Be My Valentine… Here’s Your Chocolate

Valentine’s Day in States in my eyes:  the prices of roses rise, the heart-shaped boxes full of chocolates appear in various shops, there are specials on jewelry, packages of Valentine’s cards can be found on store shelves.  The day is one for guys and girls to share their love and affection with one another.

Zipping over to Valentine’s Day in Japan… it’s a VERY different story!

Though Valentine’s Day was introduced in the late 50’s, it wasn’t until about 1970 that it became somewhat well-known.  The confectionery companies in Japan decided this would be a day when women could express their feelings to men they liked/loved by giving a gift of chocolate.

Remember… this was way back when during a decade when Japanese women were rather shy.  Not to say there aren’t shy women here now, but the younger generation has become somewhat “Westernized” and they are more vocal about their feelings, opinions and such.  🙂

So anyway… as a child, I remember the department stores and little gift shops filling their shelves with cute boxes of chocolates, decorated in a way that was appealing to women, yet, were given to men.  And ONLY from women to men!  Then another confectionery company came up with the idea of “White Day” (March 14th), but we’ll get into that explanation in a month.  🙂

Fast forward to 2012… the customs for this chocolate-filled day haven’t changed very much.  I guess the slight changes in recent years have been these additions:

  • “Giri-choco” – Chocolates given to male co-workers and classmates, not because of romantic feelings but because you feel obliged to do so.
  • “Honmei-choco” – Ones given to a guy whom you truly like/love.
  • “Tomo-choco” – Ones given to female friends as a sign of friendship.

A friend who has a flower shop told me that their business has a new trend… sending flowers has become popular from a couple of years back.  When I told her how it is in the U.S., she said, “It would be AWESOME if that happened here!”

Can’t really say that one way is good and the other is bad… just that it’s different.

Does anyone out there have any special memories of Valentine’s Day?  (Good or bad…)

One for me is from middle school.  I was unsure of the relationship I was in at the time and was thinking of breaking up with my boyfriend… it was right around Valentine’s Day.  Thought to break up on that day was too cruel, so I broke up with him the next day.  (I know, I know… that’s just as bad.)  Had the chance to apologize to him about it recently… funny thing is he didn’t remember it was the day after and wondered why I was worried about it all these years later.  🙂

Anyway… I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day regardless of how you celebrate the day!  (Ours here in Japan will be over in about 2 more minutes…)

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Russian Roulette with Wasabi…

Well, I was planning on writing about something totally different tonight… funny how subjects can change from hour to hour!  🙂

I met one of my really good friends this evening before my final English class.  The class is a group of oral surgeons and they all work at a university hospital.  My friend had recently made a website for their department and wanted to go with me tonight to take some homemade Valentine’s sweets for them.

(By the way, tomorrow I’ll explain about how Valentine’s Day is here in Japan.  Stay tuned!)

Anyway, my friend thought it would be fun to add wasabi to one of the sweets and see who would be the “winner.”  (Wasabi is a VERY hot mustard-like paste that you sometimes find on sushi.)

There were four of us tonight and there were a total of 18 sweet potato tarts.  The three of them took one each as I took a picture of the sweets and the doctors… all three ate the ones they had chosen, half holding their breath and chewing, waiting to see if the flavor in their mouths was going to change. Their expressions turned to ones of relief.

So, it was my turn.  There were still 15 to choose from.  Looking from one to the next, I selected one that appeared rather normal.  (Then again, they ALL looked “normal”!!  ha ha ha)

As the other three focused intently, I brought the tart to my mouth and took a sniff… uh, oh… it was too late though and I took a bite.  Chewing, chewing, chewing… all I could taste was sweet potato and the sweetness of the tart cup.

Then it happened!  That familiar sting in the nasal passage!  I let out an “Ugh!” and the others started laughing.  Instead of putting the rest down, I ate it… guess I didn’t want to be labeled a loser.  🙂

So, that was my Russian Roulette-kind-of-day!  My students said that must mean that I’m going to have a lucky year.

All I know is that my sinuses are clear for the time being!  🙂