Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Japan

In Philippines, Valentine’s Day feels just like Christmas but with lots of red, chocolates, flowers, cute stuff and cheesy dedications. We give such presents to people we feel like giving to. But generally, it is like a special day for women.

Here in Japan, it is all about chocolates and/or sweets. The catchy part is that women are the ones giving chocolates to men. Well, kids and teens do this, too. Chocolates are given not only because of romantic reasons. They also give to male family members and friends. If the recipient is someone special, then that would equate to special and expensive kinds of chocolates. If it is personally made, the better.

I was told that if a girl likes a guy, giving chocolates to that guy is a way to confess how she feels. If the guy likes her back, he will give her something on March 14, called “White Day“.

Then there’s something they call “giri-choco”, which means “obligation chocolate”.  Usually given to co-workers and acquaintances, giri-chocos are relatively inexpensive. But if I have the money to buy nicer kinds of chocolates, I would.  I just want to make everyone smile. And yes, I gave out giri-choco in the office on February 13th, not only to males but also females.


Our department is so huge so I only intended to give out to my teammates (more or less 30 people). I wrote about 30 notes and attached it to the chocolates. However, I didn’t realize that I bought quite a lot so in the end, I was able to give others outside the team. Two ladies were so delighted to receive something from me that they gave me a pack of cute cookies.

So, what did I do on THE Valentine’s day? I went out alone and headed to a lake a few minutes from where I live. I have been planning to visit the lake and I’m glad I finally did. I went there late in the afternoon, just in time to catch the sunset. It was very cold but I enjoyed the refreshing walk. It was a great physical activity, too as the lake is about 30 minutes on foot from the train station!


I have tons of photos to share and my posts get delayed because I am so lazy to upload the photos. Fortunately, my Sony xPeria Z3 automatically generated a movie for me! How cool is that?


All photos and the photos in the movie were taken using Sony xPeria Z3.

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zChocolat: Not Just Any Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Confused on what to give or tired of giving the usual stuff? I suggest you try something different yet personal. When I received that one box from France, it contained something unusual, absolutely delicious and gave me an unforgetable experience.


Handled with care

When I took out what’s inside, it warmed my heart! To hopeless romantics like me, a wooden box with the wooden key could mean a lot. For me, it is just so romantic. (Not to mention that I love collecting boxes.)



See that metal plate on the box? It has my name engraved on it. It makes the gift more personal.

So how were the chocolates? One word: AMAZING! I received the Valentine’s Day Ruby collection. It had 12 heart-shaped and 15 rectangular ones. I have to admit, I don’t go crazy over chocolates, I don’t even crave for them. But zChocolat just blew my mind (my taste buds) and melted my heart!

I shared some pieces to my Japanese friends and colleagues and they were as pleased as I was! Let me put their comments here:

  • “Red heart of chocolate was elegant taste and not too sweet.
    Mouth feel is also a mellow, the paste in chocolate melt immediately.”
  • “The foreign chocolate which is famous in Japan is XYZ (I prefer not to disclose the brand name here). I think the chocolate you gave is more delicious than XYZ.”


All of the rectangular ones are described in the booklet that comes with the collection.

I cannot describe all of the pieces here, so I will just mention my favorites. Mind you, it was a tough call because each piece is so different yet equally delicious.

  • Number 8, hazelnut from Italy and coffee ganache made of coffee beans from Kenya and Nicaragua, covered in 70% Venezuelan dark chocolate. A mixture of bitter and light nutty flavor. I looked forward to every bite, waiting for that nutty flavor to come up again.
  • Number 5, 62% dark chocolate ganache covered with 70% Venezuelan dark chocolate. I never imagined a combination of dark chocolates could be that delicious. I didn’t want the bitter yet comforting taste to stop!
  • Number 3, caramel mixed with passion fruit, coconut and mango puree covered in 70% Venezuelan dark chocolate. I ate before reading its description. I was expecting to taste the usual caramel but was met by an unexpectedly sour taste that blended perfectly with the dark chocolate. The aftertaste was a hint of coconut and mango.
  • Number 1, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla ganache infused with lavender, covered in Venezuelan dark chocolate. Definitely zChocolat and its surprising yet delightful taste! This is the best dark chocolate with a twist I have ever tasted. I never imagined lavender could be so perfect with dark chocolate.
  • Number 4, Valencia almonds and peanuts from China, covered in 40% Ivory coast milk chocolate. Perfection! The filling becomes more delightful when everything is mixed in each bite.
  • Heart, Mystique. Vanilla caramel covered in dark chocolate. The caramel was not too sweet. The texture and the combination was too enjoyable.


