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Daniel Robson pigs out, Japanese-style

I can’t help but think Japan has Valentine’s Day the right way round. And that’s because – miracle of miracles! – in Japan it’s the girls who have to give the boys chocolate.

It’s actually kind of a big deal, too. From young schoolgirls to teenagers to career women, if there’s a bloke she fancies then Valentine’s Day is an all-important opportunity to impress him. Store-bought choccies is one option, and every year in January the top confectioners and upper-class hotels unveil delicate treats priced for the fattest of purses. But if she really wants to win that boy’s heart, it’s time to hit the kitchen.

Supermarkets, convenience stores, boutique department stores – the shelves heave with DIY cooking kits to easily make truffles, cookies, cupcakes and chocolates, while sprinkles, ribbons and heart-shaped containers allow her to embellish her creations for added Cupidosity.

Remember that scene in Battle Royale where schoolgirl Noriko hands her crush a bag of homemade cookies, and hides her true intentions by also giving some to his friends? The pressure of that scene was almost as intense as the bloodbath that followed – and the horror when Takeshi Kitano’s wicked teacher munched the whole bag at the end.

Unfortunately for the lady, it doesn’t end there. In addition to her own Mr Right, she is expected to make “giri choco” (“obligation chocolate”) for the other boys in her class or office, her male teachers or her boss. Again, this is great for us chaps: Last year on Valentine’s I remember bumping into one of my female colleagues from another department in the lift; she was carrying a box of handmade brownies, and the look on her face as she handed one to me – a guy who works on a different floor and was therefore not supposed to be part of the equation – was a picture of pure dejection. Mmm, delicious.

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Naruto theme songsters HalCali immortalised the stresses of making Valentine’s treats in their 2011 song Giri Choco, some of whose lyrics translate as “I’ve been planning this for a week / Does he have a sweet tooth? / How should I hand them to him?”

But with bravery comes reward, and our plucky young lady has a chance to reap what she sows – on White Day. On 14 March, it’s they boys’ turn to give chocolates – and if he got one from a girl he likes on Valentine’s Day, he can reveal his feelings by reciprocating. He doesn’t have to cook – Japanese men traditionally aren’t allowed in the kitchen – but his store-bought offering should be around three times the value of the gift he received. Or, you know, some jewellery.

The Valentine’s Day/White Day mechanic is so important in Japan nowadays that Konami was forced to recall copies of its New Love Plus 3DS game last year when a bug made it impossible to give your virtual girlfriend a reciprocal gift on 14th March. That hiccup cost Konami more than a few chocolates’ worth, that’s for sure.

So as Valentine’s Day 2015 rolls around, ladies of Britain, consider yourselves lucky to be on the receiving end at all. And boys, if you start making plans now, you could easily move to Japan in time for February 2016 – the most delicious time of year to be male.

This article was originally posted Valentine’s Day 2015.

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