The Japanese man redefines Valentines

Back in the 1960s, the Japanese chocolate company Mary's ran an advertising campaign that redefined how people celebrated St Valentine's Day.

"Women declare love with chocolates on St. Valentine's Day" was the catch phrase, and it sparked what has become an annual spending spree said to be worth more than US$1 billion.

That phrase is also one of the reasons the gifts usually go in just one direction in Japan. It's the women who do the buying, and the men who do the receiving. But times are changing.

The Takashimaya department store in Nagoya marks St. Valentine's Day each year in grand fashion. Its "Amour du Chocolat" event is usually the biggest of its kind in the country, and this year was no exception. The store hosted 150 chocolate makers, many of whom made special editions just for the event. Takashimaya spokesperson Natsuko Inukai says more than one million people came.

Celebrity chocolatier Toshi Yoroizuka signs a box of chocs

She also says the demographics are changing fast.
"The event isn't just for women now. Men are buying too. And we are trying to create an atmosphere that makes it easier for them to enter."
The buying team this year included a male staff member, and the merchandise included more than the usual number of chocolates made with alcohol.

Chocolate makers are hoping to attract male customers with flavors such as sake and shochu.

A survey this year by chocolate giant Meiji shone a light on where the chocolate bought by men ends up. It found that a large proportion of it goes straight to their own stomachs.

Just over 36 percent of those surveyed said they were buying chocolate for their spouses. Nearly 33 percent said they were buying it for themselves. Only 26 percent said they were buying for a girlfriend.


More than 50 years on from the Mary's campaign, women are still declaring their love with chocolate, but men are too now, and plenty are going by the old adage: love yourself before loving others.