Face chocolate to be surprise gift on Valentine's Day in Japan

By Mayu Yoshida, Kyodo

Posted at Feb 11 2013 10:51 AM | Updated as of Feb 11 2013 06:51 PM

TOKYO, Japan - Do you want to make this year's Valentine's Day an unforgettable one? Some girls in Japan are trying to surprise their loved ones by giving chocolates molded from their faces, rather than giving a typical box full of candies.

The FabCafe, a cafe in Tokyo's Shibuya district, recently held a two-day workshop where women had their faces 3-D scanned to make silicon molds, which were then filled with chocolate to turn into little smiling heads, about a size of 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, "I want 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 yen, or nearly $65, and attracted more than 50 applicants over two days, but only 15 won the right to have the face chocolates made.

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

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.

On Valentine's Day in Japan, it is customary for women to give chocolates to men -- not only lovers, but also to male co-workers or bosses.

The gifts are traditionally divided into two types. "Obligatory chocolate" is given to men whom a woman does not have special love for, while "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 sells 30% of its products to Valentine's shoppers. It also added that the custom is "a unique trend compared to other Western countries."

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's season that usually lasts from early January to Feb. 14.

This year, the Valentine's sales spree is expected to heat up as a survey showed more money will be spent on gifts than last year.

The average budget for "true love" chocolates this year stands at 3,497 yen, up from 3,081 yen in 2012, while one person 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.

As the women-only workshop became a hit, the organizers are planning to hold a workshop for men to make 3-D scanned gummies to give on White Day on March 14, when Japanese men customarily return a gift.