We included a visit to Shiroi Koibito Park (Ishiya Chocolate Factory) in our itinerary as this seems to be a popular attraction in Sapporo. Ask any visitors who had been to Sapporo there is a high chance that they have been to the birth place of 白い恋人 biscuits. The langue de chat biscuits sandwiched with white/dark chocolate is also an omiyage widely available throughout Japan.
Our plan for the visit was pretty straight-forward with only 1 aim – to have pastries/dessert in the lounge with a expansive glass facade facing the clock tower. Without doing much research on this seemingly simple visit, we made our way to the site. And it was a rather disastrous experience…(I would say this is the most disappointing part of my whole trip, yes it’s that lousy).
When we arrived at the site, there was an outdoor park surrounded with Tudor–style buildings and filled with kids running about. It felt like an amusement park to me rather than a factory. I also saw a stream of tour coaches sending visitors to the place… We walked around the rather packed and compact compound and went into one of the Tudor houses which turned out to be a souvenir shop selling a range of their confectionery products. The place was crowded, rowdy and slightly chaotic…we couldn’t find the location of the cafe/lounge that we wanted to go.
We continued to wander around and found Cafe Entrepot, which was housed in the basement of a building….We asked the staff if there is a place to eat cakes/food, she then told us to cross over to the football field next door for restaurant. When we walked over, we realised that it was not the place we were looking for…
We returned to the main entrance where we started and went to the area selling admission tickets for the factory tour, although we were not interested in the tour, we are simply here to EAT… We asked the sales staff where is the cafe that can oversee the clock tower and they told us that we have to purchase factory tour tickets in order to access that part of the building!
So we paid for the admission of ¥600 (S$7.50) per pax to enter the self-guided tour area. Within the building there is an indoor fountain for photo-taking, chocolate cups collections on display, an alley sharing information on how chocolate is derived from cocoa and a section where there are glass facade allowing us to oversee the factory floor. We zoomed through the maze-like area before we finally reached the Chocolate Lounge at the top floor of the building.
Finally we found the place and I was glad that we can finally eat something since it’s almost lunch time and I was kinda hungry. However something was not quite right…this floor seems to be the most crowded area within the factory tour… Turns out that there is a “Cookie Craft Studio” where visitors can sign up (for additional fee) for workshops to decorate your own cookie or bake your own cookie. The workshops are so popular that all the morning/noon slots were fully booked and only the late afternoon sessions were left (which is about 3-4 hours later).
Thankfully we were not there for hands-on workshops, we just wanted to enjoy some pastries/desserts. Then came the shocker, there was a huge waiting list to get a seat in the Chocolate Lounge!!! I was so devastated that I wanted to leave the place after seeing such a long list… I was too overwhelmed by the mismatch between my expectations and reality.
After half an hour’s wait, we were allowed to enter the lounge area. However the staff said that we are not allowed to change tables and also discouraged from walking over to the glass facade (where the clock tower view is) to minimise disruption to other guests. As we were walking to our table, we saw a table next to the glass facade being cleared and we asked if we could sit there. The staff turned us down and led us to a table which was near the cashier area…To make matters worse, that table was subsequently occupied by folks who came in a few minutes after us…so it’s all a matter of LUCK on whether you get a window seat or otherwise…
By then, I was pretty much fed up with this whole crappy experience. I wanted to visit the Chocolate Lounge to enjoy the view and try some beautiful desserts/cakes. But I ended up paying S$7.50 for admission to access this place and waited 30 mins to get a table which is no where near the viewpoint!
Decided to just order the Shiroi Koibito Parfait and a cuppa before quickly leaving to grab a decent lunch back in Sapporo town area…
The soft serve was already melting by the time it was served to us…evidence that the staff were probably not able to cope with the crowd. Of the 2 shiroi koibito biscuits, one of which lost its crispiness and didn’t taste as fresh as it should be…
My unpleasant experience at the place continued as we were about to leave our table. A group of Korean aunties came and stood next to our table, waiting for us to vacate our seats…After we took our bill and walked to the cashier to pay, we realised that the lady in front of us at the cashier was from that Korean group and she wanted to place food order. The cashier asked where she was seated and she pointed to the table where we used to occupy…Needless to say the group of Korean aunties were asked to vacate the table and to join the waiting list for their table.
I left the place feeling that I had wasted my morning visiting this dismal attraction… Perhaps for folks who wish to enjoy this attraction, you should at least be prepared to sign up in advanced for one of the workshops (time required ranges from 30 mins to 1.5 hours depending on what you choose) for hands-on cookie making/decor. In total be prepared to spend half a day at this attraction to fully explore all the things at your leisure pace. This is excluding the travel time required from Sapporo city which is about 35 mins one-way. You may refer to this handy leaflet prepared by the subway station to guide visitors from Minayosawa Station to the site.
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