Japan: Land of Interesting Chocolates

Every month, there’s always new chocolate appearing on my desk. Gotta love Japan, Land of the Omiyage!

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FEBRUARY – A librarian I talk to every week gave me this cat chocolate as a トモチョコ (tomochoko), or friend’s chocolate, which is becoming more common between women on Valentine’s Day. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a day where girls give boys chocolate and sweets. No, it’s not a day to subject Japanese women to being, well, subjected. On March 14, boys “return” the chocolate and sweets that was given to them by the girls. As Japanese girls become women, they still do this tradition, but I’ve noticed how every year, the women get more disgruntled with giving ギリチョコ (girichoko), or obligation chocolates. I suppose this friend’s chocolate is a way of saying, “Valentine’s Day isn’t just for guys.”

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MARCH – This one came from my student who went to Tokyo as part of her school trip. Every year, Japanese students (usually second years or eleventh graders) visit different parts of Japan. I understand going to different parts of the country, but its really hard for poor students. They usually pay anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 to make this week-long trip. My student went to the Skytree, the new tower in Tokyo (not to be confused with Tokyo Tower).

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APRIL – This $5 chocolate is one I bought for myself at Lawson’s (one of many convenience store chains in Japan). It features characters from my favorite recent anime, Attack on Titan (新劇の狂人, Shingeki no Kyoujin).

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White Day: The Women’s Valentine’s Day in Japan

ImageJust as the States borrowed the hamburger, Christmas trees, and burritos from other countries, Japan has the same tendency. With Valentine’s Day, it’s no exception. But Japan did more than adopt Valentine’s Day into its social holidays; it made White Day (March 14) a secondary Valentine’s Day where only men give chocolates to women. The custom is if a male receives a gift on Valentine’s Day (where only women give gifts to men), the male must return a gift with three times the value of their Valentine’s Day gift. 

Last year, most of female teachers at my schools complained about how the male teachers only bought them White Day gifts while they actually gathered together and made Valentine’s Day gifts. This year, the sports club teachers actually made a poor man’s tiramisu (an Italian dessert) consisting of vanilla pudding, graham crackers, and cocoa powder. No complaints from the female teachers. Everyone, including all of the male teachers who didn’t participate in the tiramisu-making, was impressed. On top of the tiramisu, I received a dainty tin can with chocolates from the English department and a small box of Belgium chocolate from the basketball coach. All of the gifts were delicious, so I’m really happy I didn’t take a day off!

 

Valentine’s Day in Japan

I always thought that the way manga and anime depicted Valentine’s Day–with girls making chocolate and confessing their hidden feelings to a boy–wasn’t a truedepiction of the day in Japan. I was wrong.

 

I learned about oppai choco, or boobs chocolate. How I got this beautiful, tit-shaped chocolate is amazing to me. One of the Yakuit-brand ladies came to my school to sell healthy Yakuit yogurts and drinks. Because it was Valentine’s Day, they gave all their customers a sa-bisu (“service”) chocolate–the boobs chocolate. The vice principal, the office workers, the teachers, we all received this edible nipple in return for buying healthy food.

Different Country, Different Candy

The wonderful world of Japanese candy includes a lot of Western candy, but the flavors are different. This Kit-Kat bar is a strawberry shortcake flavor bar, a flavor I have yet to see in the U.S. Even though strawberry shortcakes are notorious for their high sugar content, this Japanese spin on an old favorite concentrates on the taste, not the amount of sugar.