Sendai’s first Valentine’s Day since disasters about more than just love

Kyodo

Chocolates with positive messages have emerged as big sellers in Sendai for the first Valentine’s Day since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

At the Fujisaki department store downtown, chocolate gifts made with locally produced sake or honey and carrying messages of gratitude are gaining in popularity.

“It is probably because consumers want to support products using food from disaster-hit areas,” said a member of the store’s sales promotion team.

Fujisaki offers different kinds of chocolate-related items using ingredients from Miyagi Prefecture to support tsunami-hit areas.

One product is made with six different types of sake brewed in the prefecture, while coffee beans roasted in the city of Ishinomaki and covered with chocolate are another popular treat. Chocolates in the shape of a honeycomb and made with honey produced in Sendai are also selling well.

This is the first time such products have been sold for Valentine’s Day, the store said.

As people grew to value “kizuna” — a Japanese word for “bond” — between family and friends after the disaster, the store prepared candy sets with a message saying “Thank you” in five different languages, including Japanese and English, so that people can express their gratitude.

In a similar spirit, the Mitsukoshi department store in Sendai is donating part of its proceeds from chocolate products to disaster areas. One bears the label “Charity Box” and sells for ¥2,400, of which ¥1,000 will be donated through the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Kiyomi Hishinuma, 42, who bought chocolate at the store for her husband, spoke of the spirit behind many gifts this Valentine’s Day, 11 months after the disasters.

“The person I counted on the most when the quake hit was my husband,” she said. “I bought more expensive chocolate than usual to show him my gratitude.”