On Saturday I went with Hanako, Mackenzie and her host sister Yui, Dai, and Julia to Ishiya Chocolate Factory which is apparently pretty famous and has delicious and fancy chocolates. Sweets in general are really fancy and plentiful in Japan and I'm continually amazed at how often my host family and other Japanese people get them, whether it's a slice of fancy cake or a box of fancy sweets. One reason is probably the amazing amount of gift giving that is customary in Japan. It seems that whenever you visit anyone's house or return from a trip you're supposed to bring them a gift, typically one of those nice boxes of sweets. I honestly don't know how they afford it between the high transportation costs (gas prices are pretty much double those in America) and other expenses.
Anyway, we were going on the same day as HI-C had organized their own trip, but we just went earlier and didn't tell anyone, luckily getting back without running into them, though it probably wouldn't have been a problem if we did. Outside the factory was a place to walk around that had little houses and other fairy-tale looking decorations. It would have looked really cool with snow or flowers blooming, but today there was neither. There was however an apple tree that had sensors that triggered a character to pop out of its hiding place and say "I wouldn't touch that if I was you!" in English if you tried to reach in and grab an apple. And at certain times there was a show where automated moving characters came out on the side of the buildings and danced and sang while bubbles shot out from a few different places, fake birds sang and moved, and even one of the trash cans swiveled back and forth to the music. It was definitely more Willy Wonka inspired than I expected.
On the inside, there was a museum that seemed to have no common theme and included old toys, sports stuff, famous singes, model trains, and Star Wars action figures. The paid self-guided tour started out the same way though with a bit more relation to chocolate, with a "hot chocolate cup room", a "package room", a "package label room", and random stained glass and a fountain mixed in. From there it became more of what you would expect from a chocolate factory and had a tunnel that looked like it was made of chocolate with educational videos on the making of chocolate. Then, most interestingly, you could look down through windows and actually watch the chocolate being made and workers doing quality checks as it went by. There were several similar areas where you could watch people work too, which together with the Willy Wonka style music show made it more interesting than the Hershey Chocolate Factory in Pennsylvania as far as I was concerned.
Check out the rest of the pictures here!