Kyushu Shochu Chocolates
Junmai Ginjo Saké and Uméshu Chocolates
Tengumai Saké with Tsujiguchi’s Nama Chocolate
* all photos are from the Takashimaya website
If you are traveling to Tokyo between now and February 14th, be sure to stop by a department store to check out all of the chocolates that are for sale. Valentine’s Day in Japan is done like nowhere else in the world. Chocolate is given from women to the men in their lives. Not only to your boyfriend or partner, but to colleagues at work, family members, and good friends.
This being Japan, gift-giving is not a one-way street. Men return the favor to the women in their lives a month later on March 14th, White Day. However, the okaeshi, or return gift, is typically white chocolate. There is a good reason for that. No re-gifting. Also, it was interesting for me to see that on White Day, many of the older men who were returning gifts often bought much nicer presents, such as wine.
Working at Takashimaya for two years I was able to observe the retail side of this tradition. First of all, my colleagues were surprised to hear that it is only in Japan that this is done. Most of them would laugh at themselves and say how brilliant the chocolate companies are to sell so much chocolate during a holiday that isn’t even Japanese.
Most department stores attract customers to their stores by offering unique chocolates that are only available at their shop. Each year the offerings vary as do the chocolatiers who are invited to create special boxes of chocolates.
This year, Takashimaya’s offerings include chocolates from Japanese chefs like Sadaharu Aoki, who currently has a great program on NHK on making French pastries at home. Of course, world-famous chefs like Pierre Herme, Michel Chaudun, and Pierre Marcolini.
I am always attracted to any that involve any type of alcohol like the three in the photos above. Most of these unique sweets are only available this time of year. And, it is no secret that some of the chocolates that are sold this time of year is by women buying for themselves.
Department stores will hold these chocolate fairs usually the first two weeks in February. If you are near any department store, stop by the concierge on the first floor to inquire into the chocolate events. Most often they are held on the special event floor, but some are held in the depachika as well. Nihonbashi Takashimaya starts on Saturday, February 2nd. Shinjuku Takashimaya starts on Friday, February 1.