SALON DU CHOCOLAT のコピー Many of our readers have probably guessed that Japan has a passion for chocolate. But each year in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, which is when women in Japan customarily give men gifts of chocolate, that passion has a tendency to turn into outright frenzy. Spend time in Japan before Valentine’s Day, and you’ll see countless special chocolate products and dedicated vending areas in every shopping mall and department store. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Valentine chocolate madness has now officially begun in Japan, and what better place to experience the excitement than Tokyo’s own production of the world’s biggest chocolate festival, the Salon du Chocolat? Join us on a tour of the event and see what all the sweet fuss is about — if you’re a chocolate lover, you just might think you’ve died and gone to chocolate heaven!

The Salon du Chocolat is an event to celebrate all things good and chocolaty that originally began in Paris, France in 1995. Since then, it has grown over the years and is now held in 19 locations across the world. In Japan, the prestigious Isetan Department Store has brought the event to its store in Shinjuku each year since 2003, making this the 12th Salon du Chocolat Tokyo to take place. This year, the event takes place from January 22 to 27, and with approximately 80 chocolate creators (or chocolatiers, as they would more accurately be called) from 10 different countries setting up shop for a relatively short period of time, a huge crowd was sure to be expected. Well, throngs of people or not, we certainly couldn’t stay away from the best chocolates in the world all gathered in one place, could we? So, here’s what we saw at the 2014 Salon du Chocolat Tokyo. We have to say that we were impressed with how chocolate truly can be a delight to see as well as taste!

▼This stylish sign proudly announces Tokyo’s 2014 Salon du Choloat, with autographs of the participating chocolatiers on the surrounding panel. This year’s theme for the event was La Magie — magic. Well, we certainly agree that there’s something magical about chocolate! Salon 1 Magie sign

▼There were also pictures of the glamorous event in Paris. Salon 2 Paris pics

▼This beautiful ball of chocolate created by Frank Kestner seemed to fit this year’s theme of magic perfectly. Let the chocolate magic begin! Salon 3 ball magic

▼Okay, we expected the crowds, so we were prepared for this, but it was still overwhelming. The entire floor was packed — and this was around 7 p.m. on a weeknight.Salon 4 crowd 1

Salon 5 Crowd 2 Salon 6 crowd 3

▼Here’s a beautiful Valentine’s gift set from French chocolatier Frédéric Cassel. Salon 7 Frederic Cassel p84

▼This artful presentation of colorful chocolates is from Fabrice Gilotte … Salon 8 Fabrice Gillotte spoons p58

▼… as well as these intricately printed chocolates. Salon 9 Fabrice Gillotte 2

▼These lovely hearts are the work of Frédéric Hawecker. Salon 8 Frederic Hawecker closeup

▼Hugo & Victor’s colorful chocolates are shown here in an artful display.Salon 11 Hugo & Victor p66

▼This is what the chocolates look like inside the box. On the top row are powdered soft caramel chocolates scented with vanilla. The red chocolates on bottom are blood orange-flavored.Salon 10 Hugo & Victor carnet

▼These lovely cupcakes are from Belgian chocolate house Debailleul. Salon 12 Debailleul cupcakes

▼French chocolate maker Debauve & Gallais, which has a long history dating back to the time around the French Revolution, also had a booth. Salon 13 Debauve & Gallais1 p162

▼They’re known for their “Pistoles”, coin-shaped chocolates which were originally made in remembrance of the queen Marie-Antoinette. Salon 14 Debauve & Gallais 2 pistoles

▼Popular Japanese chocolate maker THÉOBROMA MUSÉE DU CHOCOLAT offers chocolates that come in these gorgeous cylindrical boxes … Salon 15 Theobrama 2

▼… as well as some interesting chocolates in the shape of caviar (far left) or pebbles (second right). Salon 16 Theobrama 3

▼You can even have colorful ice cream bars from Japanese chocolatier Yoshinori Asami. Salon 17 Yoshinori Asami ice bar

▼Renowned Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini is always a favorite in Japan. The beautiful red hearts are framboise-flavored and the white chocolate balls on the right are champagne truffles. Champagne and chocolate — now that’s what we call a deadly combination! Salon 18 Pierre Marcolini

▼Internationally famous Belgian chocolate maker GODIVA of course also had their Valentine’s gift boxes on offer, and you can’t really go wrong with their chocolates. Salon 19 Godiva valentine chocs

