By the 17th century, chocolate made from the cocoa bean native to South America was a fashionable drink in many parts of Europe but only reached Japan "around 250 years" after it hit the West, Susumu said. As a result, most of Japan's best-known pastries are largely chocolate free. But Susumu said Japanese chocolate makers are now "more and more numerous" and he's doing his part to boost the trend.
The chocolatier -- who produces solely in Japan at his 200-employee factory, also his store, called "esKoyama" in Sanda, a countryside town between Kobe and Osaka -- set up a school in 2004 to turn out a new generation "trained in Japan" but, like himself, mindful of the French tradition.
Sadaharu Aoki, another pioneering Japanese chocolatier returning to the Salon this year, owns boutiques in Taiwan and Tokyo as well as four in Paris, where he offers a daring twist on the classic French pastry, l'Opera, a type of layered cake with chocolate and cream filling.
Even Japan's historic confectionery house Toraya, one of the oldest makers of traditional Japanese sweets that has supplied confectionery to the Imperial Royal family since the 16th century, has embraced the trend.
The company, which started selling its pastries in Paris 31 years ago, now offers the classic yokan, a thick jellied dessert using the native azuki, or red beans, with sweetened cocoa. "The essence of creation is knowing how to combine new flavours," a Toraya official said.
(Sandra Lacut for AFP)