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Fashion Candy's: A Delicious Success in Okinawa

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-03-10

When offered a piece of chocolate, most people can hardly resist the temptation to consume the delicious sweet. All over the world, chocolate holds a special place for the sweet tooth. Some people even believe that it has the ability to lift spirits or even heal a broken heart. Gifts of chocolate are also popular for almost any occasion. But here in Japan, Valentine’s Day and White Day are the most important days to share the irresistible gift.

As luck would have it, Okinawa happens to host one place where chocolate lovers’ fantasies can come true. The place is Fashion Candy’s, the only chocolate factory on island.

Fashion Candy’s, located close to Futenma Air Base, has been the sole chocolate factory on Okinawa since 1975. Owned and managed by two sisters, Fashion Candy’s made its debut by selling candy leis at Expo Park in Nago. Ritsuko Chinen, President and owner, always dreamt of building a large, elegant place in central Okinawa. According to Hanayo Akamine, an employee of Fashion Candy’s, “her dream came true and now her building hosts six floors."

"The first is the chocolate shop and the building also contains its own bakery, factory, storage and packaging floors,” says Akamine. Of course, most who drive by the elegant entrance think that it is a bridal consulting business - not a chocolate factory.

From weddings to Valentine’s Day - the gift ideas are limitless. The store also specializes in European Sugar Craft cakes (only the President and Manager know how to make the hand-made masterpieces). The factory is also famous for its large selection of chocolate flavors from guava to awamori. The first floor store is a monument to the endless love of chocolate and sweets and is also a dieter’s worst nightmare.

Most of their business is centered around tourism. Their products can be found at airports and gift shops all over Okinawa and mainland Japan. “Our most famous creation is the Chinsuko chocolate. These are Okinawan cookies covered in chocolate… In ancient times only the emperor could eat Chinsuko cookies,” Akamine told Japan Update.

During Valentine’s Day season, the store sees as many as 1000 customers per day. Close to 50 percent of the store’s chocolate sales are made during that period. In Japan, it is customary for women to give gifts of chocolate to men on February 14th, also known as chocolate day. Giri chocolate, or obligatory chocolate, is given to co-workers, friends or relatives as a token of appreciation and honmei is given as a gift of love.

Of course March 14th, or White Day, is the day on which Japanese men must return the gesture to women. For White Day, men usually purchase cookies or more expensive gifts for women. Although White Day does not bring in as much business to the store as Valentine’s Day, it is still an important day for the candy makers.

The popularity of Fashion Candy's products lead to the opening of a second factory last year located in Nishihara. As the business continues to grow, future plans for overseas expansion - or at the very least, to mainland Japan - are in the forecast. They also have plans to launch a website in English. “Our customer list continues to grow, as we register many returning customers year after year.”

Fashion Candy’s store is located in Ginowan city near Futenma base. Take Hwy 58 south and turn left at the light before Jimmy’s. Take the next left on to the pipeline road and you will see the store on the left. The store is open from 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. every day of the week. For more information in Japanese only, check out the website at www.fashioncandy.co.jp

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