▼They even had an outrageously scrumptious-looking limited edition drink, which they called the “Chocolixir Valentine Strawberry”! Salon 20 Godiva chocolixir

▼French chocolate maker BONNAT had their chocolate bars beautifully arranged on the wall. Salon 21 Bonnat p104

▼An adorable chocolate egg, also from BONNAT. Salon 22 Bonnat oeuf

▼They even had a machine with three types of melted chocolate pouring down, which smelled absolutely wonderful! Salon 24 Bonnat running choc

▼They also had a cafe area for light dining, where you could sit down and eat items that were created in collaboration between BONNAT and famous French bread maker VIRON, known for their excellent baguette. Salon 25 Bonnat Viron sign

▼This is what the cafe area looked like — very pretty and with a Parisian feel in bright red colors.Salon Bonnat eatin 1

▼We ordered the baguette au chocolat — VIRON french bread with a bar of rich BONNAAT chocolate sandwiched inside — which we were dying to try, along with a cup of coffee. Salon Bonnat eatin 2

▼This is what the sandwich looked like when we unwrapped it. Salon Bonnat eatin 3

▼Sure enough, there was a whole bar of delicious-looking BONNAT chocolate inside. The chocolate, made especially for this sandwich, and the chewy bread tasted wonderful together. Salon Bonnat eatin 4

▼Okay, now this is where the chocolates really start to look like works of art. The three chocolate dinosaurs below are from Japanese chocolate maker Pâtisserie Etienne. They look amazing, and while not inexpensive, with the stegosaurus in the second photo costing approximately US$400, “magical” would certainly seem to be an appropriate description for them.Salon 26-1 Patisserie Etienne brachio

Salon 26-2 Patisserie Etienne (stego) p130 Salon 26-3 Patissesrie Etienne tricera

▼And of course, you would expect an artful display from renowned French chocolatier Pierre Hermé. Salon 26-4 Pierre Herme display

▼One of Pierre Hermé’s masks in closer detail — you’ll almost want to keep it and hang it on your wall instead of eating it! Salon 26-5 Pierre Herme mask

▼And the macarons Pierre Hermé is known for are also available, this year in a cute, cat-illustrated package. Salon 26-6 Pierre Herme macaroons

▼French chocolatier Sébastien Bouillet also offers a selection of gorgeous three-dimensional chocolates that look like works of art. Just look at these beautiful high-heel shoes, and they’re called “Fetish” too! Salon 27 Sebastien Bouillet shoes p100

▼Bouillet also has some adorable lipstick-shaped chocolates in several different colors. It’s amazing how much they look like the real thing! Salon 28 Sebastien Bouillet lipstick

▼Bouillet also has some items that he created in collaboration with fashion brand Anna Sui, and the results are incredibly stylish. Salon 29 Sebastien Bouillet Anna Sui 1

▼There are lipstick chocolates in special Anna Sui colors. Salon 31 Sebastien Bouillet Anna Sui 3

▼These chocolates are in the shape of Anna Sui’s characteristic butterfly motif. Salon 32 Sebastien Bouillet Anna Sui 4

▼And there’s also the lovely Anna Sui “Fetish” chocolate shoe in bright pink. Salon 33 Sebastien Bouillet Anna Sui 5

▼Bouillet was also serving up a unique, airy chocolate drink called the Mousse Chocolat, where the chocolate is machine served in a very foamy state. This, we had to try!
Salon Sebastien Bouillet mousse 1

▼We ordered the Mousse Chocolat with cookie crumbles, and the airy half mousse/half drink was absolutely heavenly with an incredibly soft texture!
Salon Sebastien Bouillet mousse 2

▼Sadaharu Aoki, who is a very well-respected and successful chocolatier in Paris, is also a big favorite in his native Japan. Salon 34 Aoki 1 line

▼A long counter area showcased Aoki’s various chocolate creations. Salon 37 Aoki 4 choc counter

▼Some close-up looks at Aoki’s colorful chocolates Salon 38 Aoki 5 choc

Salon 39 Aoki 6 choc packages

▼Aoki’s breads were also on offer and selling well. The pain au chocolat, which isn’t seen in this picture, sold out just two customers after me, so I was lucky to be able to buy one. Salon 36 Aoki 3 breads

