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 Japanese women give a treat to men for love, friendship or respect. Now most confectioners are in full force to sell their products specially made for the event. You can find lots of good chocolates and chocolate flavored sweets at this time. However, many of them aren't cheap. Women spend more money on buying cocoa sweets than any other time of the year because it is to show their good feeling for men they know. Some of them even buy highly priced truffles made by one of the top chocolatiers in the world if the sweets are for guys they care about. It is okay to buy such outrageously priced treats once in a while, but cheaper is better, isn't it?
As a Japanese who's been so into choosing and eating reasonably priced good sweets, I know really great chocolates can 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. 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 mildness to its flavor.
There are also available in special packages for the day of love. A design of many hearts and snow crystals is on the plastic cover sheet of the cases, and also on the wrapping papers.
The milky one has a long history. Firstly produced in 1926, it's been loved for the mild taste that hasn't changed by the Japanese. These chocolates are never 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. 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. 26 calories and 65 mg cacao polyphenols per block. Very rich in the polyphenols, so especially beneficial to your health.
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 smell, 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.
The chocolate factory is conveniently located between Osaka and Kyoto on the JR Kyoto line, in Takatsuki. You can’t miss it, as the world’s biggest chocolate coloured bar is located right next to the train tracks.