Chocolate Ramen and Valentine’s Day in Japan

Guys needn’t be afraid of Japan’s Valentine’s Day. No longer do men need to think of what to cook for dinner, what kind of flowers she would like, which chocolate she would most enjoy, and where to take her on February 14th! All they have to do is kindly accept chocolates from their female friends and specially baked treats from their significant other. Japan’s Valentine’s Day is not usually reciprocal. On February 14th, women give the treats. One month later, on White Day, men return the favor. They get one month to think of how to out-do her (and one more month to save money to pay back all their female friends in the form of chocolate).

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for women to give chocolate to men. How did this happen? Well, in the 1950’s, some company advertised Valentine’s Day chocolate to foreigners living in Japan and since during this time Japan was becoming ‘Westernized’, people were excited to jump on board with western traditions. Perhaps there was a mistake in translation, or Japanese companies wanted to capitalize on this marketing, but VD was seen as a day for women (especially shy women) to indirectly express their feelings towards men. Men can respond to these feelings the next month. It’s important, however, that they return the kindness with an even better gift—more expensive chocolate! Now-a-days, the two weeks before Valentine’s Day are full of chocolates and gifts, everywhere.

In Japan, chocolates that are given to male friends and colleagues are called ‘giri-choko’, ‘giri’ meaning obligation. Japan is famous for its politeness, so even if you don’t want to spend your hard earned money on Takeshi from work, you kind of have to. Super obligation chocolate also exists for Koichi, that coworker you absolutely hate: ‘cho-giri-choko’, ‘cho’ meaning ‘very’, so super-obligated-chocolate. Chocolate for male friends is called ‘tomo-choko’, ‘tomo’ coming from ‘tomodachi’ 友達.

And chocolate for that special person is called ‘Honmei-choko’. Of course, it has to be expensive to be differentiated from that ‘giri-choko’! If the chick really cares for him though, perhaps she would bake him something. I tried, but was too ashamed with the results so I bought him Godiva instead 😛

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So, how did I spend my Valentines Day? Well, like a true Japanese (that I am not), I worked. I’m working hard almost every day! I get to see my Japanese boyfriend usually only during the late hours. He came over after work at 9pm and handed me a box of Godiva chocolates (EVEN THOUGH he wasn’t supposed to, EVEN THOUGH I asked him not to get me any sweets). He is trying to adapt to my American-ness, I suppose. It was a bit funny though, because I then passed him the same chocolate, the one that I had bought for him. It’s good that we’re on the same cheap-wavelength! (It would have been very awkward if one of us had given the other a box from Godiva that was more expensive than our gift!). He also bought me some headphones. I really enjoyed Sony’s 20,000 yen headphones the other day when we went into the Sony Building, so I guess he thought some cheaper ones would be a nice gift. Thanks!

2,000 yen for 6 truffles.

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On another note, Mansho Ramen in Korakuen, near Tokyo Dome, was selling a limited-time offer Chocolate Ramen. The chef specifically adapted his ramen recipe to make it go well with dark chocolate. Small bits of dark chocolate floated on one area of the bowl, while pork, species and onions were in another area. How did it taste? At first, like salty chocolate, which was nice. As the chocolate melted, it was less noticeable. I noticed the spices come up a bit more, and felt the thick noodles a little oily. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t choose it over a regular bowl of delicious ramen!

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Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!

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