Before you get into the gifts giving, there are a few things you should know about how Japan celebrates Valentine’s Day— it’s a little different to what you might be used to. In terms of big romantic holidays for couples, Christmas, not V-Day is the big one here. Think fancy expensive dinners, declarations of undying love, proposals, romantic obligations, gifts, and all that other Hallmark Channel stuff. So what’s left to do on the 14th of February? Well, essentially it’s a day where women gift obligatory chocolate to the men in their lives.
On the chocolate front, there are in fact two types of gifts: giri-choco or “obligation chocolates” given to workmates, classmates and close-ish acquaintances, and honmei-choko, which is given to boyfriends and close male friends. A month later, on March 14, men return the favor on “White Day.”
The first edition of the Japanese valentines choco tradition can be traced back to 1958 when Tokyo chocolatier Mary Chocolate ran a campaign which, at the time, made a measly ¥150 in sales. Still, over the years, the holiday’s popularity snowballed, and it’s now a multi-million dollar seasonal industry.
If the idea of buying into all of the PR-driven pseudo-cultural propaganda gives you the shivers, but you still feel like you want to show your S(ignificant) O(ther) some lurve, why not try going weird with it? This is Japan after all so there are plenty of oddball gift ideas on the market. Here are six of our favorite unique ways to say daisukiiiii this Valentine’s Day in Japan.
1. A heart-shaped box of sea urchins
Nothing says “I’m different to everyone you’ve ever dated before” like a box of sea urchins formed in the shape of a heart. Located in the outer Tsukiji market, the crew at Saito Fisheries have crafted this special gift box in celebration of the romantic holiday. Turns out these limited edition boxes are pretty popular, so if you want to get your hand on one be sure to reserve via email. One will set you back around ¥8,000. Move over oysters, looks like sea urchins are the new aphrodisiac.
2. A sweet potato, for your sweetheart
Ever passed by a steamy sweet potato stall and thought “Ah, if only I could chuck this in a brown, bow-tied bag and gift it to my better half?” Well, Japanese confectionery maker Oimoya is one step ahead of you.
This is a gift that’s sure to, as the company claims, “warm your heart and body.” It is a healthier alternative to chocolate, we’ll give it that much. Plus, it could be a great relationship test. If you present someone a potato for Valentine’s, and they stick around, it probably means they really, really, really like you. You can order one online for a bargain price of ¥399.
3. A piece of the moon… and a pen
What to get someone who has it all? How about a chunk of the moon?
The Lunar Embassy Japan is selling moon real estate and packaging it up as a gift that’s truly out of this world. For those who want to keep things a bit traditional, too, you can pick up a very special chocolate-and-moon-deed combination present. Or for those feeling extra extravagant, get the chocolate, moon deed and pen bundle which also includes a NASA ballpoint that you can use in space — just like the astronauts do! With all the gift sets costing less than ¥10,000, it’s got to be the cheapest piece of real estate we millennials could ever get.
4. Ooh! Underpants branded like a chocolate bar
A little naughty, a little practical and a touch traditional, why not get your special someone a pair of personalized underpants branded like Japan’s No. 1 chocolate manufacturer, Meiji Chocolate? Shalemon, a Japanese novelty underwear company has come up with this very on-brand pair of underpants which will set you back an easy breezy ¥1,790. With completely customizable text, you can edit to suit any message in Meiji Chocolate brand font on your butt. Tasty!
5. A luxury leather notebook cover with a chocolate theme
So, you’re not too sure whether to follow the choco protocol or gift something with a little more sentimental and practical value? Luckily men’s department store Tsunagu has answered your prayers with this notebook cover that looks just like chocolate.
This genuine, top-range leather cover has been molded and shaped to look on the outside like a thick block of delicious milk chocolate, or maybe more like the blocks in Super Mario. Anyway, it’ll cost you over ¥12,000 (yikes!).
6. The so-what-are-we? tent
So you’ve been hanging out with someone you really like, and you’ve been getting along, but you’re still not too sure whether it’s romantic or a just friends-type situation. You don’t want to move too quickly, but you do want to take them camping in the woods alone at night.
So what are you going to do? You’re doing to grab a Doppelganger H-Tent from Japanese outdoor concept brand, DOD, that’s what. This uniquely shaped tent is perfect for those in-between couples who want the possibility of romance, but also want a little privacy, too. The tent has two individual sleeping rooms and a cozy little communal space in the middle for when you’re ready to take it to the next level a.k.a. a game of Scrabble.
7. The f*ck-it-I’ll-just-get-the-chocolate option
Maybe after looking at all the different ways to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” you’ve got present fatigue and have found yourself in a 7-Eleven sweets aisle staring blankly into the chocolate abyss.
Don’t settle for less. There are several choices of Japanese chocolate that have gotten a glow-up, including this NSFW choice. Sex it up a bit thanks to Japan’s futuristic sex toy maker Tenga, who have created their own line of cheeky chocolates. The Sweet Love Cup is a collection of classic milk chocolates, which will set you back about ¥540. If you’re feeling extravagant, there’s also the 285-piece Tenga Tower for a mere ¥150,000.
So there you have it — a wide choice of weird options that leaves you with no choice but to go get freaky! Happy Valentine’s!