Christmas and New Year’s are in the bag, which means Japan is getting ready for the next big holiday – Valentine’s Day. Shops have already ditched their festive decor as piles of sweet treats are taking the forefront. Whether it’s homemade chocolate or just something you bought at the store to make your boss happy, Valentine’s Day is a big day for chocolate in Japan.
And while it’s somewhat of a tradition for women to give chocolate to their loved ones and co-workers on Feb 14, for Japanese girls in their teens, it’s becoming less of a day to give chocolate to someone you have a crush on, and more of a day to give chocolate to your friends. But how will that change this year, with coronavirus being the "new normal?" How are young people planning to spend Valentine’s Day 2021?
Memedays is an institute that researches social media trends from Generation Z (anyone born after 1995). They surveyed 545 Japanese girls aged between 15 and 19 and asked them, “What are your plans for Valentine’s Day 2021?”
To get a rough idea of life before corona really got big, participants were asked what they did for Valentine’s Day last year, with 78 percent responding that they gave away chocolates last year, either to friends or themselves. However, this year’s numbers are significantly lower, with only 37.1 percent of participants saying they are going to give chocolate to their friends, and 16.8 percent saying they are planning to give chocolate to themselves.
But what about making the sweets by yourself? Nothing is more thoughtful than a homemade chocolate from that special someone, and last year homemade sweets were trending all over Japanese social media. But with the arrival of coronavirus, are Japanese girls still riding the homemade train? According to the survey, maybe not as much.
I’ll make my own chocolate —
2020 — 63.2 percent
2021 — 52.2 percent
I’ll buy chocolate —
2020 — 24.6 percent
2021 — 30 percent
I’ll buy ****and make chocolate —
2020 — 12.2 percent
2021 — 17.8 percent
Possibly due to the potential risks of spreading coronavirus, teenage girls responded that they are less likely to make their own chocolate than they were last year, and the percentage who plan to buy chocolate has risen. While homemade chocolates are certainly a thoughtful gift, COVID-19 is not something people should be sharing, even on Valentine’s Day.
Teens were also asked about what is important when giving Valentine’s Day chocolate. Responses included "tastes good," "has nice wrapping/packaging," "is easy to eat" and, in a very Generation Z response, "looks good on social media." In fact, phrases like #クッキー缶 (kukki kan – cookie tin) and #サプライズボックス (sapuraizu bokkusu – surprise box) are trending on sites like Instagram and TikTok.
Surprise boxes and cookie tins are very popular in TikToks, as givers can capture the joy of those receiving them on video. In fact, videos containing the hashtag "cookie tin" have been viewed over nine million times on TikTok. For Instagram, however, there is a different tag trending around Valentine’s Day – あざとチョコ (azato choko – cunning chocolate). How can chocolate be cunning, you ask?
Well-known chocolate brands are preferred for the ultimate azato choko, so-called because when held close, it makes your face look smaller, something that some Japanese women aspire to. Good azato choko is also simple in its design, with colors that are easy to co-ordinate accessories with. Plus, with easily recognizable chocolate bars like Ghana or Meiji, it’s easy to create an instant Valentine’s Day vibe in your photos.
If you’re dreading having to make a bunch of Valentine’s chocolate this year, maybe take a leaf out of these Japanese teens’ books, get some good old chocolate bars from your local convenience store and get ready to enjoy your smaller face (your stomach might grow a bit, though.)
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