Chocolate bugs a fright and delight

by Reiji Yoshida

It will never be said that they look too good to eat. But that isn’t stopping the stream of orders for edible chocolate creepy-crawlies made to look like real beetle larvae and caterpillars.

Komatsuya Honten, the Akita-based confectioner that makes them, can’t keep up with demand since a news report about the tasty bugs — made of dark and white chocolate and orange peel — was posted Jan. 19 on Yahoo Japan.

One fan of the icky sweets posted an eager message on 2Channel, Japan’s largest Internet forum: “This is so real and weird . . . but I want them!”

The 500 to 1,000 caterpillar chocolates churned out a day aren’t enough to meet the orders coming in through the confectioner’s Web site.

“If you order now, you have to wait for three to four months” for the chocolates, said Sadayoshi Komatsu, the 57-year-old pastry chef who heads the confectioner, which was established in 1916 in Yokote, Akita Prefecture.

The news story posted on Yahoo described how Komatsuya Honten’s realistic-looking beetle and larva chocolates were proving wildly popular at a supermarket in Akita Prefecture.

Both items, priced at ¥210 and ¥1,000, were selling out in 10 to 15 minutes every day until Sunday when a fair at the market ended, said Masanori Sakurai, deputy manager of the Akita branch of supermarket Ito-Yokado.

Sakurai said he thought shoppers bought them out of curiosity because they look so real.

He said he wants to sell the products for Valentine’s Day, when millions of women rush to buy chocolates as gifts for the men in their lives. The supermarket, however, isn’t sure it can procure the products by then.

Komatsu made his first chocolate larvae in 2005, when he was asked to prepare sweets for a local festival where children were being given live beetles, which are popular and expensive pets for boys in Japan.

“I thought it was only a one-time event, but we kept receiving orders,” said Komatsu, who is somewhat perplexed by the success of his products. “Now, we can’t stop making them.”

The confectioner has even made seasonal variants. For example, red-and-white larvae were whipped up for the “hinamatsuri” girl’s festival season in February. For the boy’s festival season in May, there were huge 20-cm white larvae.

Orders can be placed through the confectioner’s Web site at komatuya-h.jp/ and a shop at Namco Nanjatown in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district will also be selling the products until March 9, or until supplies run out.