Love, Chocolates, and Beyond: Valentine’s Day in Japan

How does Japan celebrate the Day of Romance?

BY SCRAP Global Team

It’s already February! And that means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Like in many countries, such as the US or Europe, Valentine’s Day is a big deal in Japan too. Join us as we explore the unique customs of Valentine’s Day in Japan!

What kind of gifts do you anticipate from your significant other on Valentine’s Day? According to a 2017 Statistica survey, the most commonly gifted Valentine’s presents in the US were candy, closely followed by Valentine’s cards and flowers. In Germany, the top choice is red roses. In both countries, men are expected to be the primary gift-givers, although this tradition is undergoing some change in certain regions. But turning our attention to Japan, how does Japan approach the romantic occasion of Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day in Japan:

In Japan, the spotlight is on chocolate as the quintessential Valentine’s Day gift.  Homemade or bought, cheap or extremely expensive. Valentine’s Day in Japan centers around chocolate. A lot of department stores offer professional wrapping of the chocolate to make the presentation even more stunning.

What also sets Japanese Valentine’s Day apart from other countries is the fact that women are the ones who give men the chocolate. 

But not all chocolates convey the same message. Enter the realm of the different types of chocolate:

Giri-choco (Obligation Chocolate): A kind of chocolate gifted out of politeness to male friends, bosses, or work colleagues.

Honmei-choco (True Feeling Chocolate): Usually carefully handcrafted chocolate made for a significant other.

Jibun-choco (Self-Treat Chocolate): Chocolate that you buy for yourself to enjoy.

Tomo-choco (Friendship Chocolate): Most commonly, Tomo-choco is exchanged between female friends.

Gyaku-choco (Reverse Chocolate): Even though it is not that common, chocolate that is gifted by a man to a woman is called gyaku-choco.

The workplace tradition of Giri-choco is slowly waning, with some companies even banning its exchange due to the pressure employees feel to buy expensive chocolate for their superiors.

But with Valentine’s Day, the spectacle is not over.

Fast forward exactly one month to the 14th of March, when men have to reciprocate to the women on the so-called “White Day”. The gifts extend beyond chocolate to include cookies and other delicious treats. It is also not uncommon that there is an expectation that the gift from men should be thrice as expensive or extravagant as what they received on Valentine’s Day.

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BebaBlog Post 17 – Feb 2024