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November 25, 2016

In the Mood for Love with Japanese Food

By Stuart Turner

Valentine’s Day is almost here and, like many of our Western traditions, it has found a place in Japanese culture though they do things a little differently.

On February 14th it is the ladies who have to buy a gift for the special men in their life and that includes husbands, boyfriends, family members and even your boss.

The gifts are usually chocolate or cookies (the cynical history of Valentine’s Day in Japan is it was introduced by the chocolate manufacturers) and can be bought or handmade, depending on how strong your feelings are for the person you are giving it to.

Special chocolate gifts are called honmei-choco and men do think it’s a big deal if they are lucky enough to get given them and are suitably gutted if they don’t get anything. What makes it worse for those unlucky in love men is that ladies also dish out gifts to men they are not in love with but they consider important in their lives such as co-workers and male friends, known as giri-choco.

Valentines Day is so popular that it accounts for more than half of the annual sales of chocolate in Japan. And, if you all think it sounds a bit one sided and unfair, White Day was invented to redress the balance – on March 14th it’s the ladies’ turn to be pampered and spoiled by the men in their life.

This diversion from our western traditions may not go down so well with wives and girlfriends who will still be expecting the five-star treatment this weekend. A happy compromise could be a Japanese take on the romantic dinner for two.

A lot of Japanese food comes in bitesize portions such as sushi rolls and tempura, or can be made small like teriyaki meat kebabs or mini fish cakes. Sharing food by candle light is always a romantic hit and is even more impressive if you have made it yourself, especially as Japanese food is visually so appetising. Cooking a bitesize Japanese menu and sharing it with chopsticks is a unique and special way to show you care rather than supermarket flowers and a box of chocolates.

Valentine’s Day always divides the cynics and romantics but it is a great excuse to make a bit of effort in the kitchen and impress with your culinary skills. And, guys, if you do dare to forget there’s always White Day to fall back on.

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