▼Okay, forget works of art, these chocolate displays look like actual museum exhibits. They’re by the internationally acclaimed French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.Salon 41 JPH exhibit 2

▼Jean-Paul Hévin’s rendition of the “rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick” may not be real magic but certainly looks magical. Salon 42 JPH exhibit 3

▼This is simply gorgeous. The colors and details Hévin uses are so stunning, it really is like something out of a museum. Salon 43 JPH exhibit 4

▼A close-up of the colorfully printed chocolates Salon 44 JPH exhibit 5

▼The detail Hévin has added to the mask below is exquisite; it would make for one heck of a sexy mask if you could actually wear it! Salon 45 JPH exhibit 6

▼Hévin”s chocolate “house of cards” and chocolate hat create an elegant image. Salon 46 JPH exhibit 7

▼These squirrels in a chocolate cube are too cute to eat! Salon 47 JPH exhibit 8

▼Another piece by Hévin, this one with more of  a light, cartoon feel Salon 48 JPH exhibit 9

▼Jean-Paul Hévin also had a cafe area where you could try different sinfully sweet drinks and desserts. Salon 49 JPH eatin

▼Sold out, sold out, sold out: Didn’t we tell you Japan loved its fancy chocolates!? Salon 50 JPH eat in sold out

▼All the looking around got us thirsty again, so we decided to have a cold drink. Belgian chocolate maker Belcolade was offering two types of cake-flavored chocolate drinks — one with a Mont Blanc (sweet chestnut cake) flavor and the other  a cheesecake flavor, both priced at 420 yen (US$4). Salon 51 purchase Belcolade drink counter

▼We tried the Mont Blanc flavor drink, since it seemed more chocolaty. It was beautifully cold and refreshing, and not too sweet. Salon 52 purchase Belcolade drink

▼After walking through all those shops, we couldn’t really go home empty-handed. We bought several items, including this sandwich from THÉOBROMA MUSÉE DU CHOCOLAT which cost 1,050 yen ($10). Salon 53 purchase Theobrama sandwich 1

▼It’s not exactly a dessert … Salon 54 purchase Theobrama sandwich 2

▼… but it’s a sandwich with foie-gras, figs stewed in red wine, tomatoes and yes, CHOCOLATE SAUCE. The unexpected combination tasted surprisingly mild, with a gentle sweetness. Salon 55 purchase Theobrama sandwhich 3

▼We also bought the chocolate bread — pain au chocolat — from Sadaharu Aoki, priced at 351 yen ($3.40). Salon 56 purchase Aoki pain 1

▼From the picture, it may not look like there’s a lot of chocolate inside the bread, but after trying it, we actually found that it was probably just the right amount, since the chocolate was quite rich and the bread was buttery and flavorful. Together, they made a delightful combination. Salon 57 purchase Aoki pain 2

▼We also bought a small box of chocolate-covered cookies from Sadaharu Aoki, which cost 1,995 yen ($19.50). We even managed to have the master chocolatier and pâtissier autograph the box! Salon 58 purchase Aoki cookie 1

▼This is what the cookies looked like inside the box. Salon 59 purchase Aoki cookie 2

▼The box contained four of these individually wrapped cookies.Salon 60 purchase Aoki cookie 3

▼Isn’t the printed design in bright red with all those hearts just gorgeous? We fell in love with these cookies at first sight (without even taking a bite)! Salon 61 purchase Aoki cookie 4

So that’s our round-up on Salon du Chocolat Tokyo 2014. It was definitely thrilling to see so many world-famous chocolate brands in one place, and it was also nice that chocolatiers from many of the shops were actually at the event. Being able to exchange a few words with the creators of the chocolates definitely adds to the excitement, after all.

If you enjoy sweets, and if there happens to be a Salon du Chocolat event near you, we would definitely recommend that you make a visit. Yes, it is all about chocolate, but it is also a global event that can be enjoyed for its sophistication and brilliant atmosphere.

▼If you’re interested in getting a better idea of the Salon du Chocolat as a global concept, below is a video that shows segments of the event from around the world.

It looks like the sweet allure of chocolate is hard to beat, regardless of culture or language!

Source: Isetan Salon du Chocolat website
Top Image: YouTube (Salon du Chocolat)
All other photos: RocketNews24