Japan’s Chocolate Prince

November 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

A few weeks ago, I was at a party talking to an American guy who was really big on chocolate. No, he doesn’t spend evenings stuffing candy bars into his mouth. (That would be me.) He’s the owner of an artisanal chocolate shop called Compartes, located in LA’s haute westside. A friendly but modest guy, he mentioned a few things about his little shop then listened attentively as I began gushing about my love for Tokyo and all things Japanese. “Ah yeah, Tokyo is great,” he said, referring to his first recent trip there. “They sell my chocolates at Takashimaya,” he said. That’s when my jaw dropped to the ground.

Takashimaya is the Saks Fifth Avenue of Japan, which would make his chocolates the newly-inaugurated Godiva of the eastern hemisphere. When Japanese people travel abroad they’ll drop a wad of travelers checks at the nearest Godiva branch in exchange for those ganache-filled morsels of delight. And come Valentine’s Day, it’s handcrafted chocolate, not Sweet Tarts, that steers the romantic futures of young Japanese couples.

Jonathan told me more about his visit to Tokyo last year which, as it turned out, was a media-blitzed tour where he chatted up TV talk show hosts and signed autographs for fans eagerly awaiting a taste of his signature chocolates. I was suddenly star-struck.

Looking at the pictures, it’s easy to see why his Japan-tailored line of chocolates would be so popular:

compartesr

Compartes has all the ingredients for success in Japan: 1) Both product and packaging are ultra-cute; 2) They use high-quality ingredients, and 3) it’s endorsed by Hollywood celebrities. Last year, Jonathan introduced a line of dark chocolates dusted with salt granules. Rumor has it, he’s the one who launched last year’s sweet-and-salty craze. And it doesn’t hurt that Jonathan is an affable guy with a clean-cut look and a keen sense of style. Image is everything in Japan.

Himawari

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