Wednesday, May 30, 2007


My husband returned yesterday from his week-long visit with his family in the U.S. (and there truly was much rejoicing as well as crying). There is more than one tale to tell but I'll start with souvenirs. In the past, I've mentioned that my husband has received gifts from students and now he's returning the favor. The picture above is the large quantity of See's candy that he bought to give to his favorite students.

There are 13 of the boxes with American flags. They each have 4 pieces of candy and cost about $5 each. My husband chose this design because these are souvenirs from a trip to the U.S., not out of some sense of patriotism. There are 4 of the seashell design boxes and they are pretty much the same as the flag boxes. They just have a different design. My husband will be giving these to the majority of students but the larger boxes wrapped in blue paper are 1 lb. boxes which he'll give to those he enjoys teaching the most (these cost $17.50). The peanut brittle and peanut chews are for anyone he misses with the chocolate, I guess.

This was actually a pretty sizable investment considering See's isn't cheap. However, my husband wants to show those students who have regularly taken his classes for the last few years and who have been fun to teach how much he appreciates them. I guess this may look to some extent like him greasing wheels to ensure that the students continue to be devoted to him but that's not the way he is. He's sweet, generous, sincere and genuine. That's why he has so many regular students who enjoy lessons with him. He doesn't need to bribe them with chocolates.

My husband is a particular fan of See's because he grew up with them and he wouldn't miss the rare chance to pick some up for us as well. This picture is of the friendly See's lady holding the two-pound custom box he picked out for us. I'm guessing it'll take us ages to get through this and it's currently sitting un-opened in the fridge.

One can buy See's candy in Japan (in Shibuya) but the prices are outrageous. My husband dropped by there awhile back and took some pictures. The box pictured above is of a 2 lb. gold box for $112. In the U.S., this box is $35.60. You can guess that we don't buy much See's in Japan and can't blame him for going a little overboard when he patronized one in the U.S.

Incidentally, there is a move by some major chocolate manufacturer's in the U.S. (Hershey's, for one) to re-define chocolate so that the cocoa butter content can be reduced and replaced by vegetable fats and the resulting product can be advertised as real chocolate (despite being more of a "mockolate"). See's was (and may still be) one of the companies that opposes this which is why the topic springs to mind. I actually don't mind if chocolate companies make this switch as long as they are required to print the fact that it's no longer real chocolate on the label. However, the way this is going, it will allow companies to make this substitution and not make it clear which candy is "real" and which is using cheaper ingredients.


CMUwriter said...

That is interesting about the FDA definition of chocolat, but I have noticed a shift in chocolate in the US for some time. A lot of the major chocolate makers, like Hershey have started making specialty chocolates with larger amounts of cocoa butter, and more refined butter. And a lot of varieties of different stuff. Some of it is pretty good. I don't see that company ever changing it's recipe. It would be like when coca cola made "coke" and everyone was up in arms. basically it seems like a lot of these companies are taking steps to improve the product, and i think the smaller companys, ones that sell the trash v-day candies, want to cut the chocolat with fake cocoa butter.

Androo said...

I enjoyed this blog because it made me recall trying to do the "giri choco" thing in college. For some reason I went to a See's my friend knew about somewhere in Tokyo (probably because I thought I knew what I would get). My hopes at getting out of there under $100 were quickly dashed and I ended up buying those little koala chocolates as a joke-giri instead.

I send my former host mom See's Candy all the time because I remember her knocking one of those 1 lb boxes out in about a week when I first lived with her.

Anonymous said...

Is there something wrong with "a sense of patriotism"? The Japanese (as well as everyone else on the planet) are patriotic, why shouldn't an American be? Or is the American flag now just a nice design and nothing more?

This is kind of sad I must say.

shari's husband said...

Anonymous: She wasn't saying that patriotism was bad, just that it wasn't my reason for buying that particular chocolate. I do, however, have something I want to say about the topic. (This is my opinion, not hers.)

