Valentine’s Day in Japan

Homemade Valentine's Day chocolates

Homemade Valentine’s Day chocolates

It is Valentine’s Day once again and this year we are celebrating the holiday in Japan. This means the celebration is a bit different from those celebrations in the US where my husband and I would have a nice dinner and exchange cards and gifts. I would often get chocolates, flowers, and/or jewelry, which I think is fairly typical of the US. But in Japan, it’s just the men who receive gifts (either store-bought or homemade chocolates) from women on Valentine’s Day.

In Japan, it is customary for women to express their feelings on Valentine’s Day by giving what is called honmei-choco (本命チョコ, “true feeling chocolate”) to their boyfriends, husbands, or potential boyfriends. But not every gift of chocolate is an expression of love. Giri-choco (義理チョコ, “obligation chocolate”) is given by women to male coworkers, bosses, and friends where there is no love interest involved. This is generally a sign of friendship or gratitude. The type of chocolate given also depends on if it is honmei or giri chocolate. Giri-choco is relatively inexpensive store-bought chocolates while honmei-choco is usually of higher-quality and more expensive. Homemade honmei-choco is also popular because the extra effort put into making the chocolate makes it seem the giver is that much more sincere in her feelings.

So what about the women? Don’t worry, we’re not completely left out. On March 14, there is another holiday in Japan called White Day (ホワイトデー) and on this day men are expected to reciprocate by giving gifts to the women who gave them either honmei-choco or giri-choco on Valentine’s Day. These White Day gifts are usually two or three times as expensive as the Valentine’s Day chocolates received.

Since we’re in Japan, I decided to make my husband honmei-choco for Valentine’s Day this year. I’m not very handy in the kitchen but I found a way to make chocolates that even I could do, which is to say, I bought chocolate already prepared and melted it down so I could remold it into heart-shaped chocolates. I know, it’s not chocolate made from scratch but I wanted him to actually be able to eat it and this is a start!

First, I chopped chocolate I’d bought from the store into small pieces so they would melt more easily. I used Meiji Black Chocolate bars because my husband greatly prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate. I added about a bar and a half of chopped chocolate into a bowl and began the process of melting it in the microwave. WARNING: Melt chocolate slowly!! It burns very, very easily! Trust me, I now know this from experience. What worked for me was heating it for 10-15 seconds at a time with my microwave set at 700W. I stirred in between heating sessions to make sure it was uniformly melted. As it began to melt, I added more chocolate until I had a thoroughly melted bowl of chocolate.

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Then it was a simple process to spoon melted chocolate into the little heart-shaped molds I’d found at the grocery store. I filled some of the molds all the way to the top and left a little room in others to see what worked best. Once they were all filled, I put the molds in the freezer to harden.

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After three hours, I took them out of the freezer and the chocolates popped right out of the molds. The bottoms of the chocolates turned out very smooth while the tops show where the last bit of chocolate dripped into the mold. The pieces where I only filled the mold part way had rougher edges than those filled to the top so I’ll completely fill all the molds next time. In the end, three bars of dark chocolate were transformed into heart-shaped dark chocolate pieces and my husband says they taste good so I’m calling this a success!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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