Funny Valentine

Assorted gift boxes from Godiva

Paramours may have Valentine' Day down to a science at home, but Japan has its own take on this steamy holiday. Inamoratos have no fear. We'll clue you in to "The Rules," as well as great gift ideas, intimate date spots and a chocolate-giving guide.

Even Lotharios and femme fatales find that Valentine's Day in Japan can be a minefield. Faced with rampant consumerism rather than burning desire, many romantically-challenged Tokyoites need assistance with l'amour to woo their Valentine.

Of course customs vary from country to country. In Britain, anonymous cards and flowers are given to lovers with just a hint at the senders' identity. In America everyone sends cards to everyone-family, friends, classmates, teachers and acquaintances - more to confirm friendship, than Cupidic intentions. And here in the land of the rising sun, things are very different, too: newcomers are usually startled to learn that on Valentines Day only women send tokens of affection.

The Western tradition of exchanging declarations of love developed from the story of Valentine, a Roman priest who was executed on Feb 14, AD 270, after he consented to perform a marriage for a soldier and his sweetheart against the wishes of the Emperor. While in prison he fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter, and his great faith and love cured her. Just before his death, he wrote a last love letter to her, signing it "From your Valentine," a phrase still used today.

Pure Beans Chocolate Madagascar from Ginza Cozy Corner

Strange love
In the Land of the Rising Sun, honmei choco chocolates are a woman's most sincere gesture of love, but boyfriends are not the only benefactors on Valentine's Day. Japanese tradition dictates that females give giri choco, "obligation" chocolates, to all male friends, colleagues, classmates, teachers and, of course, bosses. In the last couple of years, some younger women have begun to resist the giri choco phenomenon, although most men still appreciate the JY300 token gesture.

Valentine's Day was rather unsuccessfully introduced to the Japanese sweet-tooth in 1936 and again in 1952 by Morozoff, but the event wasn't a hit until 1958, when a rival chocolate company got Japan hooked on chocolates by perverting the rather more romantic Western Valentine's. Today, around 60 percent of Japan's chocolate sales are made for Valentine's Day, that's more than 30 million kilograms of chocolate or 5000 solid chocolate elephants-watch out, Kanto has the highest consumption in Japan. In the US, most chocolate sales are made for Halloween and even though 50 percent of American women give chocolates on Valentine's Day the holiday only ranks fourth in terms of sales.

On this lovers' holiday, men typically do nothing here, except eat and enjoy themselves. But on White Day (Mar 14), a "holiday" created by the confectionery industry as a marketing ploy to boost sales, men are supposed to reciprocate. The rules on what to do aren't that clear because the celebration is so new, but men are generally expected to give more expensive gifts than they received the month before. But giver beware: Some gifts impart a particular meaning. For example a man giving handkerchiefs could be saying "I don't love you, so dry your tears," whereas white chocolates are a sure sign of amorous intentions.

Le Chocolat from Morozoff

The confectioner that brought St Valentine's Day to Japan 65 years ago is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. Their Valentine sets include the 16-piece nut-flavored Floraison (JY2500), 16-piece liqueur-filled Priere (JY2000), assorted 15-piece Fancy Chocolates (JY1500) or the simple 24-piece Plain Chocolates (JY1000). Each box contains one or two heart-shaped pieces.
Open 10am-8pm every day. 2-24-1 Toyokonorengai, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3477-4278. Nearest stn: Shibuya stn, Hachiko Exit. Or Shinjuku branch: Takashimaya Building 5-24-2 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-5361-1309. Nearest stn: Shinjuku stn, south exit. And other locations.

Godiva goes one better by celebrating its 75th anniversary in style. Their purple or black heart-shaped deluxe ceramic box containing six pieces of assorted chocolate is the jewel of its colorful Valentine's Day collection (JY2500). Two-piece boxes (JY600) and three-piece boxes (JY800) are also available. Exclusive to Mitsukoshi is Godiva's hazlenut cream heart, which comes attractively packaged in its own purple box (JY1000).
Open 11:30am-8:30pm Mon-Sat, 11:30am-6:30pm Sun. 1F Komatsu Annex, 6-8-5 Komatsu Annex, Ginza. Tel: 03-3571-6061. Nearest stn: Ginza stn, exit A2. Or Shinjuku branch: Open 11am-8pm every day. 3-17-11 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-5269-6140. Nearest stn: Shinjuku stn, east exit. And other locations.

Hotel New Otani's ganache wafer

Anniversaire Omotesando
Anniversaire is offering a limited edition of their special chocolate to give to your sweetheart. Le Coeur d'Ange (Angel's Heart) is a 15cm heart-shaped hard chocolate encasing small cubes of chocolate ganache made with cacao beans from Venezuela. They are only manufacturing 500 of the hearts, so hurry (JY3800).
Open daily from 11am-11pm. 3-5-30 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5411-2488.

Hotel New Otani
Chef Shinsuke Nakajima at the New Otani's Patisserie Satsuki has created an original Valentine's treat named "Je t'aime 2001." The 4cm heart-shaped ganache wafer is coated on both sides with meringue and sprinkled with noisette powder (JY1000).
Open 11am-9pm every day. 4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3221-2631. Nearest stn: Yotsuya stn, Kojimachi exit.

The chocolate heart from Tokyo Hilton

Hilton Tokyo
Hillton Tokyo is offering a wide variety of chocolate items for take-out. How about a 20cm heart-shaped box made of chocolate (JY3200) or a smaller 15cm one, this one containing 12 praline pieces (JY2800).
The Hilton Patisserie: Open 11am-7pm Mon-Sat; Checkers Patisserie Counter: Open 6:30am-11:30pm daily. 6-2-6 Nishi-Shinjuku, Tel: 03-3344-5111. Nearest stn: Nishi-Shinjuku stn, exit C8. Or take the free shuttle bus from Shinjuku stn, Nishi-Shinjuku exit.

