Valentine's day in Japan: Is everyone the same?
As we all start the year off in January moving onto February, which is typically known as the month of love for most of the world, let's read further to see how Japanese celebrate Valentine's day?
Valentine's day falls on the 14th of February, surely everyone knows that. The very typical gesture on the day would be that men around the world are scurrying around trying to find something appropriate or squeeze in that last flower order to the florist just to show love gestures to the girl with gifts, flowers, or chocolates.
However, in Japan, it is the other way around!
On the 14th of February, women are usually the ones who give the person they fancy chocolates to subtly show their affection, and only until the 14th of March, which is known as White Valentine's Day, then the men will return the favor.
Usually, 2-3 weeks prior to valentine's day, most parts in Japan, department stores will start rolling out valentine's day specials or stores will start rolling out special hand made DIY sector for chocolates. Although there are many other items that can be given on this day, the most common gift to give is chocolates.
Since department store chocolates can be very pricey, especially for students, so hand-made chocolates came into the trend and also because of the sense of intimacy and making it special.
I remember, when I was dating a Japanese boyfriend in South Africa, he subtly asked if I would be preparing handmade chocolates soon when it was getting close to Valentine's day. Of course, I had no idea why he said that and was actually expecting something from him on Valentine's day!
After, which we spoke about it, and we both laughed out loud because he was expecting from me and I was expecting from him, speaking of culture clash!
So, here's a hint for those who are looking at dating Japanese, this can cause a huge misunderstanding when both people are expecting from the other person and imagine the disappointment of not getting anything! While everyone around you is celebrating love! And yes, in the end, I received my box of chocolates on the 14th March, as expected!
For those who are single and you happen to receive chocolates from your female friend or colleague, sometimes it may not mean love!
Japanese often have different types of chocolates on this day, here's what we have:
① Giri Choco 義理チョコ
Giri choco is usually given to friends, family and mostly co-workers. These chocolates are generally not hand made and are generally cheaper chocolates. So when you see everyone around your office getting this, please don't get your hopes high that it's a romantic gesture!
② Honmei Choco 本命チョコ
Honmei, means "the one in life" in Japanese, which typically means that this is special chocolate and is for a romantic partner or someone who the woman wants to confess romantic feelings too.
So the difference between this one and the one mentioned up top, these ones are usually very nicely packaged, carefully chosen and high-quality chocolates. Most probably hand made or purchased from the department stores. So, yes, if you find yourself holding a box of chocolates that look totally different from the rest of your co-workers, then start getting your hopes high!
③ Tomo Choco 友チョコ
Tomodachi, which means friend, is what this chocolate is for. For those who are single, women friends give each other to each other care and love to! So generally this type of chocolate is given from females to female friends.
So the typical guide to choosing chocolates in Japan
For chocolates on valentine's day, it's between going low budget or all out. However, for Honmei Choco, most girls still prefer to make their own chocolates. But, for people who don't really have time (or struggle in the kitchen sector) and opt for the purchasing option.
- For common, more easily accessible (most probably, last-minute too) there are typical brands such as Meiji, Kitakats, Dars, Meltykiss which can be purchased at any convenient store or supermarket, these go for 100-200¥, which from effort and value-wise.
- The typical European/American high-end chocolate brands usually roll out fancy valentine's day packages such as Lindt, Godiva, which is considered as a very popular valentine's day choice. Godiva would usually range from 1500-2000¥ for a box of 7 pieces
For a Japan brand in this range:
- Royce chocolate, which is originally from Hokkaido, is a good option too, ranging from 799-1200¥
- Morozoff, a brand from Kobe, is very well known for the aromatic line which goes for 799¥ for a nicely decorated box of 6 delicate chocolates
If the person you are giving the chocolates to care more about quantity than the brand, a good option is to consider buying at the supermarket, which 1000-2000¥ would get you a box of 10-15 pieces of chocolate varieties in a box.
Of course, you could go for specialities, and one of the options I bought for a close friend was a box of osake chocolates (Japan alcohol chocolates) which was 799¥.
Tip: Japanese are very particular about the packaging, this is why most chocolates sold during valentines are beautifully wrapped and more emphasis is put on the packaging than the actual chocolates.
*All prices are only guidance
White Valentines Day
White valentine's day is celebrated one month after Valentine's day, on March 14th, which generally means that men return the favor of what they had received on February 14th.
There is also a saying in Japan that sanbai gaieshi (三倍返し, "triple the return") which is usually what the men do in Japan, they return 2-3 times the value of what they had received on the 14th.
Is everyone the same?
Not everyone receives chocolates though, my current partner is Japanese, and he doesn't like chocolates at all. So I gave him a tie for Valentine, and yes, of course, I didn't get anything on February 14th, which I had expected from previous experiences.
However, I received a crystal vase as a return from him on the 14th of March! So clearly, they stick to this tradition. Word of advice, if you are dating a Japanese, it's best suggested to be accustomed to their traditions to avoid disappointment!
It’s my first year working in a corporate in Japan, I was wondering if I should give Giri choco to my co-workers? Any suggestions? What would you do as a foreigner in Japan for valentine's day?
Happy Valentine's day!
Born: Taiwan Raised & Education: South Africa Background: Int Telecommunications. Currently living: Tokyo, Japan. Studied @ Waseda university. Current Job: @Tokyo in Technology Consultancy. Interests: Love exercise, Food, travels! Follow me for more insight into Japan life!
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