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It’s that time of year again… tour leader and chocoholic, Charlea gives us the surprising low-down on Valentine’s Day in Japan.
It’s that time of year again when gentlemen in the West flood stores in search of a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen roses for their loved ones.
Most of us would assume that this Western holiday import to Japan would be just the same, with knights in shining armour – I mean, Samurai – heading out for chocolates and roses as well. But Japan is notorious for doing things differently to the West, with a Western flair. Valentine’s is no different.
What are those Samurai men up to on Valentine’s Day?
The answer: Waiting for chocolates from the women, of course! Whether tomo-choco (friendship chocolate), giri-choco (obligatory chocolate-for the boss), or raburabu-choco (the romantic kind), all men in Japan have to do is sit back and wait for the chocolate feast to begin.
Ladies, if this makes you a little gloomy, I can’t say I blame you. It’s okay though, a month from now on “White Day” the men pay us back. At least you can still claim jibun-choco (chocolate for self!)
How did this switch up occur and when?
Well, Valentines Day made it to Japan in 1958 through Mary Chocolate, a Japanese confectioner. They marketed it as a day to “give chocolate – from women to men”. It is rumoured that they sold three bars of chocolate and one card raking in 170 yen in sales total!
The market today has exploded and sales are around 150 billion yen or 1.5 billion USD. A pretty remarkable number if you ask me.
Where to buy your Valentine’s Day chocolate
It’s shopping time; definitely a favourite past time for me. Where to find the crowds and how much okane (money) do I need to bring for my Valentine’s Day chocolates?
A box of chocolates can cost anywhere from 1,500 yen up to 5,000 yen at a department store. I took the opportunity to head out to the Tokyo area of Ikebukuro to visit the Chocolate Paradise pop-up ‘floor’ – no I didn’t mean ‘store’. The entire eighth floor of the Seibu Department store, has been turned into a dreamland for chocolate lovers.
There was a swarm of eager women in search of the perfect chocolates. The crowds didn’t keep me from exploring though – many stalls offered samples of divine delicacies they were eager to sell amongst steep competition. The assortment is astounding and truly unique; there is even wearable lipstick chocolate, edible planets and mini Volkswagen Beetles; they have it all!
After a long exploration – and an extra kilo on the hips from giveaways – I bought the men in my life some chocolate. But, like all the other Japanese ladies here, I will have to hold out until 14th March to see if my feelings are reciprocated. Here’s hoping.
Contact us to plan your vacation to Japan, and join one of Charlea’s tours for insider tips and tricks for finding the best chocolates in Tokyo.