Chocolate factory fun: Witness magic at Glicopia East museum

Chocolate factory fun: Witness magic at Glicopia East museum

KITAMOTO, Saitama - First, visitors spread melted chocolate on two pieces of Giant Pocky, each about 20cm long, to stick them together. Then they place round or heart-shaped sugar decorations on the chocolate and write on it with white chocolate to complete their own original Pocky.

I recently attended the hands-on programme called "Mini Factory" that is part of the tour at Glicopia East, a museum run by Ezaki Glico Co.

The museum opened in October 2012 and is meant to show how the major confectionery company's products are made, including two of its signature items, Pretz and Pocky.

About 80,000 people visit the museum each year.

I found myself thrilled by the programme while making my original Pocky.

I wrote "Arigato" (thank you) on it in hiragana to thank the people around me, and finished it with a smile.

The tour is so popular that many days are fully booked months in advance.

"You can bring home [the original Pocky] in a special package," said Takahiro Yoshimura, 47, head of the publicity department of Glico Group.

"It's popular among families with children."

Visitors can also enjoy viewing the museum's exhibits, such as about 1,500 small free gifts included in packages of Glico caramel, another longstanding staple of the company.

Glico caramels include glycogen, after which the product and also the company were named.

These small gifts include illustration cards, medals and figures from "Tetsujin 28-go" (Gigantor), which may stir nostalgia in people who loved them when they were small.

There are also more recent pieces, such as animal-shaped wooden toys and papercrafts.

Looking at the toys, I remembered how excited I was as a child when opening small Glico packages, wondering what I would get.

The idea of including these gifts with the caramels was conceived by Riichi Ezaki, the founder of Glico Group, who believed that playing and eating are the two callings of children.

To my surprise, there have been more than 20,000 different gifts put on the market with the caramel since the product was launched in 1922.

I next moved to the production lines for Pocky and Pretz, which are 120m long.

Seeing the process was amazing: Dough made by mixing wheat flour and sugar travels through the machine and comes out like thin noodles.

Then it's baked in an oven that is about 45m long and finally packed in small boxes.

It's said the lines can produce 125,000 packs of Pocky and Pretz per day.

At the end of the tour, visitors are given a pack of Pretz. I ate one of the pieces and thought it tasted richer than usual.

The museum admits tour participants alone.

Tours require reservations.

They last 70 minutes and start at 9.30 am, 11 am, 12.30 pm and 2 pm for a group of two or more people.

The museum is closed on Fridays, and during the year-end and New Year season and the Bon Festival holiday period. Admission is free, but making an original Pocky costs 500 yen (S$5.50) per person.

Call the museum at (048) 593-8811 or visit its website at www.glico.co.jp/glicopia/east/ to sign up for a tour.

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