What is Valentine's Day in Japan like?
Is Valentine's Day celebrated in Japan? Valentine's Day occurs every February 14th around the world and generally people exchange candy, flowers and gifts between loved ones and special friends. Indeed, when the tradition started men gave gifts to ladies they secretly admired.
The mysterious far eastern country, Japan, has a Valentine's culture of its own. Many local supermarkets, department stores, and patisseries are full of chocolate products every year from late January to February 14th. The Valentines advertisements and gift wrapping are decorated in red and pink ♡ shapes. Valentine's Day in Japan has a unique tradition; it is the day when women give chocolates to men to “confess their love."
Types of Valentine’s Day gifts in Japan
Until a few years ago, Valentine's Day in Japan was the day when women confessed their love to men, however, the event has changed with time. Of course, some people still make a "confession of love", but Valentine's Day in Japan is becoming an opportunity to express various forms of "affection" with a gift of chocolates. Here are some examples.
Honmei-choco：a chocolate gift of true love
The traditional way of thinking in Japan. A woman gives chocolates to a man she loves and confesses her love to him. Some present handmade chocolates, others buy expensive ones, but all are true gifts from the heart. For a single person it is a confession of love, for those already in a relationship, it is considered the proof of ongoing love.
Giri-choco：a chocolate gift of courtesy
First appeared around the 1980s. Japanese women prepared chocolates for men, such as friends, bosses, colleagues at work, customers to whom they wanted to show their appreciation or friendship. Giri-choco has no romantic implications. It is intended to convey gratitude and deepen communication, and many are purchased at a reasonable price.
Tomo-choco：a chocolate gift for friend
This is a friendship gift. Women and especially teenage girls give chocolates to each other as proof of their friendship. They enjoy this opportunity to choose chocolates that match their girlfriend’s tastes, such as sweets and cute things, and to create the opportunity to comment on each other's gifts.
Fami-choco：a chocolate gift for family
Chocolate that is lovingly given from female family members to male family members (husband, son, father, etc.). Women enjoy cooking chocolate-based confectionery with their children to share with their family. The whole family enjoys the time together at home on February 14th.
Gohobi-choco：a chocolate gift to reward oneself
Women buy chocolates for themselves. As a reward to themselves for working hard at work or in their daily lives, women give themselves the treat of chocolates.
White Day：a return gift for women from men
Another unique Japanese custom. On March 14th, one month after Valentine's Day, men will offer a return gift of cookies, marshmallows, candies etc. to women. A man who was given a Honmei-choco (true love gift) but does not want to reciprocate the affection, will not offer a return gift.
The history of Valentine's Day in Japan
Valentine's Day concept is believed to have been brought to Japan for commercial purposes by the retail and confectionery industry in the 1950s after World War Ⅱ.
The question is, why did Valentine's Day become a day that women choose to confess their love to men?
In Japan, ‘Yamato Nadeshiko’ which means a traditional Japanese woman who is modest, walks three steps behind her man making him look good, was regarded as how a woman should be. Therefore it was difficult for women to be forward with their feelings. However, around the 1950’s Japanese women started to gain more control as major consumers, and they were further influenced by the Women’s Liberation movement in the United States. For these reasons, it is believed that this unique Valentine's Day culture in Japan became a big hit and spread all over Japan.
Although Valentine’s Day does not have any historical or spiritual connection with Japanese people, they embraced the spirit of Valentine’s Day and developed it in their unique way. Japanese generally are flexible in accepting other cultures and events.
Whether there is a religious or traditional connection or not, Japanese love festivals. Around Valentine’s Day streets and shops are decorated beautifully just like they are during Christmas time. Pretty red and pink love heart decorations encourage shy Japanese people to open up with their love.
Why not visit Japan in February and enjoy Valentine's Day in Japan? You will be surrounded by the feeling of love and delicious chocolates that are beautifully displayed.
Journey to the East has two tours running across Valentine's Day including the very special and popular Snow Spectacular Tour of Japan