combinis, found at 7-Eleven.

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3.Crunky Strawberry

Another strawberry one! It seems to be the popular thing for chocolate in this season, as there are many other strawberry editions that I haven’t mentioned. This one is square-shaped too, and the packet again looks more summer-themed to me rather than winter-themed; four plump strawberries are scattered across the top of the pack. Perhaps there is a secret strawberry season I haven’t been told about.

The chocolate squares have a sort of strawberry cheesecake taste. The crunchy rice in each piece seems to be the main event, though. Crunky goes for the “crunchy is king” angle, which is nice; I think that crunchy rice is quite an understated snack feature.
The pearly milk chocolate on the outside is really rather good. Japanese chocolate seems to have a good balance of how much milk should be in it, and this is no exception.

I’d like a party size bag of this to take on a long car journey.

Available at most Combinis, found at Family Mart.

This chocolate called sasha looks luxury and its box is quite large

4. Sasha Strawberry

Okay, Japan, where’s the secret winter-time strawberry field? There must be some hidden meadows that are teeming with strawberries – on one of the southern islands perhaps? I remember being a child and picking strawberries in July. I think maybe this is a luxury angle; strawberries are not in season, therefore it is a luxury to flavour everything with them.
These chocolates do seem rather luxury, as the box is quite large, and the design is really quite beautiful in its simplicity. Lots of lacing-style details, and the name “Sasha” printed clearly in gold.

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I don’t know who “Sasha” is, but she clearly likes nice elegant things; opening the pack reveals a selection of individually-wrapped chocolates, each one composed of layers of delicate lacy chocolate. These laces are comprised of milk, white, and strawberry chocolate. It is a very intricate design, and I feel that this is usually reserved for more special occasions. But because the chocolate is really quite good, I’ve found myself just eating these while doing some work around the office. The combination of three chocolates leaves me with a similar taste impression to a good strawberry milkshake, and the lacy layers give a nice crunchy texture.

They are a little bit expensive, and the box is so presentable, that I would probably reserve these for some sort of special occasion. Perhaps for something like a small party, a small gift… or just because they’re tasty.

Available at most Combinis, found at Family Mart.

This box of BAKE looks a little less festive and more regal; adorned in illustrations of metallic purple, fruit-bearing vines

5. Bake Berry & Rum Flambe

Another boozy chocolate. I think booze and chocolate really partner well, especially at this time of year; warm and smooth together as one. This box looks a little less festive and more regal; adorned in illustrations of metallic purple, fruit-bearing vines, as an image of the chocolate rises above some berries that are glowing with a blue flame.

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Inside there are about a dozen individually-wrapped chocolates, each with crunchy coatings and deep-flavoured chocolate inside. Again, the illustration on the box implies quite a liquid center, but this chocolate is quite solid, and I’m not so sure that I can taste the “flambe” aspect of the chocolate. Also, the berry notes aren’t too over-powering. What I am left with is a decent chocolate that is very reminiscent of rum-raisin ice cream.

This would be good at any time, really. I often find myself pouring the box into my coat pocket, so I can eat them on the way home.

Available at most Combinis, found at Family Mart.

 

Honourable mention:

They offer a deeper biscuit flavour and taste sweet strawberry

Galbo Mini Strawberry

These would be in the list -as I have been eating a lot of them- but very simply, they are too similar to Crunky. They offer a deeper biscuit flavour, but otherwise I think Crunky covers the crunch and the strawberry taste for a little cheaper.

Connor Lawless

Connor Lawless

I moved to Japan in May 2015, and have since been exploring some quiet places, mainly in the Chugoku and Kansai regions. As of April 2016 I moved to Osaka for a change of pace. I love food and art.

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