Chuck is our Chocolate Production Mechanic who helps to keep the factories running here in SF. His engineering skills are second to none; he’s never met a machine he couldn’t woo into working at its best. In November, 2019 he was asked to bring his knowledge and elbow grease to our factories in Japan, and take in a little bit of the local culture. Below, Chuck shares a few highlights from his trip.
Chieko and Kaija invited me to come inspect and repair the machines they use at Kuramae and Honjo, and I found that Dandelions are the same everywhere you go: hard working, kind to people and to machines, and very welcoming to this old man.
What a clean and beautiful place to have a chocolate factory and café.
Chieko and Kaija (and the DCJ team) take very good care of their chocolate-making machines but, before something serious breaks, they wanted to create a proactive preventive inspection and servicing plan. Luckily for me, I got to visit for about a week and help them implement the plan. One of the Japanese chocolate makers, Ozaki, got the nod from Chieko to add to his duties the care and feeding of the machines. (They don’t eat much.) Ozaki and I worked side-by-side for a careful inspection and preventive maintenance session for each machine. He is ready to do the hands-on work that will keep the DCJ machines in tip-top shape and minimize surprise failures.
Luckily, DCJ chose and installed identical machines to those that we use in California. The machines don’t get worked as long and as hard as they are in the US, and they’re all in great shape. We had some minor touch-ups that got implemented and a few more that Kaija and Ozaki will implement going forward.
Just like all travelers to Japan, I lost a day as we crossed the International Date Line but got it back on the return trip. That really messed with my sense of time.
I arrived on a Saturday and made a valiant effort to gather some energy for my first visit to Dandelion Chocolate Japan at Kuramae on Sunday morning. Kaija and Chieko and the chocolate makers gave me a warm hello.
After a nice greeting with the DCJ team, Kaija laid out the plan for the week and led me on a tour of the welcoming Kuramae factory and the strictly-functional Honjo factory. We discussed all of the equipment and our action items. We would take care of Kuramae first and get some serious plumbing out of the way. While the plumbers worked at Kuramae, we attacked the projects at Honjo. I met Ozaki on Monday and we were side by side for the rest of the work.
On Thursday we went shopping for tools. We traveled by train and found a huge “everything” store that looks like a Home Depot or a Lowes on the ground floor, then continues to many floors of anything you might need to keep your home operating.
Just like everything I saw in Tokyo, the factories are immaculate and extremely orderly.
We had plenty of tasks to fill the week, but worked at a comfortable pace that left time to experience a wide variety of tasty delights. The baristas know how to make great hot chocolate and coffee drinks just like at home.
Every meal became a flavorful adventure. One rainy day we even ate an American-style hamburger. It relieved Kaija’s hankering for a taste of home. I have to say, they even did that well.
On Saturday night Kaija and her friend took me to a traditional restaurant that required shoes off at the door and to sit on mats on the floor. The food was amazing! I was surprised that this old man was able to stand back up after dinner.
What a great experience it was visiting Tokyo and our Dandelion Chocolate colleagues in Japan!