Sadaharu Aoki


Sadaharu Aoki is a Japanese pastry chef who first made his name in Paris before moving back to Tokyo. His retail shop with a café near Yurakucho station is a nice spot to rest your feet and rejuvenate with French pastries, some with Japanese flavors like yuzu, mattcha, and wasabi. The mattcha served at his shop is on the sweet side and is served hot or iced.

patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-4-1, Shin-Kokusai Bldg. 1F


Amour du Chocolat at Takashimaya

choco Kyushu

Kyushu Shochu Chocolates

choco sake

Junmai Ginjo Saké and Uméshu Chocolates

choco Tengumai

Tengumai Saké with Tsujiguchi’s Nama Chocolate

* all photos are from the Takashimaya website

If you are traveling to Tokyo between now and February 14th, be sure to stop by a department store to check out all of the chocolates that are for sale. Valentine’s Day in Japan is done like nowhere else in the world. Chocolate is given from women to the men in their lives. Not only to your boyfriend or partner, but to colleagues at work, family members, and good friends.

This being Japan, gift-giving is not a one-way street. Men return the favor to the women in their lives a month later on March 14th, White Day. However, the okaeshi, or return gift, is typically white chocolate. There is a good reason for that. No re-gifting. Also, it was interesting for me to see that on White Day, many of the older men who were returning gifts often bought much nicer presents, such as wine.

Working at Takashimaya for two years I was able to observe the retail side of this tradition. First of all, my colleagues were surprised to hear that it is only in Japan that this is done. Most of them would laugh at themselves and say how brilliant the chocolate companies are to sell so much chocolate during a holiday that isn’t even Japanese.

Most department stores attract customers to their stores by offering unique chocolates that are only available at their shop. Each year the offerings vary as do the chocolatiers who are invited to create special boxes of chocolates.

This year, Takashimaya’s offerings include chocolates from Japanese chefs like Sadaharu Aoki, who currently has a great program on NHK on making French pastries at home. Of course, world-famous chefs like Pierre Herme, Michel Chaudun, and Pierre Marcolini.

I am always attracted to any that involve any type of alcohol like the three in the photos above. Most of these unique sweets are only available this time of year. And, it is no secret that some of the chocolates that are sold this time of year is by women buying for themselves.

Department stores will hold these chocolate fairs usually the first two weeks in February. If you are near any department store, stop by the concierge on the first floor to inquire into the chocolate events. Most often they are held on the special event floor, but some are held in the depachika as well. Nihonbashi Takashimaya starts on Saturday, February 2nd. Shinjuku Takashimaya starts on Friday, February 1.

Chocolate Shops in Tokyo

Pierre Marcolini

Pierre Marcolini

Chocoholics should be warned that Tokyo abounds with chocolate shops. Here are just a tiny few of what tempts customers. This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine. (text follows)

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to find a man who was rich, sweet and most important, who would satisfy me. But I had no idea I would be courted by a cadre of chocolatiers. I share this with you for Valentine’s Day as there is only one me and many of them, and they are oh so sweet.

The first to tempt me was Pascal Caffet as we both work at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi. He offered me a glass of champagne with his specialty, a chocolate disk studded with hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and raisins. I never say no to champagne, and the yeastiness from the bubbly melds with the nuttiness of his Croq’tele Noir.

I was curious to see what the competition had to offer and made a beeline to Isetan in Shinjuku. Jean-Paul Hevin warmed me up with a velvety rich chocolat chaud that had hints of warm spices like cinnamon. Jean-Paul’s café is next door to his shop, where the chocolates are on display like jewels in a jewelry shop.

Having lived in Brussels, and having been told by the Belgians that their chocolate is the best in the world, I thought it was time to pursue Pierre Marcolini. He was playing hard to get and each time I went to his shops in Ginza there were long lines of ladies waiting patiently to get a piece of him. I finally managed to squeeze a seat at the bar, and it was well worth the wait. He played it cool and offered me a scoop each of his chocolate sorbet and chocolate glace. The contrast between the two was necessary; as the glace alone was too rich, the sorbet worked almost as a palate cleanser—albeit a very rich palate cleanser.

So far so good, but it was time to be wooed by an older and perhaps wiser man. The legendary chocolatier Robert Linxe invited me to relax at La Maison du Chocolat. This may be the most luxurious of destinations in Tokyo. There is a long bar at which to sit and indulge, but buyer beware: Once you let your hair down here, it is hard to leave. These are classic creations and perhaps the most seductive of all the chocolates in town.

Finally, I was seduced by a Spaniard in Shiroganedai who offered me something unique. Oriol Balaguer’s shop is intimate if you can find it, but he blew my mind with his firecracker chocolate. If there is one chocolate you should try, this is it. I had never had a chocolate go snap, crackle and pop in my mouth before, but it was brilliant. Then he tempted me with his unique Nippon Collection featuring savory soy sauce, spicy wasabi and roasty toasty hojicha tea. But he won my Midwestern heart with a chocolate filled with crunchy bits of corn.

These are just the tip of the truffle; there are many more to explore.

I did check out a few Japanese chocolatiers, but I’m sad to say that, even though their shops were always busy, none compared with the Europeans. So indulge yourself with my sublime new friends. Theirs are not the chocolates of childhood but sweets for the savvy and sophisticated. And guaranteed to put a smile on any winter-worn face.

Pascal Caffet Nihonbashi
Takashimaya, Nihonbashi 2-4-1, Chuo-ku


Jean-Paul Hevin 
Shinjuku Isetan, Shinjuku 3-14-1, Shinjuku-ku


Pierre Marcolini 
Ginza 5-5-8, Chuo-ku


La Maison du Chocolat 
3-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku


Oriol Balaguer 
2F Barbizon 32, 4-9-18 Shiroganedai, Minato-ku