I'm cautious of patriotism and flag-waving because I feel it often comes with a feeling of "my country, right or wrong." In politics, the flag is routinely used by scoundrels to cloak bad behavior and draw support while doing nothing substantive to deserve it. We currently have political leaders who authorize torture of prisoners and have removed the basic protection of habeus corpus, breaking precedents that date back to America's founding, and they do it while wrapping themselves in the flag and saying it's necessary for America's protection. And they do it with the blessing of a populace that doesn't care enough to stop it.

I know that waving a flag doesn't mean that you support everything that the current government is doing. It's more that you support the ideals of the country, and I do. But it seems to me that many who wave the flag support policies that make America less like the country I want it to be.

And yes, the Japanese are patriotic, though they hesitate to wave flags to say so, because even now it carries for them associations with Imperial Japan, when (as has happened many times in human history) blind patriotism was used to manipulate the population and lead it in disastrous and immoral directions. Patriotism in Japan is, like many things here, mostly unspoken and assumed.

This is all very far from an innocuous image on a box of chocolate, but I think it's pertinent to the attitude behind your comment. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with a flag design on chocolate. But I do think it's wrong to disparage someone who doesn't see patriotism as something that must always be a good thing.

Shari said...

cmuwriter: I think that Hershey's is looking to alter the low end of their line such as Hershey's kisses and chocolate bars. It's even possible that this will produce a type of chocolate which people enjoy more (though I don't think that's the aim - cocoa butter is expensive relative to vegetable fats). Who knows, this may even be about introducing an even lower line. ;-) At the moment, companies that don't meet current standards have to say "chocolate flavor" to distinguish the product. This change is aimed only at changing that sort of labeling requirement which makes me rather suspicious.

androo: The See's in Tokyo must have been an incredible shock for you. ;-) I bet your host Mom loves your for the regular fix!

anonymous: You're reaching an awful lot of conclusions about what I think based on one line in a post that has nothing to do with the topic you're commenting on. You might want to consider asking first and basing your reaction on more than an aside in a post about buying chocolate as souvenirs.

Thanks to all for the comments!

Kai|Kat said...

"My husband chose this design because these are souvenirs from a trip to the U.S., not out of some sense of patriotism."

Nothing in this statement mentioned anything about Shari's husband being unpatriotic. It's only logical to buy souvenirs that show where the items originated from... much like buying a t-shirt with "Vancouver, Canada" on it along with a red maple leaf.

Good teachers are rare, btw. I'm glad to know your husband's one of them. Some people are gifted with the ability to teach well but that's a small percentage of the actual number of people who take up work as educators.

I suppose getting chocolates for studying is a pretty good bonus too! ^_^

Anonymous said...

Only thing that beats Sees is some Swiss Chocolate! Sees is definitely the best USA has to offer. But I find the Japanese think it is too sweet. They seem to prefer the typical macadamia nut chocolates. But I'd take Sees Soft Centers over any other chocolate.
viki in Chiba

tornados28 said...

$112 for a $35 box of chocolates? That's insane. Why would anyone pay that much?

Shari said...

kai|kat: Hi there. :-) My husband really is an excellent teacher. He's better than I (and I think I'm pretty good). I think it's a combination of how he conceptualizes information and knows how to present along with his manner and personality (which are extremely appealing - though I'm biased).

viki: I think that you may have a point about some (many?) Japanese people finding See's too sweet though I think women, by and large, will like them. Also, Japanese people often share larger quantities with others. I'm rather shocked to find that I'm also finding U.S. candy way too sweet (though not the See' least not yet as the box is still sealed). I wonder if this is my age or having been in Japan too long but when I have tried some of the U.S. stuff my husband brought home, I can't taste much other than sweetness.

tornados28: I wonder how See's in Japan stays afloat but, then again, there is also Godiva which is somewhat more expensive. I guess you can get anyone to pay a fair amount if it's presented well enough, particularly if they buy it as a gift.

Thanks to all for the comments!