Cool Stuff to Buy
Shopping - Interior and Table
Traditional Storehouse Bento Box
kura bento box

Pack your lunch in an old-fashioned Japanese kura storehouse.

This adorable bento lunchbox is shaped like a Japanese kura storehouse. The design is based on the traditional architecture of tiled roof, white walls on the upper story, and black-slate patterned lower level.

The two-story building and separate roof compartment are big enough to fit a hearty lunch for a hungry student or office worker. Use the two box compartments for main and side dishes, sandwich and salad, or rice and toppings, and pop some candy or a snack in the roof. [US$29, €25.52]

Shopping - Outdoor Stuff
Cute Diode-character Folding Umbrella
diode umbrella
diode umbrella

This high-quality folding umbrella exudes high-tech electronic wizardry with its "transistorized" design.

It appears to be a simple black brolly decorated with colorful diodes and amps, but a closer look reveals that all the electronic components are cute, friendly characters.

Even the handle has a smiley face. Japanese customers love this item so much that some of them prefer not to take it out in the rain. (If you do take it out for a spin, it folds and fits easily into a bag or briefcase when not in use.)

From Japanese design group Kuralab. [US$29, €25.52]

Chocolate report
Chocolate report
Trends - Combini Watch
Five Only-in-Japan Valentine's Day Chocolates
cat chocolates
buddha chocolates

Everything is rather back to front in Japan when it comes to St. Valentine's Day. Chocolate manufacturers have to appeal to customers (women forced by social pressure into buying gifts for their male co-workers), so the designs are traditionally female even though the recipient is male. That's why there are so many cute cats, frogs, teddy bears, anime characters, and ubiquitous Hello Kitty chocolates.

It works out in the end though, since "giri choco" (obligation chocolates) are usually eaten by women anyway - the wives and girlfriends of the male office workers who look forward to enjoying the bounty of their partners' popularity at work.

Here are some of our favorite unusual chocolate designs for 2015.

Buddha Chocs. The image of a serene Buddha head statue is faithfully reproduced in these gold-wrapped chocolates from the Matilda Chocolate Collection.

Cat Chocs. These cute chocs with cat faces are produced by Felissimo Japan and Belgian chocolatier ChocoFino.

greek god choco
Greek God Chocs. What could be more romantic than a selection of flavors inspired by ancient Greek myths and planets? Choose from Cupid (vanilla), Venus (brandy), Gaia (champagne), Uranus (lime), Kronos (cointreau), Mercury (Earl Grey tea) and Nepture (salt) flavors.

Frog Chocs. Who croaks "I love you" better than a frog? 47 Club offers crispy-pancake packages filled with chocolate and stamped with a smiling frog offering his heart to you.
frog valentines
book chocolates
Book Chocs. For lovers of bookworms, Nagasaki Castella offers chocolate sponge cakes in a variety of book covers. Choose the same flavor in six different color bindings and collect a small library of Valentine cakes.

There were some nice ideas this year, but nothing really comes close to our all-time favorite Valentine's Day offerings from a few years ago - chocolate in the shape of rhinoceros beetles, stag-beetle larvae and bee pupae.
stag beetles
Images: Yahoo Japan Shopping (Buddha chocs), Street Girls Snap (cat chocs), Tokyu Net Shopping (Greek gods chocs), 47 Club (frog chocs), Nagasaki Castella Center (book chocs) and Internetcom KK (beetle chocs)..