February is one of the coldest months of the year in Japan, but also the best month to enjoy chocolate.
It is no coincidence that Valentine's Day is in February. Traditionally this is a time for Japanese women give a treat to men for love, friendship or respect. You can find lots of good chocolates and chocolate flavored sweets that are only produced at this time. Women spend more money on buying cocoa sweets than any other time of the year they can show their feelings for the men they know. Some even buy highly prized truffles made by one of the top chocolatiers in the world. On the other hand, what if you can't afford such luxuries?
As a Japanese who spends hours choosing and eating reasonably priced good sweets, I know that really great chocolates can also be bought at supermarkets and 7-Eleven stores. They're Meiji Chocolates, which are given the title of pure chocolates as they are created using strictly selected ingredients, many through their sustainable sourcing practices with farms in countries like Ghana. While you can buy a bar or two, I recommend you buy boxes of them. These boxes feature four flavors: milk, bitter, hi milk and strawberry – all for 370 yen. They all have a milky, rich taste. Even the bitter one has a mildness to its flavor.
There are also available in special packages for the day of love, some featuring designs with hearts and snow crystals on the cover. The milky one on the other hand, has a long history. First produced in 1926, it's been loved for the mild taste that hasn't changed. These chocolates never go out of style, and the label has kept its connection with this century old brand.
Meiji Milk Chocolate
A chocolate that represents the company. You can enjoy the mellowness of cacao and the smell and taste of milk by eating it. It contains 26 calories and 38 mg cacao polyphenols per block.
Meiji Black Chocolate
A bitter chocolate that has its own style. It has a distinct aroma of cacao and a sharp bitterness of fine-quality. With 65 mg cacao polyphenols per block, it is rich in antioxidants and micro nutrients that can help with digestion and weight management, as well as other health benefits. The concentration of polyphenols gives black chocolate its bitterness, but its sophisticated taste has won many fans..
Meiji Hi Milk Chocolate
A chocolate that has a mild, rich milkiness. Made in a style that it has a natural aroma and taste of milk by using good-quality ingredients. 26 calories and 24 mg polyphenols per block.
Meiji Strawberry Chocolate
The distinct aroma, sweetness and sourness of the strawberry filling are in harmony with the mild taste of the milk chocolate coating. 28 calories per block.
All this chocolate will invariably send you into a spin, maybe even to you dreaming about chocolate in your sleep, like some Japanese version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Well, Meiji actually has a chocolate factory in Osaka, one that is open for the public for tours, twice daily. Bookings can be made on their website. While the tour is in Japanese, there may be a bilingual person in your group that may be able to translate.