THINGS have gone somewhat topsy turvy in Japan this year where Valentine's Day is concerned.
Previously, it was the unwritten rule that Japanese women buy chocolates for the men in their lives – ranging from their husbands to male colleagues at work, or even the managers of their condominiums.
But this year, a new buzzword has hit the country – "gyaku-choko", which means "reverse chocolate".
It was apparently an advertising campaign dreamt up by confectioners hoping to persuade Japanese men to summon up the courage to buy chocolates for the women in their lives instead.
After all, chocolate consumption has been steadily dropping in Japan since 2001 and confectioners are obviously anxious to reverse the trend.
In a poll conducted by Morinaga, one of Japan's largest confectionery companies, 70 per cent of male respondents said they would not mind buying chocolates for women.
Morinaga ran a TV ad campaign to promote its line of three products specially aimed at the male market for this year's Valentine's Day.
To underline the "gyaku-choko" theme in the campaign, Morinaga even made sure that the designs on the packaging for these three products were printed in reverse!
Meanwhile, department stores throughout Japan have been holding special Valentine Day events featuring luxury chocolates at inflated prices made by well known choclatiers, both domestic and foreign.
Figuring that most men might be too embarrassed to go and buy chocolates at such events, which are overwhelmingly women's affairs, one department store set up a chocolate booth next to its men's fashion corner.
But sales are reportedly are not as brisk as hoped for, which goes to show that you really can't trust what people say in surveys.
Japanese women, as usual, are having a great time this year snapping up boxes of yummy chocolate creations, not only as gifts but increasingly also as a reward for themselves, the current recession notwithstanding.
Right after Feb 14, unsold Valentine's Day chocolates are sharply discounted in supermarkets and convenience stores – a boon for the chocolate lover who is on a tight budget.
And if I do see unsold stacks of Morinaga’s "reverse design" chocolates, it will not be difficult to understand why.
I have no plans to buy chocolates to give away either!