, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 14 – The streets of Nairobi were painted red on Sunday, as florists set up tents to display red roses, flower bouquets, chocolates and teddy bears for lovers celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“There is no business but we hope things will get better as the day goes by,” one vendor Tabitha Makori said, “I have only sold to four customers and this is way below my expectations as at 10 am.”
Being a Sunday, city streets are usually deserted but most florists expressed optimism of better business in the afternoon.
“I know they (customers) will come,” another florist Kevin Wambua said, as he watered his flowers at a tent on Moi Avenue.
Others appeared to have lost hope of making good sales “given the state of the economy.”
“People have no money, they are no longer spending huge on such occasions, but I am hopeful of selling a number of flowers before the end of the day,” another florist on Koinange Street, Mary Mwangi said.
But as confirmed from people like Catherine Okello, a banker, it is not all about money.
“Valentines must be celebrated, I am here to buy my boyfriend flowers, it is all about love and not money,” she said, advising others to “squeeze their budget and get something little for Valentines.”
It is a different story altogether in Japan where women elbowed each other in a stampede to buy Valentine’s Day chocolate for the men in their lives since Saturday.
In this part of the world, the men folk do sweet nothing on February 14 while the women do battle in heaving aisles, loading up on confectionery treats for the object of their desire.
If they are lucky, the guys will reciprocate on White Day in March, when traditionally they give a white gift, from sweets to lingerie.
“My feet hurt, my arms hurt, and my head hurts!” winced Kana Shimizu, clutching two dainty bags of Belgian chocolate that cost more than 10,000 yen ($90) at a plush store in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
“This one is for my boyfriend, the other one is for me. I don’t want him having all the fun.”
Having splurged on “honmei” (true love) chocolate, the 27-year-old hair stylist raced off to find somewhere less up market to buy “giri” (obligation) treats for her male work colleagues.
“They can make do with cheap chocolate,” she laughed. “No, seriously. It’s such a pain every year.”
Entire floors of Japan’s cavernous department stores are dedicated to Valentine’s Day, showcases brimming with heart-shaped goodies by international chocolatiers.
“I’m here with my wife,” said 42-year-old architect Riki Taniguchi. “I’ve got my eye on the Belgian chocolate but I’m not sure she thinks I deserve it.”
Valentine’s Day first appeared in Japan in the late 1950s as the economy picked up steam after the devastation of World War II and Western products were highly prized as the country acquired a taste for sophistication and luxury.