STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Japanese have their own take on Valentine's Day. It's a big chocolate buying frenzy. But the tradition is for women to give chocolate to men.
Lucy Craft hit the stores in Tokyo to find out some of the more unusual cocoa concoctions.
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LUCY CRAFT: Valentine's Day reliably sends the confectionary and gift industry here into overdrive, and Japan itself descends into a kind of chocolate madness.
The Isehan Company, for instance, offers orange and strawberry chocolate lip gloss. The product is billed as able to moisturize by melting onto the lips like raw chocolate. Also in the chocolate cosmetics category, a Kyoto-based company has launched limited edition nail polish that could have come from Willy Wonka. The concoction makes it appear as if your nails had been dipped in liquid chocolate. The chocolaty smell lasts long after the nails dry, claims the maker.
Of course, there is the usual cornucopia of edible sweets. The hot item this year is something called tablet chocolate, or to non-aficionados, candy bars. Japanese high-end stores are banking on big sales of chocolate tablets from luxury suppliers like Austria's Bachhalm, which churns out hand-made bars sprinkled with rose and violet petals, three ounces for about $20.
Most retailers are expecting a chocolate rebound in 2011, because Valentine's Day falls on a weekday for the first time in three years. Custom dictates women give chocolate to all of the important men in their lives - from fathers and school teachers, to office colleagues and, of course, boyfriends. So women will probably spend more this year to keep up appearances.
For NPR News, this is Lucy Craft in Tokyo.
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