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Women treating themselves to 'mysteriously beautiful' ruby chocolates for Valentine's Day

Products made with ruby chocolates can be seen in this photo taken at Seibu Ikebukuro department store in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, on Jan. 8, 2019. (Mainichi/Shiho Fujibuchi)

TOKYO -- With Valentine's Day just around the corner, "ruby chocolates" are drawing attention amid a growing tendency among women to buy chocolates for themselves rather than giving them to men out of peer pressure and a sense of obligation.

Recently, a food court where customers can taste items was set up at a chocolate-selling event at the Seibu Ikebukuro department store in Tokyo's Toshima Ward. The venue was filled with female customers taking photos of the sweets and posting them to SNS to share with friends. The Matsuya Ginza department store in the capital's Chuo Ward also expanded its areas for Valentine's Day goods by about 4.5 times the size from last year.

According to a Valentine's Day survey targeting women conducted by Matsuya Co. last December, 61.8 percent of respondents, the largest group, said they buy chocolates as "treats for themselves." This was far more than the 35.2 percent of women who said they buy the confectionary as "giri choko," literally meaning obligatory chocolates, for their work colleagues -- traditionally a widespread practice in Japan. A Matsuya public relations official said, "Now women buy chocolates for themselves because they find more enjoyment in choosing from various types and packages."

Especially popular among them are ruby chocolates, made from cocoa beans that have a natural pinkish color. Some products using this type of chocolate have already sold out at Seibu Ikebukuro. A Matsuya public relations official says that the popularity is "perhaps because ruby chocolates look great on SNS and move people who see them for the first time."

At the Shinjuku Takashimaya department store in Tokyo, Momoka Fukai was buying a package of six ruby chocolates for about 2,000 yen. "I wanted to get them as they were popular on SNS," said the 27-year-old office worker with a smile. "Their colors are mysteriously beautiful."

According to a survey conducted by major confectionary manufacturer Meiji Co. on 2,000 men and women aged 15 through 74, one popular reason for choosing a chocolate product was its appearance, which contributes to the popularity of ruby chocolates. An official from chocolate producing giant Barry Callebaut's factory in Japan stressed that the rich flavor of ruby chocolates "go well with cheese and rose wine."

The Japan Anniversary Association estimates that this year's Valentine's Day spending will decrease by about 3 percent from the previous year to approximately 126 billion yen. Some observers point out that the market size is currently at its peak. "I assume that the trend among women to buy chocolates for themselves for Valentine's Day will continue," said the Takashimaya official. The official expressed hope that ruby chocolates "will become even more popular due to their gorgeous color," becoming a force driving the market.

(Japanese original by Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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