Facing up to a great Valentine’s Day gift

by Mayu Yoshida

Kyodo

Hoping to make this year’s Valentine’s Day unforgettable, some young women will surprise their loved ones by giving chocolates molded from their faces.

The FabCafe, located in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, recently held a two-day workshop where women had their faces 3-D scanned to make silicon molds that were then filled with chocolate to turn into little smiling heads, not much bigger than a thumb, ready to be eaten.

“My boyfriend might freak out when he sees my chocolate face,” said Miwa Amauchi, 30, a company manager in Tokyo.

“I found the workshop on Facebook and it seemed really fun. I hope he won’t throw away my face,” she laughed.

Hisoka Yuasa, 4, who joined the workshop with her mother, said she wants “to make more of these to surprise my friends at preschool,” just before biting into her cocoa-flavored head.

The unique opportunity was provided at a cost of ¥6,000 and attracted more than 50 applicants over two days, but only 15 won the right to have the face chocolates made.

“I wanted more people to acknowledge and experience the technologies of the 3-D printer and I thought Valentine’s is a good opportunity,” said Yuji Hara, 47, president of 3-D equipment sales company K’s Design Lab, which jointly hosted the workshop.

The large three-dimensional scanning machine, which is normally used to gather physical data, captures a human body and turns it into an accurate 3-D image in three to six seconds.

The way Valentine’s Day works in Japan, women give chocolates to men — not only their boyfriends but also to male coworkers and bosses.

The custom is generally regarded as unique among developed countries.

The gifts are traditionally divided into two types. “Giri-choko,” which means “obligatory chocolate,” is given to men whom a woman does not have special love for, while “honmei choko,” or “true love chocolates,” are for a man she cares about, such as her boyfriend or husband.

“The chocolate market in Japan is growing,” said an official at Godiva Japan Inc., which makes 30 percent of its annual sales to Valentine shoppers.

To draw as many candy shoppers as possible, department stores and chocolate makers hold huge campaigns across the country, some inviting famous patissiers from overseas, during the Valentine season that usually lasts from early January to Feb. 14.

A survey found that more money will be spent on gifts this year than in 2012.

The average budget for “true love” chocolates this year stands at ¥3,497, up from ¥3,081, while one woman will buy an average of 10.4 boxes of “obligatory chocolates,” up from 7.6 boxes, according to data based on 421 female respondents released by the Printemps Ginza department store in Tokyo.

Owing to how popular the women-only workshop was, the organizers are planning to hold a workshop for men to make 3-D scanned gummy candy to give on “White Day” on March 14, when males are supposed to reciprocate in kind for the Valentines they received.