Ginza Cozy Corner
Among Ginza Cozy Corner's Valentine's Day chocolate offerings this year are a five-piece Cigar Chocolate and ten-piece Red Wine Chocolate or Whiskey Bonbon box (JY1000 each). For more traditional tastes, there's the 24-piece Praline Chocolat (JY2000). Three-piece Praline Chocolat boxes (JY300) are also for sale.
Open 10am-11pm Mon-Sat, 10am-9pm Sun. 1-8-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3567-5015. Nearest stn: Kyobashi stn. Shinjuku branch: Open 10am-9pm daily. 3-38-1 Shinjuku Station Building. Tel: 03-3352-1459.

Virgin Cinemas Ichikawa's "love seats"

Dating game
Need to whisk someone off their feet this Feb 14? Here are some romantic hot spots for budding Romeos and swooning Yuri-ets.

Chick flick
Amorous movie buffs, who want something swankier than the back row, should head to the Virgin Cinema in Ichikawa to snuggle up in their "love seat." Corralled in a special section, these plush chairs come in twos with a handy table between each duo that gives a touch of added privacy. Sit back and whip out your hankies for a screening of Love Story or grab on to your date during The Exorcist. The premier seats usually cost JY2400 per person but at press time no details were available about special rates for Valentine's.
Virgin Cinemas Ichikawa Colton Plaza, 1-1-1 Onitaka, Ichikawa-shi (Tel: 047-314-0067) 

"Flowers", the latest perfume from Kenzo

Love boat
Take to the waves with your Valentine on a romantic dinner cruise around Tokyo Bay. Relax on a Symphony cruise and enjoy the glittering lights across the water while you sip complimentary wine on deck. The romance continues once you step ashore, as you can take the flowers home along with a commemorative photo of your evening onboard. The 2hr 30min dinner cruise ranges from JY11,000 to JY21,000 depending on the set French menu you choose.
Symphony Cruises Sealine Tokyo Co, Hinode Pier Terminal Office 2-7-104 Kaigan, Minato-ku Tel: 03-3798-8101. ( All cruises depart from Hinode Pier Terminal. Nearest stn: Hinode (Yurikamome line) or JR Hamamatsucho

Star-crossed lovers
Why not get starry-eyed this Valentine's Day with a trip to the planetarium. Get cozy in the reclining seats and watch the universe unfold before you. The planetarium usually ups the romance quotient with special background music to set the atmosphere.
Nakano ZERO Planetarium, 4F Nakano ZERO West 2-9-7 Nakano, Tel: 03-5340-5045. Shows at 2pm and 4pm, entry JY200. Nearest stn: Nakano

Gifts straight from the heart
Aromatic ardor
Just in time for Valentine's Day is the debut of the new scent from Kenzo, appropriately dubbed Flowers and encased in a sleek bottle adorned with an image of a red poppy. As poppies lack any scent, Kenzo created this fragrance for the flower. Poppies spring up in the most unexpected circumstances-rather like love itself-and this floral perfume has Parma violets, Bulgarian rose, jasmine and a hint of vanilla to lend some heady top-notes to your scent-ual Valentine's date.
Eau de toilette 30ml bottle JY4800 (50ml JY6800, 100ml JY8800). Available from department stores nationwide.

Pair accessories from ete's PURE x MESSAGE are all the rage

Band together
Currently all the rage with rubu-rubu (love-love) Japanese couples are "pair accessories." Jewellery specialists ete's PURExMESSAGE collection features a range of bracelets, rings and pendants in his and hers versions that can be inscribed with romantic writing. The nine silver items in the collection include bracelets that reveal your amatory message (JY12,000), dog-tag pendants (from JY9800) and engraved rings (from JY10,000). The store also carries gold heart-shaped rings (JY12,000).
Odaiba branch: open 11am-9pm, Decks 2, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tel: 03-599-6783. Aoyama branch: open 11:30am-7:30pm (closed Mon), 6-11-3 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tel: 03-5468-7797 (Does not carry the entire range.)

The lipgloss ring from Anna Sui

Lip smacker
Suave Valentine's like Mr Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang-as 007 was known in Japan-should pick up Anna Sui's lipgloss ring to keep their victims lips in kissable condition. The top of the black ring with Anna's trademark rose design flips back to reveal a little pot of luscious lipgloss. Just apply and pucker up.
Available in 12 colors from department stores nationwide, JY1800.

Montblanc's New Boheme collection

Love poems
Budding bards will appreciate Montblanc's new Bohème collection. The stylish, fat black fountain pen (JY42,000) is trimmed with 14 carat gold and platinum with the company's trademark white star. Also available are a ballpoint pen (JY24,000) and propelling pencil (JY24,000).
Open 11am-8pm Montblanc Boutique 8-6-20 Ginza, Tel: 0120-4810-37.

Victorinox's Swiss Army Knife
The travel razor by Victoria

Smooth operator
If you're planning on dancing cheek-to-cheek with your beau, make sure you give him the Victoria travel razor (JY6000). Housed in a handsome silver case, the elegant contraption quickly assembles to have you out on the town in a hurry-with a close shave. More rugged types might need the special edition Swiss army knife from Victorinox (JY7500). Packed with all the useful sharp implements you could desire, this limited edition features a special inlaid space shuttle design.
Anniversaire Omotesando, Open daily from 11am-11pm. 3-5-30 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5411-2488.

Compiled by Matt Wilce, Cathy Frances and Richard Smith.



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