As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores are always looking to promote unusual sweet ideas — making it a great excuse for designers to rethink candy and, of course, for the rest of us to enjoy the results.
Nendo’s sweet connections
Though Nendo is better known for the design of its interior goods, it is getting quite the reputation for its yearly humorous chocolate innovations, having created chocolate pencils, boxes of edible paints and last year’s stylistic series of bonbons designed to represent onomatopoeic words.
For 2016, it’s produced the intriguing Chocolatexturebar and — my personal favorite — the Chocolamixture set.
The bar, which is divided into 12 patterned panels, is based on the idea that rolling a piece of chocolate in the mouth and exploring texture with the tongue enhances the whole tasting experience. The 12 surface textures range from smooth undulating and dimples and lightly raised dots to well-defined zig zags and checks — all of which can be felt by the tongue during those melting moments of self-indulgence.
Chocolamixture, too, is all about experimenting. Like miniature chemistry kits, each set comes with five tiny round-bottomed milk-chocolate flasks, complete with cork-colored white-chocolate stoppers and five real test tubes filled with colorful sprinkles. You can create your own flavors by mixing any of the five types of sprinkles inside each flask before popping it into your mouth. With a choice of freeze-dried mango and raspberry, chocolate puffs, sugar hearts and popping candy, chances are you’ll make quite an explosive combination.
Chocolatexurebar costs ¥864 per slab and is available in milk, strawberry, white, bitter and matcha flavors. Chocolamixture is ¥5,400. Both are exclusively sold at By|n in Seibu Sogo Department store.
The chocolate tradition
Japanese pottery aficionados will love this idea. Bon Bon Chocolate au Kutaniyaki are not just fancy chocolates, they are hand-painted works of art by genuine Kutani ware artisans. Each bonbon is decorated by a Kutani-ware technical training institute graduate in the same conscientious detail as would be used for a piece of traditional Kutani pottery.
They may be a little pricey at ¥4,500 for four, but they are stunning labors of love that showcase motifs that are hundreds of years old.
Bon Bon Chocolate au Kutaniyaki can be found at the Seiyogashiclub website, where you will also find Bon Bon Yamanakanuri, the lacquerware version of the designer chocolates. While the Kutaniyaki are painted by well-trained graduates, the Yamanakanuri version are all painted by Hakuzan Taniguchi, a maki-e (gold powder) lacquerware master.
Decorated with cherry-blossom and bird motifs in the familiar laquerware colors of vermillion, pink, white and brown, a set of four, packaged in a matching lacquerware box, cost ¥7,000.
Still in the game
Printing images onto candy isn’t new, but Maqui’s Co., Ltd. has been making the most of advanced technology for several years now. The Kobe-based company, which has been making chocolate for more than 50 years, is already well known for its particularly quirky creations, including dinosaur fossil shapes that you actually need to dig out of a slab chocolate.
These beautiful chocolate slabs by Maqui’s Co. Ltd. are designed after the Japanese Edo Period (1603-1868) card game hanakaruta (flower cards, also known as hanafuda) — and their sugary illustrations are faithful to the real thing. Hanakaruta involves 12 suits, each representing a month of the year with a flower or animal motif printed in vibrant reds, pinks, greens, purples and oranges.
Maqui’s small boxed sets are based on different hands, such as the three-card Inoshikacho five-point combination of a wild boar, deer and butterfly (pictured, ¥1,620), but if you’re looking for an impressive gift, go for the Shunka Shuto full set of all 12 for ¥5,400.
The motifs are all printed on white chocolate, and each set comes with two extra slabs of semi-sweet milk chocolate behind each card.
In a similar vein to Macqui’s Co. Ltd., Hotel Palace Tokyo’s Sweets & Deli store are producing a set of chocolates inspired by Edo Period crafts.
Chiyo Choco takes its name from chiyogami — elaborately stencil-printed washi paper that was often used as decorative origami. As the name suggests, these nine-centimeter-square, wafer-thin treats are printed, like the paper, with traditional patterns — the kind used on Edo Period kimono and yukata (summer kimono).
Each sheet is just two millimeters thick and every pattern, which includes pastel green bamboo leaves, pink cherry blossoms, kabuki masks and more, is of a different cacao percentage and flavor. A flock of orange and white flying cranes, for example, is 36 percent and blended with Madagascan vanilla, a scattering of gold flakes is 66 percent and has the fragrance of roast nuts, while purple geometric waves is 39 percent with hints of caramel and banana.
There are 12 designs in total and the full set costs ¥ 5,500, while a selected set of six is ¥2,757.
This last confection, also from Sweets & Deli, is for that rare being that doesn’t like chocolate. It’s also a reminder that while it might be a tradition in Japan for women to give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day, men get to give women something in return next month.
Ohajiki is one of Sweets & Deli store’s upcoming White Day (March 14) special-edition treats. Since in Japan Valentine’s Day usually involves women giving men gifts, White Day is when men get to give women something in return.
Inspired by traditional Japanese marbles, which are basically flattened spherical ones, these crystallized sugar drops replace the glass version’s central swirls of color with dainty edible petals or herbs.
Far prettier than real marbles, you can eat these straight or pop them into a hot cup of tea and watch the sugar melt away to release the trapped treasure.
A jar costs ¥864 and they will only be available at Sweets & Deli.