Yokohama: Museum features history of Western confectionery

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The museum’s interior is in white, as a base color expressing the company’s hope to “color a new future with customers.”

YOKOHAMA — Chocolate bars, caramels, marshmallows — these Western confections are familiar today, but were a rarity for ordinary Japanese people during the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Morinaga & Co., a company established at that time, manufactured and spread these products across the nation.

The Morinaga Angel Museum Morium in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, explains the history of the company as one of the pioneers in the industry, along with the manufacturing methods of some of their creations.

The founder, Taichiro Morinaga (1865-1937), first experienced Western confectionery when visiting the United States on unrelated business.

He received training at a confectionery factory there, and upon returning to Japan in 1899, set up his own factory with a floor area of only two tsubo (about 6.6 square meters) in Tokyo.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A section of the museum that features the early years of Morinaga & Co.’s history, including a list of products sold when it opened its first shop.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The original package of Morinaga’s milk caramel when the product was launched in 1914

A section of the museum focuses on the company’s early years, with a small model of a traveling vending stall used to sell the confectioneries, which did not sell well in the beginning.

This section displays a package of milk caramel in 1914, an advertising poster, and a package of the first milk chocolate made in Japan. Museum staff provide explanations on the displays.

Another must-see display is the Omocha no Kanzume (a can of toys), a free novelty product that made its debut in the late 1960s as a giveaway for customers who bought Morinaga chocoball products. As it was featured in a TV commercial, it was coveted by many children, but only a small number of winners were able to get it.

Visitors to the museum can see many variations of Omocha no Kanzume that have changed over time.

I was so curious to see what was inside each package, but found only the packages were on display.

“Even our president does not know what’s inside. It’s a treat only for people who get it,” company spokesperson Kazuyo Tamura said with a smile.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A lineup of Omocha no Kanzume packages illustrates its long history.

There is also a section of the museum explaining the manufacturing process, with videos to help explain.

I was especially interested in how the company achieved the attractive crispy texture of the Choco Monaka Jumbo, an ice cream product featuring thin chocolate sheets and monaka wafers.

“The secret lies in our chocolate coating technique,” museum director Yoko Nakajima said. Visitors can learn about it from an explanatory video.

“I hope many people will learn about the special techniques and innovations that we have been developing and pursuing for many years,” Nakajima said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Morinaga Angel Museum Morium

The museum was built in 2019 to mark the 120th anniversary of the company and opened in January this year.

Address: 2-1-1, Shimo-Sueyoshi, Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama

Hours: Tours are provided at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays, public and factory holidays.

Admission: Free. Elementary school students and older accepted. Reservations are required via the official website.