In Love with Chocolate
On many occasions I have heard the complaint from Japanese people: “why do Western couples always have to tell each other ‘I love you?’ Why do they have to be so embarrassingly direct? In movies, we hear people saying it on the telephone every time they hang up. Aren't there more subtle ways of showing one's feelings?” Well, it's true that the expression “to wear your heart on your sleeve” may come from the Valentine's Day tradition where young men and women would draw lots for a partner who would be their “Valentine” and whose name they would wear on their sleeve for all to see. And yet, despite appearances, the English can be quite coy about expressing their affections in words. As William Blake put it: “never seek to tell thy love, love that never told can be . . . ” When I was growing up in England in the 1960s, the custom on Valentine's Day was for both boys and girls to send cards to those they loved, but not to sign them with their names. The recipient then had to guess who the card was from. Nowadays flowers, chocolates and other gifts are exchanged too, but 25 million cards are still sent every year. Of course people who don't get cards can feel miserable, but if you do get a Valentine's card in the post you have to puzzle over the handwriting and try to figure out who sent it. Whether you receive a card or not, Valentine's Day can be a difficult experience.
I didn't associate Valentine's Day with chocolate until I came to live in Japan in the 1980s. Every February I saw mountains of beautifully packaged and highly priced chocolates stacked up in department stores and hordes of young women lugging them off in carrier bags. Most of these chocolates were called 義理チョコ, I was told. 義理チョコ might be translated as “Valentine's Day chocolates that one feels obliged to give”, but how admirably succinct the Japanese is, to express all this in four short syllables. Such inventive abbreviations are one of the features I love about the Japanese language. Fresh from reading “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, I remembered 義理 as “a debt that has to be repaid with mathematical precision and in a limited time.” That sounded somehow a little too calculated. On the other hand, how wonderfully inclusive the custom was, compared to the Valentine card. Everyone got to eat chocolate and no one felt left out.
Later, of course, I realized that 義理チョコ was complemented by 本命チョコ, which women could give to men they truly favored. Just as in Britain, however, Valentine's Day in Japan seemed not to be entirely stress-free. Women had to be sure that the style and price of the chocolates made it clear what the gift meant, while men might wonder: “well, it looks expensive and unique, but is it really just for me . . . ?” Choosing chocolates can be quite a headache. Women have to keep everyone happy, not only with 義理チョコ for colleagues at the workplace but with 世話チョコ for anyone to whom they are indebted in some way. Working women also frequently buy 親チョコ or パパチョコ, and then there is ファミチョコ for the whole family. The existence of the expression 超義理チョコ suggests women are becoming increasingly fed up with the practice, and one survey found that 70% of all women would like it to end.
Buying chocolates can of course be a lot of fun too. Many young women enjoy comparing the tastes and designs of different brands, seeking out limited edition chocolates, and reading about them in magazines. Japan's Valentine's Day is an occasion for top patissiers from all over the world to compete and show off their wares. For women, shopping for chocolates can be an opportunity to demonstrate the subtlety of their taste. Over the last few years, however, things have been complicated by the need to buy 友チョコ as gifts to female friends. Parents are finding that girls as young as 10 have to be supplied with copious quantities of chocolates, preferably handmade, to distribute to all their classmates, while women who receive 友チョコ from friends feel burdened by the worry of choosing a return gift, or お返し. Women are perhaps more discerning than men, which makes it harder to choose appropriate gifts, and they feel a more acute sense of せつなさ (distress) if they are left out. There is the potential for 女子力争い, where women compete with each other in the popularity stakes. These days 友チョコ疲れ, or “friend chocolate burnout”, is said to be on the increase.
In England also, it seems that a certain amount of “Valentine's Day fatigue” has set in. The Office for National Statistics found last year that 56% of singles felt bullied (by society) into finding a Valentine date, and a third of all respondents would like to cancel Valentine's altogether. Stationery stores in London now sell “anti-Valentine” cards with messages like “sisters before misters” and “the more men I meet, the more I love my dog”. Many people breathe a sigh of relief on February 15th when Valentine's Day is over.
