The Future Sweets Factory in Sanda City, Japan sounds like exactly the sort of place I wanted to go when I was a kid. You leave your parents in an egg-shaped waiting room, walk through a secret passageway, and then get plied with free pastries as you see how chefs invent new sweets with the help of robots and crazy machines. From all the descriptions I’ve read (many through Google Translate, which only heightens my confusion/interest), it sounds like a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory without all that added pressure of making sure your doddering grandfather doesn’t embarrass you.
But why build a place where no one older than 12 can enter? According to famed pastry chef and owner Susumu Koyama, part of his inspiration came from nostalgia: remembering how kids used to run around more freely when he was growing up in Japan. He remembered feeling safe to explore and make friends, and he wanted to recreate that environment. But he also wanted to foster better communication between kids and adults. The only way a parent can know what sort of mischief happens inside, and what sort of delicious new concoctions are being invented, is to ask their child. In an age where parents are too often caught staring at their cell phones, and kids are entranced by the games and characters on their own screens, Koyama wants to encourage real world conversations, perhaps shared over caramel-filled desserts.