Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s’

J-blip: Face Chocolates

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers, using a 3D scanner and printer, at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Does it look like me? Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. We’ve seen a lot of confectionery one-upmanship, but nothing quite like FabCafe’s jibunsei chocolates (self-styled chocolates).

A chocolate replica of your own face might look more kimoi (creepy) than oishii (delicious), but for the 15 people who participated in a two-day workshop the week before Valentine’s Day, the draw was the experience: getting to test out the 3D scanner and printer used to make the silicon molds. The workshop cost ¥6000, or about twice as much as an overpriced box of Godiva. To see more pictures of the process click on the gallery below.

FabCafe, a café-cum-workspace (with a laser cutter you can rent by the hour—or use to burn your own Valentine’s designs into macarons), is run by Loftwork, an “innovation consultancy;” it is also downstairs from 3D printer showroom Cube. “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” explained Loftwork PR rep Kazue Nakata.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give chocolate to men; men return the favor on White Day, March 14. FabCafe is planning similar workshops for men in March. They haven’t officially announced it yet, but keep your calendar open if you’ve always wondered what you or your man would look like as a Gummi Bear.

Check out FabCafe’s own report of the event (in Japanese) and more great photos here.

Searching for a soulmate? There’s an app for that

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Lots of ways to show your love

This Valentine’s day, that cold slab of glass and metal in your pocket could get you closer to real, warm love — that is, if you have the right apps.

There’s more to it than just Japan’s everyday mind-boggling array of dating apps and love simulation games. With more Japanese singles now than ever before, the Koi Kuru proximity-detecting app from clothing retailer Beams is extra timely. It alerts you when someone else with the love-locator is nearby. You input your info (age, sex, blood type, etc.) and assign it to a funky little avatar you design in the app. It then alerts you when you cross paths with another user and what your percent compatibility is. (These close encounters are represented visually and updated constantly on the associated website Koi Kuru.) You can send little virtual gifts, like cyber-flowers or a generic “present,” to the other person. There are buttons for virtual flirty gestures, too — you can wink, blow a kiss or “drop your eraser.” It’s all anonymous, so there’s no giveaway of who the mystery match is, unless you catch someone else sneaking glances up from their phone, trying to look like they’re not looking around. This continues the trend of retailers putting out loyalty-building apps.

If you already know who your true love is, there are branded tablet and smartphone apps with recipes for making homemade chocolates and chocolate-covered baked goods from confectioners Meiji and Ghana. Meiji’s includes step-by-step instructions for creating fancy individual wrappings. Ghana’s app lets you choose recipes not only by ingredients, but also by “scene.” We’re guessing that’s referring to whether you want to whip up some “love chocolate,” “friend chocolate” or the least inspiring (but most purchased) chocolate of all, “obligation chocolate.” The app from Excite Japan Co. simply called Choco has lots of mouthwatering photos and English as well as Japanese for over 100 recipes. It also, somewhat cruelly, includes calorie counts.

For sending a little virtual love, Valentine Photo lets you plaster your cellphone photos with all kinds of hearts and then email them directly or upload them to Twitter or other social networking sites. There are also endless collections of “deco-mail” characters and icons to liven up cellphone love letters. Looking ahead, Starbucks would do well to release  the AR Valentine app that’s out in the U.S. here next year as well. If the buzz in online forums is to be trusted, it already has a fan club in Japan.

Guys can get greedy and girly on Valentine’s

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

According to the folks at Chocokure, the era of men patiently waiting for Valentine’s chocolates is over. Now they can stand up and be counted by demanding chocolates from the woman they love. If something seems a bit skewed about this picture, it’s important to remember that in Japan it’s customary for men to receive chocolates from their sweethearts or colleagues, not vice versa. (The favor is returned on White Day, March 14.) The idea of demanding chocolates via social networking platforms, however, is brand new.

Valentine's chocolate could be yours for the tweeting ... if you're lucky.

A witty little one-off service for Valentine’s Day, men type in the Twitter username of the lady they wish to demand chocolates from, then enter their address and telephone number. A cheeky tweet is then sent that roughly translates as, “Choco please. Pretty pretty please.” A link on the tweet takes the lady to a page where she can click on either the “Present” button, or “Sorry.” If she is obliging she can then pay ¥500 by credit card and, presto, the requested chocolates will be sent.

The ¥500 “one coin” choco is a pretty popular price range with women purchasing giri (obligitary gift) chocolates for co-workers, but when it comes to really satisfying the man you love, nothing beats posh chocs from a department store. So unless you’re sure your girlfriend is in danger of forgetting this important occasion, it might be wise to hold out and drop some heavy hints instead.

This year chocolate on a stick is trending as a Valentine’s Day gift for lovers. According to Nikkei Woman,  the modern man is apparently not adverse to receiving a chocolate lollypop like Savarin’s bitter chocolate or caramel flavoured numbers, available at Isetan Shinjuku. An interesting variation on this trend is the Chocolat-o-Lait milk drink by patisserie Aoki Sadaharu. Sadaharu, who has a shop in Paris no less, has developed this choco lollypop to melt once placed inside hot milk, producing a delicious drink, available in matcha, yuzu or noir flavors.

If lollypops seem a little too girly, how about the Mechasaurus, a chocolate mechanoid dinosaur to melt the heart of the most hardcore of otaku? Only available at L’eclat, Osaka, this incredible creation comes with the equally incredible price tag of ¥52,500. If your girlfriend presents you with this on Valentine’s Day, you’ll know it’s for real.

For more Valentine’s ideas, JT has some sweet somethings.

A Valentine’s day out with the girls

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Kichiri's Valentine set meal claims to have beauty and health boosting properties

Japanese women are used to taking the initiative on Valentine’s Day. In fact, it’s traditional for ladies in Japan to buy a nice box of chocolates for their objects of affection. Pay-back comes on White Day, when it’s the men’s turn to hand out the chocolates. Every year in Japan, vendors roll out new products and services to cash in on the dual rites of romance (as well as the obligatory giri choco for the office set).

Coincidentally, a recent survey carried out by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed  evidence of an alarming trend that could affect Valentine Day’s to come. If such surveys are to be trusted, less and less Japanese are having sex. The number of married couples doing it are down and more than a third of men between the ages of 16 to 19 just aren’t interested.

Can we link lower libidos with chocolate-buying patterns? No. But we couldn’t help but notice another timely trend in the mix: Valentine’s joshikai (women’s group) packages.

Restaurant chain Kichiri is offering a jyoshikai Valentine’s set meal for ¥4,000 from Jan. 28 to Feb. 14. Perhaps to prove that ladies needn’t give up on the idea of future dates completely, the meal includes health- and beauty-boosting ingredients such as avocado and broccoli. The Valentine’s jyoshikai offered by Vega in Kobe, in contrast, comprises of a gut busting five-course meal to be rounded off with a stupendous chocolate pastry.

Other businesses offering Jyoshi Kai Valentine’s Day set meals include: Hotel Osaka Bay Tower, Hotel New Hankyu, Osaka and Hotel Monterey, Osaka. Our favorite, though, has to be the Outback Steakhouse Valentine’s joshikai campaign: The lucky ladies who win the online lottery will get to tuck into a premium steak, smothered in garlic cream sauce, for just ¥2,500. If a smooch with the man of your dreams is off the menu, then why not?

Do Valentine joshikai reflect a tectonic shift in Japanese society … or are they just another way to a milk a marketing buzzword? For now, we’re leaning toward the latter. But with more herbivorous men seeping into the gene pool, you never know.

Do you think joshikai will become part of Valentine’s Day traditions? Sound off below.

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