Meiji Merry Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, c. 1930
“The 1871 Iwakura mission to the United States and Europe at one point stopped for a first taste of chocolate, while visiting a confectionery factory in France. The product was so unknown that no word had yet been created for it, so [Japanese phonetic] characters appropriate to the pronunciation were chosen, and pronounced chokoreeto [チョコレート].
“[T]he flavour was far from appreciated, since products that smelled of butter and milk were regarded as repellent … However, as the Meiji era developed, sugars and sweets slowly became staples not only of Japanese entertainment and upper-class banqueting, but also of a broader popular culture, depicted in children’s stories and consumed as part of daily life.
“… In 1899, on the cusp of the change in public eating habits, Morinaga Taichiro strode on to the national stage to start selling chocolate, caramel, marshmallows, and banana-flavored treats. [But] if Morinaga had established one of Japan’s first confectionery manufacturers, it was the Meiji Confectionery Company that in 1916 beat him to the punch by making milk chocolate bars available for the first time in Japan.”
– The Historical Consumer: Consumption and Everyday Life in Japan, 1850-2000, by Penelope Francks & Janet Hunter, 2012