Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and in Japan, that means just one thing: chocolate. Now, everyone knows that here in Japan, we do things a little differently, namely that on February 14, women are the chocolate givers, whether it be a heartfelt indication of love for their chosen partner, or ‘giri-choco,’ the obligatory gifts given to coworkers and friends.
However, if you are not female, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get into the spirit of things. You men out there may want to show your affection to your loved one by getting a box of chocolates as a reflection of your own culture. Or perhaps like me, you are expected to give gifts on both Valentine’s Day AND White Day, because either (a) you are an irredeemable romantic or (b) your significant other is an evil genius who wraps you around their little finger (guess which camp I fall into?).
So, whatever your reason for being in the chocolate shopping market, you may wonder where the best places to buy are. Now, of course, the convenience stores do sell gift packs and don’t get me wrong; they are pretty decent and will probably do you if you are buying giri-choco. However, for a significant other, this is pretty much the equivalent of picking up a bunch of flowers from the gas station on your way home from the pub. Not only will it display your lack of foresight and planning, but it’ll probably get you into more trouble than had you not bothered.
No, it’s best to push the boat out a bit and get some proper choccies. Below are a few ideas of where you can find them. But be warned, the closer to the 14th you shop, the busier it’ll get, so it is a good idea to be prepared and get in early. Not that I’ll heed my advice, that is. See you all in one of these stores on February 13th!
If you want a huge amount of choice, a one-stop shop and can face the crowds, you need to look no further than Amour du Chocolat. Held annually in the Takashiyama department store within the Nagoya Central Station, this is Japan’s largest chocolate festival, and last year it saw more than 900,000 people and recorded sales of more than 2.7 billion JPY.
From January 17 to February 14, Amour du Chocolat will sell a crazy variety of different chocolates, sweets, and goodies, many of which you will be unable to buy anywhere else in Japan. There are around 150 brands to choose from, with over 2,500 different products.
Where: Takashimaya 10F (with some stores opening on floors 7-9), JR Central Towers, 1 Chome-1-4 Meieki, Nakamura Ward (map)
If you are in the Sakae area, you could head over to Matsuzakaya and take a wander along the Chocolate Promenade. From January 16 to February 14, the department store will be home to another broad array of sweet and chocolatey goodies. Featuring renowned chocolatiers such as Yvan Valentin, Pierre Marcolini, La Maison du Chocolat, and Godiva, there are more upmarket chocolates than you can shake a cocoa stick at.
Furthermore, various events will be held, such as talks held by professional sweets makers (in Japanese), Happy Tickets for the first 100 customers to spend over 5,000 JPY each day, and for the kids, there are sweets making classes and a chocolate panda treasure hunt.
When most European countries were expanding their empires around the globe, for the most part, the Belgians stayed at home. And considering that they are the global leaders at making some of the best-tasting things in the world – beer, fries, and chocolate – it’s no surprise.
Since 1926, Godiva has been one of Belgium’s best known commercial chocolates, and you really can’t go wrong with any of their goods. Find them in the Unimall below the Nagoya Station area.
If you are going to give chocolate gifts at Valentine’s Day in Japan, you really should do it properly, and that means, as many people do, making the goodies yourself. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean going to the nearest international store and picking up a packet of Sara Lee. No, if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound.
Tomizawa (also known as Tomiz), nestled amongst the high fashion stores of Midland Square, stocks only the finest quality baking goods, guaranteed to make your Valentine swoon. They specialize in baked sweets and cakes, and some of the staff speak a little English so they may be able to assist you if your baking skills aren’t exactly on point.
Okay, so far, so classic. But what if you want to go a little bit out of the ordinary? Something that you wouldn’t find at home in a million years? If you are of a quirky persuasion, you could give some proper old school, nostalgic Japanese candies.
Ken Chan Candy Store, a family-owned confectionary in the Osu shopping arcade, plies its trade in the sort of candy and snacks that would drive most kids wild, but it certainly works for an ‘only in Japan’ kind of gift. If your better half is from Japan, this may be a bit of a gamble: they may be over the moon with nostalgia, or they may think ‘why are you giving me this kiddies crap?’ It’s a delicate balance.
Where: 3 Chome-37-14 Ōsu, Naka Ward (map)