‘t Is the season of love! Aka. Valentine’s Day is in a few days.
If you were wondering whether the Japanese celebrate this or not, they do. And not just that. They were able to extend this happening into two holidays, Valentine’s Day and White Day. On Valentine, it is custom for the woman to buy chocolates for a man, whether it be her partner or someone she admires, and on White Day, it’s the men who have to return the favor to the women who bought them chocolates before.
From the start of February (and sometimes even sooner), most stores will start displaying their Valentine gift ideas. You can even buy Godiva and Ferrero Rocher chocolates in the convenient stores. But one thing I find makes Japan very unique are the famous department stores like Isetan who host chocolate and confectionary fairs for Valentine’s Day. Here, a lot of Japanese women spend a great fortune on buying exquisite chocolates imported or made under the supervision of patisseries in Europe. Most of the time these women shop for themselves and their friends, rather than for a male partner.
I wanted to have a look for myself and decided upon going to the shopping mall Takashimaya in Shinjuku. This mall is hosting an event called Amour du Chocolat. As I expected, the whole floor looked like a combat zone. Women were pushing an pulling each other just to get to the chocolates first. They would get angry at the shop tenants when they were sold out. They were spending thousands of yen on cute boxes and beautiful chocolates. I found this a very interesting and amusing sight. I was in no hurry to buy anything, so I just strolled around to have a look at the chocolates, hear sales pitches, try A LOT of free samples and collect a few brochures. The chocolates came from all over the world and were without a doubt delicious. I found many Belgian chocolate brands as well, and it was fun to have a conversation with the shop tenants about whether or not these type of chocolates were actually popular in Belgium. The confectionery ranged from traditional pralines, to simple chocolate bars and cute animal shaped chocolates. Alcohol infused chocolate seemed to be very popular, as there were many Japanese chocolate brands who seemed to be selling these as well. One of the stands even sold pralines infused with very high end sake. I roamed around at a slow pace, took many photos and observed the chaos.
As a Belgian, I am definitely no stranger when it comes to chocolates, so I refrained myself from joining the madness and spending all my money on these beautiful chocolates. HOWEVER, I was intrigued by the special tastes I could find here and there, so I ended up buying four small boxes of very special tasting chocolate (think ‘soy sauce flavored chocolate covered pecan nuts’). I’ll write a little review on those in a separate article.
Please enjoy the mouthwatering photos below and maybe this article will inspire you to go a little chocolate crazy yourself this month. These chocolate fairs last until the 14th of February.