Valentine’s Day or not, this would make a perfect gift. If your someone special loves chocolate, I strongly encourage you to give that person one of the collections. Believe me, it would be worth it. Make it even more special by writing something sweet in that message card, will you? ;)

P.S. I would be so glad to receive one more!

Photos taken using Samsung NX2000 and ASUS ZenFone 5

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An afternoon in Sendai

Another late post, about my trip to Japan on August 5-11, 2014

As I have mentioned in my entry in Japan Joshi-Tabi, I finally did something that I have always wanted to do: visit Tohoku, the eastern region of Japan! I bought the JR East pass so that gave me unlimited JR train rides, including the bullet trains. Even when I got on the wrong shinkansen, it was OK. :P

I stayed for a night in Yamagata City and my friend drove me to Sendai the following day. We were supposed to go to the Yamadera Temple or Matsushima but there was a typhoon at that time, evident in the photos below:



The photos above were taken close to the Sendai Station

So, we decided to just walk around Sendai City. I bought myself really cute silver accessories somewhere in the shotengai. And, when you spend your time in the shotengai, be prepared to see something interesting. It is Japan, after all. Guess what I found? “Fatbikes” and they really call them as such. I guess the photos below say it all.

When visiting Sendai, one has to try the gyutan, or the beef tongue. I was hesitant at first, but I am really glad I tried it. We had the gyutan at the Date no Gyutan at the Sendai Station and it was really good! Both the miso-flavored and the salt-and-pepper-flavored gyutan tasted good! Oishikatta!

After my fill of the gyutan, I took the shinkansen going back to Tokyo , hoping to visit Tohoku again in the future!

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All the photos in this post were taken using the Asus Zenfone 5

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Sunka, a Japanese restaurant

As a Japanese food lover, I want to find out how different are the Japanese dishes in every country that I get to visit. (Now that I mentioned it, I realize I’ve never tried Japanese food when I went to Paris).

One of the Turibus stops was a shopping mall in Mexico City called Reforma 222. When I saw the Japanese restaurant Sunka, I knew I had to try it. Getting inside was a bit intimidating at first because I’d be eating alone again. At the same time, I was worried nobody among the restaurant staff could speak English nor Japanese (and no one could).

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There was no need for English at all, thanks to the menu with photos.
I took the Menu Osaka and here’s what I got:
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The first sushi that I’ve tried in Mexico. Didn’t taste like sushi at all because I could only taste the cream and white cheese. I thought at that time I ordered the wrong sushi.
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At least this grilled chicken tasted “Japanese” and it helped get rid of the cheese aftertaste.
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I was extremely full when the dessert was served. I liked the one on the left-most stick. It was banana with cheese, I suppose. But I can’t remember eating something like this in Japan.

Even if I wasn’t really satisfied with the taste, I would still go back there because the place was really nice. It was a great place to eat and have a long chat with a friend.

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Mangoes in Mexico

For me and for most Filipinos (maybe even all Filipinos), Philippine mangoes are the best in the world. Here in Singapore, mangoes are easy to find but I’ve never found mangoes from my country. I remember seeing Philippine mangoes in Japan and it was expensive.

When I was in Mexico, I was very delighted to see mangoes in the grocery store nearest to the hotel. They looked and smell like the ones from my country. The taste? It’s almost the same as well! And it’s a lot cheaper. Here in Singapore, mangoes are sold at S$10 for 3~5 pieces. In Mexico City, it’s less than S$3 per kilo!


Mexico mango

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Food trip in Mexico City

One of the reasons why I loved my stay in Mexico is because of the delicious dishes it offers! In this post, I am listing down the dishes that I love, something that I can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days!

Tacos

Sorry I didn’t get a better photo. I enjoyed tacos so much that I always forget to take pictures. This would be the first tacos I’ve ever had. And I instantly loved it! Mind you, the best tacos are at those small taco booths that are only open at night. Tacos definitely go nicely with horchata.

Pozole

Pozole is a Mexican stew prepared from dried maize (corn), with meat, usually pork, chicken, turkey, pork rinds, chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish. It definitely tastes a lot better if you put lemon and a hot and spicy sauce. I usually get the small bowl otherwise I would have trouble finishing it.

Sopa de lima or Lime soup

I’m not sure if this is served in many restaurants in Mexico because according to my colleagues, only that Yucatan restaurant has this soup. It is very tasty. It is sour (of course) but I love it, just like how I love our very own Sinigang.

Arrachera or Flank Steak

I suppose there’s nothing special about how it is cooked. But if the menu of a restaurant in Mexico City has arrachera, I would definitely try it.

There are many delicious dishes in Mexico City that I wanted to try. Most are in huge servings that in most cases scare me, just like this breaded chicken that I’ve tried to finish but failed many times…

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