It’s that time of year once again: lovey-dovey couples emerge from the woodwork like a recently discovered termite infestation, intent on displaying their happiness and affection to everyone, both in real life and online. On this day every year, the number of happy couples gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes in restaurants, at the bus stop, or on your Instagram feed will triple, and single people worldwide will spend the evening sitting at home with a bottle of wine, the entirety of Netflix’s rom-com library, and their phone set to “do not disturb.”
I have survived my fair share of Valentine’s Days at this point, so I am well versed in lying to the checkout counter lady that yes, this super deluxe box of specialty chocolates is for my boyfriend, thank you for asking, so I had faith that this Valentine’s Day would pass by as no more or less eventful than all the others. I thought it would be just one day before I could quickly return to my normal life of not cowering from the slew of love-oriented advertisements and sales (although I will gladly take advantage of any Valentine’s Day sale.). But as is the trend with both my blog posts and my life, how wrong I was.
Before coming to Japan, I was vaguely aware that Valentine’s Day was a much bigger deal there than in America. In Japan, it is strictly a day where girls give boys chocolate. Boys, however, give nothing in return that day, instead returning the favor a month later on White Day, which is March 14th. Additionally, the chocolates have a lot more meaning. There is giri-choco, chocolate that is store-bought and is seen as obligatory with no special meaning behind; honmei-choco, which is chocolate you make by yourself and means you probably really like the person you are giving it to; and tomo-choco, chocolate given to friends. This means that most Japanese girls are spending the day on the 13th frantically whipping up as many chocolate-based sweets as they can to hand out to practically everyone they have crossed paths with in the past year.
For reference, in America Valentine’s Day is quite different. People generally just buy their chocolate, and will only give it to a few close friends and their significant other, if they have one. Or they are like me, and just use it as an excuse to buy chocolate for yourself. But regardless, the day is more about just showing appreciation for the people you really love in your life (self-love included in my case), so most people will spend a nice evening with their boyfriend/girlfriend, or go out to a “Galentine’s Day” lunch with their best friends. We also do not have White Day, so both parties will give and receive chocolate and presents in February. This was quite shocking to my Japanese friends when I informed them that Valentine’s Day is traditionally the man’s responsibility, even though recently it has become evener.
As a general rule in America, this day is for celebrating the love that you already have with people, so while you will spend the day with someone you have been dating for a while, it seems odd to spend it with someone you have just met, and the idea of confessing your love to someone will strike most people as cliche or weird. But in Japan, this holiday is seen as the perfect opportunity to confess your undying affection to that special someone you have had your eye on, but never had the courage to ask out. Or talk to. This may seem strange from a Westerner’s perspective, but when I told my Japanese friends that I would be making chocolate this year, a lot of them asked if I was planning to use them in a confession of love. (I guess as a bribe to encourage a positive answer?)
The actual reason for my foray into chocolatiering was, as it often is, far less dramatic than the general masses were imagining. Since arriving at university, my penny-pinching tendencies and my laziness when it comes to walking up to campus to the cafeteria have combined into a new interest in cooking. It is both cheaper and closer to my room, so it was only a matter of time before I started. And anyone who knows me is aware that 95% of my Facebook feed is video after video of Tasty or Tastemade that make cooking seem far easier than it already is. I originally watched just for the food porn, but now I have taken to saving them and trying them out on the floor kitchen. Although most of my kitchen experiments are pretty hit or miss, I have genuinely begun to enjoy planning out meals and trying to execute them with my sub-basic knowledge of the culinary arts. So when I heard that I could use Valentine’s Day as a chance to try my hand at confectionaries, I was more than willing to give it a try.
Because most people would be returning to their home countries for the spring break, I made my first batch of chocolates during finals week. I spent an entire day making almost 100 heart shaped chocolates filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream, and if I do say so myself, they were amazing. Then a few days later, I helped my friend Jesse make Valentine’s chocolates for her boyfriend, and on the 13th I spent another day making a full course meal of chocolate everything with my other friend Lea, whose boyfriend will probably have gained about 30 pounds the next time I see him. Those were probably the most impressive Valentine’s treats we made, as we did not make just chocolates, but also a large chocolate cake, small heart-shaped cupcakes, pink chocolate macarons, pink almond caramel cookies, and chocolate covered strawberries.
I spent my actual Valentine’s Day as every girl dreams: going to work and then coming back to spend the evening eating chocolate and watching my friends play FIFA. However, I still had a lot of fun making all of the chocolates, so overall I think it was a few days well spent. No confessions of love from me this year, but I have three more years for that trend to catch on, so you never know what will happen next time.