Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish
When you live life to the full, away from routine, every day there is something to surprise you, making you smile and shake your head as you say “Incredible. This is incredible”, because even though you are awake you feel you must be dreaming.
Yes. You will also find it incredible when I tell you the story of my new friend Kyoko Fujimoto, who, in May this year, came all the way to La Despensa de Palacio from her native Japan.
I have to confess that I have always been fascinated by the great island of samurais, with its little-known emperors and the honour which is part of the national heritage of every Japanese heart. Therefore, don’t find it surprising that I was really interested in the 400th anniversary celebrations for the arrival in Coria del Río of the Japanese Keicho delegation, led by the samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga to visit King Philip III and Pope Paul V. Their mission was to request the establishment of trade relations with New Spain (now Mexico) and have missionaries sent to Japan.
I was initially interested thinking that this mission might have been connected with cocoa trading, but I soon ruled this out because although Hasekura and his entourage tried chocolate, the first mention of it in Japan dates from the 18th-century when it appears as “Shokurato”. It was first manufactured by hand in 1878, and forty years later the famous Japanese bakery Morinaga started to manufacture it industrially. The Second World War halted the supply of cocoa and from that point on the closest thing to chocolate was suppositories of cocoa butter.
And so, when I saw Kyoko in our workshop I chose to imagine her as a descendant of Tsunenaga as soon as she told me where she was from and why she was here. She told me all this in perfectly correct Spanish, learnt from Spanish missionary nuns in her country, suggesting that the religious mission had been fruitful even though the trade one was not. And that was not all the nuns had taught her, as you will see.
You might think that she had come to learn about chocolate, but she hadn’t. This would have been in perfect consonance with the first Japanese, but such was not the case. She had travelled thousands of miles to learn more about mantecado and polvorón cakes!!! I say “more” because she has a bakery in which she makes our most traditional Christmas sweets, also learned from nuns, and extremely popular.
I showed her everything she asked me to and I took her to my supplier of tissue paper to show her how to wrap them correctly. In honour of the chocolate which did not quite materialise in the visit four centuries ago, I showed her our Museum of Chocolate.
Shortly after Kyoko left I received a characteristically polite Japanese thank you letter from her which also said:
“I was surprised when I visited Chocomundo as I could not have imagined a museum with so many large collections, and so educational. Visiting La Despensa de Palacio was a great experience”.
So from now on I do not want to hear anyone say that Japanese people only come to Spain to learn flamenco. As for me, I will always have the memory of my new friend from the Empire of the Rising Sun, Kyoko Fujimoto’s serene eyes gazing in search of perfection.