Sunday, July 31, 2011
6th August, 2010 - Well, Sapporo's reasonably famous in Japan for it's food... amongst other things. It's also reasonably famous for it's chocolates and desserts. One of those famous brands is Ishiya chocolates... which just happens to have it's famous chocolate factory here in Sapporo. And it's definitely worth visiting, especially if you have children. Or you like chocolate. Or chocolate children?.... ok, that's just a bit weird.
Actually - I have been here once before - during my first trip to Japan in 2003. Back then, it was winter, cold and covered in snow and ice. August, 2010 is a long way from that time, and there was no snow to be seen. It's in Miyanosawa, on the way to Otaru - and is best reached from the Tozai subway line.View Sapporo Map in a larger map
Actually, the place is called Shiroi Koibito Park, and it's sort of a cross between Disneyland and Willy Wonker's Chocolate Factory. Shiroi Koibito is one of the more common biscuit/souvenirs that you can buy in Hokkaido, so it's reasonably well known. Enough for it's own park. These are delicious butter biscuits sandwiching a thin layer of white chocolate in between.
Now - don't get too excited. Disneyland might be stretching the truth just a little. It is however a very enjoyable place to visit if you've got the time. Clearly the designers wanted to give it a European feel, and they succeeded. It may all be fake - but it's genuine fake. And that's the kind I like.
Ah *sigh*.... things can get you down, even when you work in a chocolate factory!
And you might almost believe that this is the place where magic happens... although if the chocolate starts coming to life, I think this fella below's the prime suspect...there's something about those squinty eyes that says arch-criminal all over. Not to mention his hairy hench-thingy...
There's lots of little attractions to see - including an immaculate garden. Just watch where you stick your head, as you might find yourself on the receiving end of hammerin' time. Hedgehog style. Actually, seriously - the gardens are worth it by themselves... especially if you like roses.
It's actually more like going on a holiday to an English garden than a Chocolate factory... not that the children will care a jot for all that.
There are however also a lot of doll-houses to be viewed... well, they'd be for BIG dolls admitedly. In fact all of the houses can be entered and look quite fun.
And it wouldn't be a magical land without a clock band, now would it. And they're good - sorry no vid. Didn't have my wits about me. But they come out regularly... and it's a favourite amongst the children. And if you're wondering about the soccer-ball, Ishiya Chocolate Factory is right alongside the Consadole Football Club, Hokkaido's sometime member of the J League.
What could be better than an animatronic clock?... How about an ainimatronic band! They've got everything covered.
And not forgetting the choir... though I thought the second on the right was looking just a little too zombie-like for comfort...
And when there's a music going, everyone gets in on the act - including the
drunk dancing owls. Whilst the park is not huge, there's lots of little things to find if you go searching.
One of the special treats is when the bubbles are released (I think this is on the hour, but I could be wrong... ). This is great to see the children running around trying to catch as many bubbles as they can.
Oh to be a child again... they don't know how lucky they have it. In my day, we couldn't afford such a thing as fun... we had to make do with playing imaginary fun
There is also a little steam train ride that the family can enjoy - for 300 yen p.p.... but don't expect a long ride. It just circles around the park area. You won't get to see much more than you can by foot, but of course, it's fun especially for smaller children.
I love the attention to detail and the imagination used in the design of the park - indeed, it's the little things that you just notice that make it a satisfying experience (for adults). It has a bit of a Ghibli feel to it...
Watch out for their own leaning tower - supported only by the heroic efforts of the chocolate makers... now that's dedication for you.
In a country that has faux-churches, why not a faux-Ye-Olde-English-Town for a chocolate factory? I'm not sure what this has to with Chocolate, Sapporo or even anything in particular. Still it adds to the sense of magic and that this is a bit special. The other thing is that at night this is all illuminated (of course) so it adds another magical element again.
And there are at least a few other things for the adults, including a nice little cafe (actually there's a few places to eat here). Enjoy watching the children as you sip on a delicious hot chocolate.
Now - I haven't mentioned that you can also do a visit of the Chocolate Factory (for about 600 yen per adult, and 200 yen for junior high school children - or younger). I have to admit that we haven't done the tour - there's always something to do when we come back again. They offer chocolate making workshops as well, but I'm not sure whether they are suitable for non-Japanese speakers. The rest of the park is wonderfully free (except for the train ride).
Now - there is something else you can do when you're here... but that involves going inside, and I've separated out that as the next post. So stay tuned.