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Valentine's: A time for everything romantic

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-02-13

Itís a day filled with mushy presentations of red roses, sweetheart cards and chocolates, and letís not forget the billions of yen stores will rake in promoting Valentineís Day.

Valentineís is one of those mysteriously special days that captivates everyone, even the ĎBah Humbug!í nay-Sayers who canít be happy with the Christmas holiday. Valentineís Day is Saturday, and stores, restaurants, resorts and on-base facilities are rolling out the red carpet to make Cupid bring the love bug alive.

Almost like the chicken and the egg (which came first?), Valentineís has fierce competitors arguing about whatís most important. Itís the day florists and chocolate shops do their briskest business of the year as men queue up to buy dozens of red roses and box after box of fancy chocolates to dazzle their special ladies. Chocolates are a •70+ billion industry in Japan alone; multiply that worldwide, and thatís a lot of gooey sweet stuff accounting for more than 16% of storesí annual chocolate sales.

Greeting card companies argue their influence tops the list, thanks to those romantic cards filled with whimsical, mushy words that are sent or given during this week. Hallmark Greeting Card Company, the worldís largest, says more than one billion Valentineís Day cards will be sent this year, and that does not count the mega-millions more school children will exchange in classrooms practically everywhere.

Both on-base and off, Valentineís is big business. The Kadena Officersí Club is hosting a gourmet dinner from 5 ~ 8 p.m. Saturday in the clubís Daedalian and Torii Rooms. Dinner is $50 per couple, with the first 100 reservations receiving a special gift. The Rocker NCO Club on Kadena has a Sweetheart Gourmet Dinner starting at 6 p.m., a six-course dinner that includes Seafood Bisque, Crab Cake, Lemon Sorbet Intermezzo, Roasted Beef Tenderloin Medallions, Jumbo Shrimp Avocado Salad and a Chocolate Loverís Delight. The price is $65 per couple. Mikeís Italian Garden is also in the Valentineís Day mood, offering steak or chicken specials for $24.99 per person.

Banyan Tree Club has something a little different, a Valentineís Day Cookie Special. Place an order today or tomorrow, and pick up the special heart-shaped cookie with a short message for only $7.95. Other military clubs are also caught up in the Valentineís spirit. Check with your favorite local Army, Navy or Marine Corps club for details.

Off-base, itís easy for couples to share their special moments this Valentineís. All Samís Restaurants on Okinawa are rolling out the specials through the 15th, led by the groupís signature Samís By the Sea restaurants. Samís By the Sea Awase and Samís By the Sea Oroku are featuring Salmon with French Ratatouille for •1,780, and Tenderloin Steak topped with King Crab and Hollandaise Sauce for •2,900. The always delicious Lobster Imperial and Filet Mignon Steak combination is also on the menu for •3,950.

Samís Cafť is offering three special entrees for Valentineís; Pan-fried Red Snapper topped with Crab Stuffing for •1,650, Pan-fried Red Snapper topped with Crab Stuffing and Tenderloin Steak combo for •2,380, and King Crab Legs Imperial and Sirloin Steak combo for only •2,480. Samís Anchor Inn in Ginowan celebrates with King Crab Legs Imperial and Tenderloin Steak combo for •3,380. Samís Anchor Inn Kokusai, Samís Maui Kokusai and Samís Maui Kumoji are all offering a Lobster Tahitian and Sirloin Steak combo for •4,150.

Getting away from food, Kadena Marina is offering a Valentineís Day Sunset Boat Cruise, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The $35 per person fee includes appetizers and drinks served during the cruise. Okuma Recreation Center is offering a Valentineís Weekend Package for $199, a four-day, three-night stay Friday through Monday. The package includes a steak & lobster dinner for two.

Shilling Community Center on Kadena has a full slate of Valentineís activities, starting with an Artisansí Arena 10 a.m. ~ 3 p.m. Spaces are $5 for artisans and crafters selling wares. Instructor demonstrations may set up free. Thereís family Bingo 2 p.m. ~4 p.m., a Family Valentineís day Dance 6 p.m. ~ 8 p.m., and Valentineís Day Speed Dating in the evening.

A lot of things happening on and for Valentineís, a day that nobody really knows how began. A Saint Valentine is widely credited for being behind it, although todayís holiday contains bits and pieces of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition all wrapped in folklore. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

The best of the legends about the origin of Valentineís Dayóbecause itís a super romantic, made-to-be-a-chick-flick taleóevolves from the Roman Empire, where a mean-spirited Emperor, Claudius II, issued a degree that only single men could be allowed in the military, and that marriage was outlawed. As the story goes, Valentine defied the emperorís order and in secret, married young lovers. Valentine was reportedly jailed for his actions, and the legend extends further that Valentine, himself a hopeless romantic, sent the first Valentineís card to a young girl.

An important cultural difference in Valentineís celebrations here in Japan. Unlike many places, including the United States, Valentineís Day in Okinawa is a time when women honor their men, showering them with chocolates and sweet affection. A terrific idea, to say the least, but menÖplease note. Be prepared to reciprocate with flowers, chocolates and most probably much more when White Day is celebrated. The Japanese tradition is for men to reciprocate ten-fold. Think gifts! Lots of gifts! In fact, Valentineís Day and White Day in March are as popularóand lucrative for retailersóas Christmas.

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