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Valentine’s chocolates…for me or my BFF

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Japanese women traditionally give men chocolate on Valentine's Day, but with the number of singles near record highs, many are indulging in themselves.

"A larger proportion of working women [are] single and they have larger disposable incomes," so they choose to buy expensive chocolates for themselves, said Yuki Uchiyama, spokesperson for the research arm of Rakuten – Japan's largest e-commerce retailer.

A record 20.1 percent of men and 10.6 percent of women in Japan remain unmarried by age 50, according to a 2013 government survey.

While nearly half of the women in a survey by online retailer Rakuten plan to buy Valentine's Day chocolates for their partners this year, 24.2 percent of them also plan to buy for themselves, up from 9.8 percent in 2011.

They're more likely to spend more on themselves too: On average, women spend 1,684 yen ($14.08) on themselves compared with 1,382-1,543 yen for the men in their lives.

Evolving tradition

Cupid's day is a major event for chocolate makers: 25 percent of Japanese chocolate makers' annual sales are generated on Valentine's Day, according to a 2014 KPMG report.

The tradition of women buying chocolates on Valentine's Day began as a marketing ploy by a Tokyo chocolate maker in 1958. It stuck in part because many Japanese men used to return the favor on "White Day," another event on March 14 where men give women chocolate.

But today, more than a quarter of the men say they don't want women to give them chocolates, and 43.7 percent say it's because they can't be bothered to "return the favor" on White Day, according to the Rakuten survey.

Read MoreGodiva tries for 'accessible' as Valentine's Day looms

Jewels you can eat

The new approach has shifted consumer tastes away from household consumer names to specialty stores, with a preference for European brands, according to Kiyomi Hirano, managing director of Chocolate & Cocoa Association of Japan.

European luxury brands are more than happy to cater to the trend.

Luxury Italian jeweler Bulgari, for example, has a Japan-only chocolate range. The hand-made two piece "jewels you can eat" Valentine chocolates box is priced at 4,500 yen ($38.25).

The top range box specifically caters to lovers, but the luxury jewelry brand also offers a relatively more reasonable 3,500 yen box of four chocolates "specifically to gift and share with girlfriends," according to Bulgari Il Cioccolato spokesperson Rieko Yamamoto.

Another Italian luxury brand, Armani, also offers Valentine's chocolates: A red heart-shaped box of six chocolates retails for 2,500 yen and a box of fourteen chocolates for 5,000 yen.