Melting smiles as migrants from Kamakura open chocolate shop in Hakodate
Belgian confectioner Tom Verlinden and his wife Kyoko have opened ‘Petit Belge’, a shop that specializes in Belgian chocolate, in the Ishikawa-cho district of Hakodate in southern Hokkaido. Preparations for the opening have continued since May, when the couple moved to Hakodate from the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture, with the hope offering “an authentic taste that can be easily enjoyed.”
Verlinden is a chocolatier from Belgium, the epicenter of the chocolate world. Since 2006, he and his Tokyo-born wife, Kyoko, have opened chocolate shops in Otaru, Sendai and the like. Until now, the businesses have been in areas that are frequented by tourists, which strengthened their desire to “try and make a shop aimed at locals.” The spread of the Covid-19 virus helped make up the couple’s mind about moving to Hokkaido, a place they both like. After becoming fond of the mood in Hakodate while traveling there, the couple decided to set up a shop in the city; they chose a place away from the tourist spots and opened in late October.
Between 20 and 30 varieties of products are available in the shop, including a long-time Belgian favorite, Speculoos cookies (189 yen each), Gateau au chocolat (626 yen) and ‘Great Buddha Belgian Chocolate’ (six for 810 yen) in the shape of the face of Kamakura’s Great Buddha.
The smooth melt-in-the mouth texture of products made with authentic production methods using luxurious chocolate with high cocoa content, known as ‘couverture’, can be enjoyed. Responsible for production in the shop’s kitchen, Verlinden’s aim is to “create a beloved ‘street-corner chocolatier’ that’s rooted in the community and easily accessible to customers, without compromising on quality.”
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