Chocolate-making event offers a taste of Japanese culture

Chocolate-making event offers a taste of Japanese culture

Caitlin Dinh displays her chocolates and Valentine's Day gifts Feb. 14 as her friend takes her photo in the Kawasaki Reading Room.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Caitlin Dinh displays her chocolates and Valentine's Day gifts Feb. 14 as her friend takes her photo in the Kawasaki Reading Room.

The Kawasaki Reading Room smelled like chocolate Feb. 14 as University of Nebraska-Lincoln students filled silicone molds with the melted confection to create personalized Valentine’s Day gifts, mirroring the Japanese tradition of making handmade candies for family and friends.

Tables were filled with sprinkles of pink, red, purple and white; junior Lillian Nguyen filled a plastic bag with them and shook her chocolates around to cover them in color.

Madoka Wayoro, director of the Kawasaki Reading Room at Nebraska, said she wanted to host the chocolate-making event to teach something about Japanese customs in a fun way.

Students gathered Feb. 14 for traditional Japanese chocolate-making in the Kawasaki Reading Room.

“This is something new we’re doing to teach a piece of Japanese culture,” Wayoro said. “In Japan, Valentine’s Day is important and we do handmade gifts for the very special people in our lives.”

Traditionally, Wayoro said, women give gifts on Valentine’s Day and men reciprocate with a gift -- usually purchased -- a month later on White Day.

Senior Tristan Hilderbrand, one of the students who came to the event, said after spending a semester in Japan through an internship she was excited to bring back special memories.

Dafina Mazlan has her photo taken by her friend, Nur Ainal Ismail, after making their chocolates Feb. 14 at the Kawasaki Reading Room.

“I really miss Japan,” she said. “I was there during a Valentine’s Day in 2014 and I received so many different kinds of homemade chocolates from students and friends. They were really creative.”

Hilderbrand said she appreciated the holiday in Japan more because it is less commercialized than in the United States, and seems to be a holiday celebrated by children more than adults.

“It’s much more sentimental in Japan,” she said. “People get together and create beautiful candies and cakes to give to their friends and family.”