Shiroi Koibito Park: the Background & the Basics
A simple white chocolate langue de chat sandwich cookie, the whole of a Shiroi Koibito cookie is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Plus, it's a symbol of Hokkaido. Despite only having started sales in the 1970s, thanks to packaging featuring Hokkaido's Mt. Rishiri, and a name (Shiroi Koibito, 白い恋人) meaning "white lovers" (which comes from an offhand remark from the founder, describing the snow), the cookies have in the past been named the souvenir that "most represents the 20th century." When you're searching for a gift from Hokkaido that will satisfy any sweet tooth, it's the obvious choice in Japan.
So, of course, when we went on a little culinary tour of Sapporo, we had to check out the city's Shiroi Koibito hot spot, a little factory alongside a host of deliciously themed attractions. After eating our fill of hearty ramen and copious seafood
, it was a pretty perfect sweet treat. Not sure how to get to Shiroi Koibito Park? Follow us on over!
*Unfortunately, Shiroi Koibito cookies are not halal or kosher, since they're made with animal shortening. The park is still pretty fun to visit, though!
Although Shiroi Koibito Park isn't in central Sapporo, it's an easy trip away from the middle of the city. Just make your way to the subway Tozai Line and ride it to the end! Thanks to the extremely extensive underground walkways in the heart of the city, when the weather isn't great you can basically walk right from a central Sapporo hotel to your train station entirely underground. You can even skip any subway line transfers by walking a few extra minutes under the earth!
Touring the Park
There are plenty of different things to do at the park, some of which require tickets,and some you can explore freely. We wanted to see as much as we could, so of course we went for a tour of the Shiroi Koibito factory! When we purchased our tickets we each got a free Shiroi Koibito cookie, with special park-only packaging, a sign of sweet things to come.
The park's cookie factory isn't the kind of enormous industrial affair you might see in How It's Made, but it is clearly a functional cookie manufacturing plant! Climb the stairs to the viewing area and you'll see some pretty adorable dioramas and illustrations, talking about how the cookies are made, and how the recipe was perfected. Some of the stories written on the walls did include dwarfs, though, so they might have taken a few liberties! With the displays' main language being English, we thought it was a pretty fun place for foreign visitors to explore.
Keep an eye out as you walk around, there are cute easter eggs everywhere you look!
Look out onto the factory floor to see exactly how the cookies are really made! No dwarfs involved. (Unfortunately?)
For more of a hands-on experience, you can always follow our lead to the Chocotopia Market, where you can make and decorate your own cookies! You need to make reservations in advance
for any of these workshops, but arrange it in advance and visitors can do anything from decorating a souvenir cookie with chocolate pens (like us!) to making their own cookies out of their Shiroi Koibito cookie dough, or even a special holiday workshop like making a cookie Christmas tree. Most of the workshops are open to kids, but... we're all adults and we had a blast.
Even just decorating the cookie, we got to be a part of the whole process. After we had finished the final touches on our designs, we saw the cookies go into the refrigerators, and then even got to take part in sealing up our cookies in their final packaging.
PS: Yeah, these giant heart-shaped Shiroi Koibito were incredibly delicious.
All the excitement of cookie-making had us feeling a little tired, so we took a break at the Oxford Chocolate Lounge, right on the same floor. There are a few different restaurants and cafes in the park, many of which offer more substantial food options, but we were still in the mood for sweets! Since we were visiting in fall, we got to look out onto a lovely view of leaves changing colors while snacking on some pretty decadent Shiroi Koibito Parfaits.
Heading back down the stairs and outdoors, we went to explore the outdoor area of Shiroi Koibito Park, which is totally free to enter and look around. The whole park is full of places to take great pictures, but they really put some effort into the seasonal photo spots in the courtyard. In October this meant the opportunity to take a picture inside a life-size pumpkin carriage, and in warmer weather, space to take magical snapshots inside the rose garden (with 200 different rose varieties inside)! We had a pretty good time exploring the sculpted garden area and finding places to pop out among the greenery, even connecting our phones to a camera that takes pictures from above!
This is also an easy place to find Shiroi Koibito soft serve ice cream, made with the same white chocolate that's in the cookies. Grab a cone and eat it inside a London double-decker bus... all inside the Shiroi Koibito Park courtyard.
And before we knew it, it was time for us to start heading home! But of course, since Shiroi Koibito cookies are such popular souvenirs, we knew we had some shopping to do first. A little unexpected in a park concentrated on french cookies and chocolate, some of us were especially intrigued by the hard candy options! They have a little candy-making shop on the first floor, where you can see them making hard candy right in front of your eyes, and then buy some of the little sweets with intricate designs. Pretty cool to see it done, since molten sugar is kind of a counterintuitive material!
Another pretty cool option was the chance to buy a number of different Shiroi Koibito products with special custom commemorative packaging, using a photo of your choice. They had it set up so that you could take a picture on site, or just use a picture you brought in (like a shot of your beloved puppy!), and get it printed on chocolate drink cans or cookie tins.
Then again main souvenir shop had hundreds of different products to choose from: standard Shiroi Koibito cookies in boxes of all sizes; special variations of the cookies, including ones in Shiroi Koibito Park limited edition packaging; Shiroi Koibito's increasingly popular baumkuchen cake; a number of different chocolate and cookie creations; non-edible souvenirs like magnets, keychains, and accessories; and basically way, way more! There was just about a memento for anybody and everybody.
Thinking about heading to Sapporo? We clearly recommend a trip to the Shiroi Koibito Park, but we'd love to hear about anything you do during your trip to Japan! Let us know about your experience on twitter
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