In Japan, with the rise in 草食男子 and a seeming reluctance by both young men and young women to get into relationships, women's expectations of men may have declined, but in any case, as the word 女子力 suggests, they are more assertive and self-reliant as well as having more financial clout. The most recent type of Valentine's chocolate is 自分チョコ, ― “chocolate for oneself”, or “me chocolate”. Surveys are finding that women are matching their spending on chocolates for a significant other with a similar outlay on chocolates for themselves, at around 3,000 yen each. 自分チョコ is making up a larger share of chocolate sales each year. As women advance economically it seems understandable that they should want to congratulate themselves on their achievements and increasing success in society. A survey by the Printemps (プランタン) Department Store found that for many women 自分チョコ represents a “reward”, or ご褒美 ― hence the alternative term ご褒美チョコ ― for doing well, and their principal motive for buying them is to motivate themselves to do better in their lives and at work. In short, they feel confident in themselves and feel they deserve a little pampering.
The exuberance and creativity of the chocolate market show no signs of abating, with chocolate facials, chocolate ramen, and 3D chocolates molded into the shape of one's own face, among the new products on offer. In terms of per capita consumption, it's true that Japan still lags far behind chocoholic nations like Germany, Switzerland and Britain, where truly heroic quantities of chocolate are consumed all the year round. But chocolate sales in Japan are now worth $5 billion a year and continue to climb. Japan has successfully adopted festivals like Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine's, but there's one Western custom that seems unlikely to catch on ― that's the practice of giving up chocolate for Lent.
 to wear your heart on your sleeve （愛情などの気持ちを）はっきり示す（研究社『ルミナス英和辞典』第2版，同『リーダーズ英和辞典』第3版，いずれも heart 成句欄），言葉で表す．
 the English イングランド人（総称）．
 William Blake（1757-1827）は英国の詩人・画家・神秘思想家で，自らの神秘的な詩に絵や版画を添えた．その作品に Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1794), Jerusalem (1820) などがある．（研究社『新英和大辞典』第6版）
never seek to… seek が pain とされる場合もある．この引用全体の和訳としては，
 in the post （イギリス英語）＝in the mail（アメリカ英語）．
 carrier bag 「キャリーバッグ」のことかと思われるかもしれないが，これはイギリス英語で shopping bag のこと．ちなみに「キャリーバッグ」は carrying bag（『研究社オンライン・ディクショナリー（KOD）』）．
 fresh from …ing …し（終え）てすぐに．
 “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” 『菊と刀』（米国の人類学者 Ruth Benedict 著，1946年）．「日本文化を文化類型論の視角から恥の文化としてとらえ，日本人の恩や義理・人情の問題，恥の意識などを分析」（『スーパー大辞林 3.0』）．
 [not entirely] stress-free 精神的負担とは無縁な［わけではない］．
 超義理チョコ この語を使う人によって意味するところはさまざまと見られるが，記事の文脈では，個包装で個別に渡すのではなく，詰め合わせの類から文字どおり「配付」されるもののよう．
 be supplied＞supply ［親が］買い与えてやる．次の注を参照．
 handmade 日本語の「手製，手作り」は英語では handmade と homemade とに区分されている．前者は machine-made に対する語で，機械を使って製造したものではないことを意味し，後者は市販のものを買ったのではないこと，自家製であることを意味する．（前出『新英和大辞典』 handmade 項）
 in the . . . stakes used to say how much of [popularity] a person has, as if they were in a competition in which some people are more [popular] than others（Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 7th ed., stake 項の成句の定義．［ ］によるパラフレーズは注釈者）．
 felt bullied (＜bully) . . . a Valentine date ヴァレンタインのデート相手を見つけるのを（社会から）無理強いされたように感じた．
 cancel ［ヴァレンタイン（デー）の習慣を］やめにする．
 expectations of men 男性に対する期待．
 significant other 大切な人．
 understandable に続く that 節における助動詞 should によって，書き手自身の理解の気持ちが暗示される（cf. 前出『ルミナス英和辞典』 should 項 A 7 (1)）．
 pampering (＜pamper) （自らに許す）贅沢．
 exuberance ［市場（しじょう）の］活況．
 show no signs of abating (＜abate) やむ気配を見せない．
 chocoholic チョコ中毒の．
 heroic 大［量］，多［量］．
 締めの文にまで注釈を付けるのは野暮というもの．キリスト教の Lent（四旬節）における風習に照らして that's 以下の意味をお考えください．