If Christmas is the time when adults pander to their inner child, then it is holiday season all year round at Papabubble. Tokyo’s premier purveyor of artisan candies is no ordinary sweet shop: it’s more like a Santa’s grotto — complete with happy toiling elves.
The brightly colored array of packages and objects filling the walls, tables and shelves is likely to lure you in. And the tantalizing sweet aroma filling the air may entice you to buy. But it’s the sight of the candies being made in front of your eyes that will make you linger as wide-eyed as an 8-year-old.
At the Papabubble store in Kamiyama-cho, a 10-minute walk from Shibuya Station (though closer to Yoyogi-Koen or Yoyogi-Hachiman), more than a third of the shop floor is devoted to the workspace. You can watch as the young crew of candy craftsmen and women — all dressed in natty black T-shirts and matching caps — vigorously pull, roll, massage and then shape and chop the sweets on the wide metal counter.
Some candies are simple spirals of two or three colors. Others are intricately fashioned in layers so that each cut has an image on the cross section. Either way, it’s intense physical work that has to be done fast, as the layers of sugar cool quickly. Each batch can take up to half an hour to make, and you may find it hard to tear yourself away until you actually have some of the finished products in your hand.
There are lots to choose from. Besides the basic small, hard candies in their psychedelic palette of colors and flavors, you’ll also find spiral lollipops, test tubes full of glittering candy diamonds, sugar animals and all sorts of other shapes, even Mexican Day of the Dead-style skulls. And keep an eye out for their range of special Christmas sweets. There are always samples to try, too.
The idea for Papabubble originated with a store in Barcelona — in both Spanish and Japanese the name is pronounced “papa boo-blay” — and was brought to Japan by self-styled candy artist Kiyokazu Kanno. He spent three years in Spain learning the craft before opening his first workshop/retail franchise in Tokyo’s Nakano district in 2005. He opened the Kamiyama-cho store in 2010, followed by two more outlets this year.
The latest, opened in October, is on the ground floor of the newly refurbished Daimaru department store (on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station). It sports a sleek design open on four sides so that passersby can gaze at the busy artisans inside. Eye candy indeed!
Kamiyama-cho store: 17-2 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 6407-8552; www.pappabubble.com. Nearest stations: Yoyogi-Koen (Chiyoda Line) and Yoyogi-Hachiman (Odakyu Line). Marunouchi store: Daimaru 1F, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3212-8011; www.daimaru.co.jp/english. Nearest station: Tokyo (various lines).