When it comes to Japan’s most popular “White Lover”, only one comes to mind.
Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人, literally, “White Lover”) is Japan’s most famous and popular white chocolate treat, made by Ishiya Patisserie. Along with YokuMoku, Royce Chocolates, and Japanese KitKats, these sweet favourites always makes the list of most purchased omiyage (おみやげ, souvenir) gifts by foreigners. The square-shaped cookie sandwich is composed of two light and buttery wafers, golden on the edges (also known as langue de chat) and filled with a thin layer of white chocolate.
Seems like an overly simple formula for a product that sells over 2 million units per year? Maybe a quick trip to the Shiroi Koibito Park and Factory will help explain why this “white lover” is so beloved!
Like the mounds of snow that pile up along Sapporo’s streets and homes, Hokkaido is abounding with Japan’s butter, cream, and milk products – a perfect combination for creating Shiroi Koibito. Just a 7-minute walk from Miyanosawa Station (Tozai Subway Line) in Sapporo, it’s hard to miss the majestic clock tower that rises above this nostalgic red brick factory.
Walking up to its tall leaf and vine-ornamented gates gives one the same sense of childlike anticipation like that of Charlie when his eyes first gazed upon the Chocolate Factory! But why such an elaborate outfit for a chocolate manufacturing facility? Let’s head on in and find out!
Ishiya’s point is simple: they take chocolate very seriously. To enjoy their chocolate to the fullest, you need to understand the rich history behind it. Which is why they’ve modelled their headquarters after a 19th Century British chocolate factory, and even included an antique chocolate cup collection, to show how chocolate was once the luxurious dessert of the aristocracy.
After admiring these authentic treasures, we took a quick walk through their Chocolate Time Tunnel. Curious about the art and science of chocolate making? Here, Ishiya shows us how the process has evolved from 200 years ago.
Of course, the highlight of the tour is viewing the actual cookie production line. From sandwiching, to cooling, to printing and packaging, here’s where each little langue de chat sandwich is created with a painstaking amount of quality control. Making consistently delicious cookies requires even monitoring environmental factors, such as changes in the weather and humidity, which affect the baking process. Moreover, the inspection of these cookies goes beyond just appearance, weight, and sanitation. Workers here actually do regular taste tests to ensure their quality. Not a bad perk if you ask me!
When finishing the walk through, budding confectioners can try their hand at making their own cookies at the Cookiecraft Studio, or even create a personalised Shiroi Koibito tin canister. My recommendation however, is topping your tour off with a short stay at the Chocolate Lounge.
Outfitted with antique English furniture, here you can spoil yourself with their original menu of fondue, parfaits, and chocolate drinks, many of which can only be found at this cafe. While enjoying the fourth floor view overlooking the park grounds, be sure not to miss the mechanical clock tower Carnival Parade, every hour on the hour.
Fortunately you don’t have to travel all the way to Sapporo just to pick up Japan’s favorite “white lover”. The long popularity of Shiroi Koibito has made it purchasable at every international airport in Japan, including Narita and Haneda Airports. But for fans of this favorite omiyage, a pilgrimage to this enchanting white chocolate wonderland will leave you with “sweet” memories, and an even greater appreciation for the quality behind each delicate cookie sandwich.
Access: A 7-min walk from Miyanosawa Station (Tozai Subway Line, approx. 20 min from Odori Station) For more information, visit their website.