Sharing Japan’s way of celebrating Valentines Day

by Feb 11, 2021Blog, Featured Article

Love is in the air! February 14th for some, is a day to look forward to, and for some, it is a day to dread. However, cheesy and cliché as it may seem, for many, Valentine’s Day is ultimately a time to celebrate love and a reminder to show appreciation to loved ones. 

In Japan, Valentine’s Day also holds significance. 


One of the primary differences is that Valentine’s Day is mainly about woman gifting to men. Another difference is that for Valentine’s Day, the women usually give chocolates and candy as opposed to flowers, jewelry, or other gifts like that. In Japan, the traditional way that Valentine’s Day is celebrated, is for the girls to give chocolates to the boy that she likes, as well as to others where there is no romantic interest. But not all chocolates are created equal. There are two types of chocolate that the women give. One is called “giri-choco” that are quick ready-made chocolates that you give to friends and family, or people that you love in a non-romantic way. “Giri” means obligation, so these chocolates are more of an obligatory gift for loved ones to show that you care.
The flip side are “honmei-chocos”. Honmei-choco are given to the ones the girls are truly romantically interested in or their romantic partners. These chocolates are usually either fancier or expensive chocolates, or are homemade. Whether they are homemade or not is usually significant as well. The homemade ones usually mean more and holds more significance than store-bought chocolates, no matter how fancy. Usually around Valentine’s Day, the shops are filled with chocolate making supplies and cute gift wrap so that honmei-chocolates can be made. 


There are also many other cultural norms that take place with the Valentine’s Day gift-giving too. For instance, the guys who receive the gifts are sometimes known to only accept the honmei-chocolates from the girl that he is interested in. Although most times all chocolates are received and accepted from everyone, it tends to differ on a person by person basis. 
In businesses and corporate offices, Valentine’s Day also may be celebrated in similar fashion, and there is even also sometimes an expectation for chocolates to be handed out. People do not actually have to give out chocolates, but some people desire to or feel as though they must, as in there is an unspoken pressure to do so for some.

Although it seems like Valentine’s Day is a bit one-sided in Japan, Japan also celebrates “White Day” the next month on March 14th. People return the sentiment with gifts and chocolate to people that gave them chocolates during Valentine’s Day. Traditionally this is the day when men will do the gift-giving, and usually return the gifts three-fold. The gifts are usually not chocolate either, but can be other types of gifts.

No matter what you think about the day, there is no denying that Valentine’s Day is a heavily celebrated day in Japan and is considered a special day for some. Depending on the person, Valentine’s Day is just an ordinary day. But even if you’re just hanging out with your friends or by yourself, there is something undeniably sweet about a day of celebrating love and expressing true feelings…with or without chocolates.