One of the many souvenirs I always buy home whenever I visit Japan are the Shiroi Koibito white chocolate cookies. I can’t remember who introduced them to me — but after that first bite, I was in love! So when I found out that the cookie has a dedicated theme park in Hokkaido, I knew I had to include it in my itinerary. Because who can resist a chocolate factory visit?
The Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Park (白い恋人パーク)
Shiroi Koibito translates to “white love” and it’s no wonder that it is so easy to fall in love with this little chocolate cookie. It is made up of two butter cookies with a layer of white chocolate in between them. This flagship product is owned by Ishiya, a local chocolate company — and they have set up a theme park in Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo dedicated to this cookie. The theme park features a chocolate factory amongst many of its other chocolate-y attractions. We planned a morning visit when the Shiroi Koibito Park opened at 9am — and I was actually quite surprised at the architecture and design of the park! It is remodelled after the English city of Chester in the 15th/16th century; complete with a Tudor house — all because of the founder Isao Ishimizu‘s fascination with the beauty of England.
We (I was traveling with mum and her friends) had rented a car for our visit in Hokkaido in the summer; so it was a pretty easy drive from the city centre to the park (thank you GPS)! However, there is also the option to take the subway — the Tozai Subway Line departs from the Odori Station in the city to the Miyanosawa Station, which is only a 10-minute walk to the Shiroi Koibito Park.
The outdoor gardens of the park, and the area with the shops and cafes are free to access; but the cookie-production “Chocotopia Factory” and other exhibits have an entrance fee of JYP600 (~US$5.5/MYR24) for adults and half price for kids. And I have to say, the unguided self-tour was pretty fun and interesting! There’s also a Premium Factory Tour that includes a visit to the “Chocotopia House” that has a projection mapping show about chocolates with a professor and his assistant. This special tour costs JYP1500 (~US$14/MYR60).
To anyone interested in a “Chocolate Lesson” to compare the flavours of two types of chocolates, there’s a Tasting Factory Tour that costs JYP1600 (~US$15/MYR65). For cookie and chocolate making workshops, reservations are required at the factory’s Dream Kitchen (online bookings available too).
Chocotopia Factory Tour
After buying our tickets for the factory tour, we followed the staircase up to the 3rd floor of the “Chocotopia Factory” to watch the Shiroi Koibito production line in action. Everyone crowded around the many floor-to-ceiling window panels to watch the machineries and the workers at work on the floor below; from baking to assembling to chilling to checking and finally to packaging everyone’s favourite cookies. The bakery is said to produce 100,000 Shiroi Koibito cookies in a day!
The area also has some picture diagrams of the entire cookie production process; and a kiddy display of little “white elves” working in the chocolate cookie kitchen.
Tasting and Making Chocolates
Another floor up the building led us to the “Dream Kitchen” and chocolate workshop area. There are windows around the workshop so we could actually see some of the visitors and the little kids learning how to make chocolates and cookies in the kitchen. I really wished I had more time so that I could learn to bake (or most likely eat) some cookies! This floor also has a shop that lets you print your pictures on original Shiroi Koibito cookie tins; as well as booths selling limited-edition products, and cute chocolate snacks and sweets.
And when we walked out of the “Chocotopia Factory”, we also came across a few chocolate exhibits and lots photo spots for picture-taking opportunities. It is filled with flowers and murals; and old English cups, saucers and decorations. There’s also a small Ishiya Museum — that tells the history of the founder, the brand and the park.
Restaurants and Cafes
And then it was time for some Shiroi Koibito eats! The ladies were a little peckish and I was craving for some ice cream; so we decided to have a bite at the Butler’s Wharf Cafe. We ordered some coffee and a whole selection of delicious looking ganache tarts, and I satisfied my cravings with a Shiroi Koibito-flavored soft serve ice cream. It was creamy heaven in a cup! The ice cream cost JYP400 (~US$4/MYR16), and the tarts cost the same a piece.
There are many other restaurants and cafes all throughout the park as well — Entrepot Restaurant serves full meals like curry dishes; the Owls Restaurant is known for their original curry soup; the Brighton Snack House has hotdogs and other light meals; the Oxford Chocolate Lounge serves chocolates and sweet desserts; and there’s also the Soft Cream House that specially serves the Shiroi Koibito chocolate and white chocolate ice creams.
Shopping for Souvenirs
Walking through the factory building led us through many rooms and corridors with English-influenced decorations. It really felt like I was walking through a Victorian/or Edwardian(?) mansion! And then upon walking down the grand staircase — we reached the gift shops. This area was pretty crowded (especially the huge Picadilly Shop) — I guess everyone just needed to get their hands on some of the limited-edition chocolate goodies you can only get in the park, and of course, the Shiroi Koibito cookies. I got myself some pretty Shiroi Koibito souvenirs like keychains and fridge-magnets; and as I always do whenever I visit Japan — I bought a couple of boxes of Shiroi Koibito to bring home.
There’s also a Labo Candy Shop, where you can watch the candy workers mold soft candy into small little sweets.
The Outdoor Park
After a little bit of shopping, we decided to spend some time in the outdoor park to enjoy the summer weather. There are many cute statues for pictures; and the background of the Tudor and old English houses made it feel as if we were not in Asia anymore. There’s also a lovely Rose Garden that is said to be filled with roses during summer (unfortunately at the tail-end of summer it was not as rosey as we hoped). Still, it was fun walking about the gardens.
We happened to be in the outdoor area at the top of the hour, so we got to witness a little performance at the Mechanical Clock Tower in the middle of the garden. Little animals came out of the clock for a small parade for about 10 minutes. There was also another performance at one of the park’s buildings; where mechanical chefs did a singing performance. It made the entire park very lively.
Fun I Had at Shiroi Koibito
My visit to the Shiroi Koibito Park allowed me a chocolate and Shiroi Koibito cookies fill at a chocolate factory — so what’s not to love about that? The tour around the factory was more fun and entertaining than I thought it would be; and the decorations and English-inspired theme park really upped the picture game a notch. There were just so many things to see and do that we ended up spending more than 2 hours visiting and roaming about the park.
Families with kids can probably spend much longer — on their website it is stated that they have a Pokke Gulliver Town with miniature shops and houses for kids to play make-believe and dress-up (for an additional entrance fee). There’s also a Shiroi Koibito Railway that runs through the garden that wasn’t in operation during my visit. The park is also home to the Miyanosawa Shiroi Koibito Soccer Field, which is used as a practice field for the Hokkaido professional football team.