Valentine’s Day in Japan
Written by Andres Salazar
There are a couple of elements that come to mind when people hear “Valentine’s Day”. Here in Canada, chocolate, the colour red and winged babies with bows and arrows are classic holiday imagery. It seems like there isn’t much change from year to year. While those pieces might seem so concrete to us, it goes without saying that countries celebrate holidays differently.
Japan is no stranger to putting its twists on popular holidays. Whether it’s a good bucket of KFC on Christmas or having costumed street parties on Halloween, the land of the rising sun also loves to have its own spin on the classic day of romance and friendship. To get to know Japanese Valentine’s Day a bit better, I interviewed two Japanese people to see what they can tell us about what February 14th is like over in Asia, as well as what shocked them when they came here. Here is what they had to say:
“As someone from Japan, what are the first things that come to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day?”
“Sweets. We mainly gift chocolates, but baked goods such as brownies, macaroons, and cookies are popular as well.”
“Valentine’s Day in Japan is the judgement day for girls to give chocolates and tell their feelings to their crush. So, tension can be felt on the day since they are so nervous about whether their plan goes well. I could say it is such a big event for girls for sure. On the other hand, this makes boys attentive because they expect some girls to confess to them.”
“What are everyday things to see or do on Valentine’s Day in Japan?”
“Valentine’s Day in Japan is a big event for women trying to confess their love. It’s also a day to show appreciation to others (i.e., coworkers). Some people buy chocolates from stores, but most people choose to give homemade goods.”
“You can see some funny scenes right before the day. Some boys beg their female classmates for chocolate as mercy. Even if they are not popular, it doesn’t matter anymore as long as chocolates from any girl. Some girls buy tons of small, individually wrapped chocolates and distribute them to boys for pity’s sake. On the other hand, for their crush, girls make homemade chocolates from scratch or buy expensive chocolates.”
“What is different about Valentine’s Day in Japan? What shocked you about the holiday in Canada?”
“ Chocolates are usually given from women to men on Valentine’s Day in Japan. There is a day called White Day, which is celebrated on March 14th, and that is the day for men to return the favour. There are also three types of chocolate: Honmei-choco (favourite chocolate) for significant others or your crush; Giri-choco (obligation chocolate) for your classmates, coworkers, or bosses as appreciation; and Tomo-choco (friend chocolate) for friends.
“It’s quite different since this is basically a confessing event in Japan. Here in Canada, boys can also give girls chocolate too, so I was shocked about the difference in Valentine’s Day. At the same time, it is kind of sad Canada doesn’t have the same sort of tradition because it is so much fun to see people get either excited or sad depending on whether they get any chocolate or not.”
“Here in Canada, Valentine’s Day also celebrates close friendships; is that the case in Japan as well?”
“Yes, Tomo-choco is given to friends. It is given to anyone regardless of gender.”
“There are three types of valentine’s chocolate: 本命 (honmei)，義理チョコ(Giri-choco), 友チョコ (tomo-choco). Honmei is for crushes. Giri-choco is the one for either mercy or obligation. Tomo-choco is the one for friends. There is something similar in Japan too.
We, here at the Meliorist, would like to thank Mina and Jin for their participation in our interview! The most fascinating thing to learn about through this interview is how giving and receiving chocolate can be such a heavy event. Though Japan has its take on Valentine’s Day, one thing is still consistent with our version of the holiday: it’s a great day to celebrate those who are close to you.