A Lonely Valentine’s Day
essay, Feb. 2019
When I was an elementary school girl, people often said that I was: “always smiling.”. On my report cards, my homeroom teachers left the comments like: “she is everyone’s good friend” or “she smiles warmly at everyone”. And that’s true. I myself also remember smiling and laughing a lot as a kid.
It was a result of my happy childhood, but also because I changed elementary schools a lot, as I moved from place to place. The quickest way to make new friends was to be nice and friendly. Of course, the first way to show kindness is to smile at others.
As I got older, I no longer had a single (homeroom) class, and I had more opportunities to choose friends as I wished. I enjoyed being alone and myself as I grew up, so people stopped telling me “you always smile”.
As an adult, there is less stress to smile than when I was a kid, because I’m no longer moving around often and trying to make new friends, and of course, that’s a good thing for me. But on the other hand, I was wondering, “maybe, that’s because I’m not as happy as I was when I was a kid”.
I asked myself this because I was walking around Ginza all alone and noticed I didn’t have any expression on my face at all (1). On the weekends in Ginza, major streets became a car-free pedestrian zone. I saw many families, couples, groups of friends, and tourist groups.
It seemed everyone had a companion that day, but not me. My husband had to work unexpectedly, so I ended up spending my whole weekend alone.
But, I came to Ginza anyway because I was on a mission: buy cookies in Seiko-tei in Matsuya Ginza, a traditional and luxury department store.
In terms of sweets, cookies are my absolute favorite. The last time I went to Matsuya Ginza, I found the Seiko-tei cookies in boxes with pretty squirrel pictures on them. However, since they were expensive for daily snacks, I decided not to buy them that time.
So, I thought this time would be a nice opportunity, that is, the Valentine’s day, to buy Seiko-tei cookies for me myself (2).
It seemed that the gourmet shops in Matsuya Ginza were all so delicious that they were all worth trying, but Seiko-tei was the one. There were many cookie boxes, each with a different squirrel picture, so I took time to consider which one to buy.
In front of me, a woman was buying many boxes of cookies for presents.
After I came back home, I brewed English tea to have with a taste of the cookies. I opened the box. Walnut cookie balls were “sleeping” in the blankets of pure white sugar powders (3).
While putting the first cookie ball in my mouth, I was slightly worried that the packaging would be nicer than the taste itself, but fortunately that was not the case.
The ball immediately melted on my tongue and left the walnut flavor. Cookies in Japan generally have simplistic but pure and delicious flavor, and it was just like that, so I popped the cookie balls into my mouth one after the other. I didn’t even have time to make a specific comment on them, just shouting “so yummy!” in my mind.
Suddenly, I realized that I was having a big smile in my mind. Even though my mouth did not actually smile, I was still happy by myself and “smiling” internally.
So, whenever I wonder why I don’t smile much these days, all I have to do is to treat an internal smile the same as an outward smile.
Way to go to:
Matsuya Ginza from Tokyo train station:
Open Google Map
1. Ginza is one of the major areas in Tokyo where you can buy luxury-brand items, take a rest in traditional cafes, and enjoy delicious food at department stores.
2. Valentine’s Day in Japan was originally the day that a girl/woman gave chocolates and made a confession to a boy/man she loved. Nowadays, it has various meanings: the day to give chocolates and say thank you to your friends/colleague; and the day to treat yourself to chocolates/luxury items you don’t usually buy.
3. Traditionally, Japanese people are familiar with animism—the belief that places, objects, plants, and all creatures have a distinct spiritual essence, like believing that plants have souls. So, it is usual to personify the nature.
Chief editor of mono.coto Japan & Owner of books1016. Lived in the US, China, Germany, Taiwan and HK. Love cookies