Valentine’s Day… Japanese Style

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Valentine’s Day in Japan is celebrated differently than anywhere else in the world. It is a day that women give gifts to men. It is usually chocolate. There are several different types of chocolate given, for a multitude of reasons. There is, of course, etiquette involved, and as with all gift giving in Japan, it is complex and a minefield for the unintiated.

Women give chocolate for the following reasons….

Giri-choco is given to bosses, family members, colleagues and friends. The clunky English translation is “obligation chocolate”, but in fact it is closer in meaning to debt of gratitude.

Honmei-choco is given to a lover, husband or boyfriend, and the translation is “real objective”. This is more in line with the Western ideal of a Valentine, and it is an opportunity for women to go all out… often the chocolates are carefully hand crafted by the giver. Traditionally women in Japan were unable to express their feelings to a man, as to confess feelings, or kokuhaku, was taboo. So, when Valentine’s Day started to be observed in Japan in the 1950s, it was seen as a way for women to let men know they were romantically interested.

Jibun-choco is chocolate bought for yourself. It is quite common for women to gather together with friends on Valentine’s Day and eat chocolate, in a group.

Tomo-choco is chocolate given by women to their female friends.

Unlike elsewhere in the World, there is a day, one month after Valentine’s Day, called White Day. March 14th is the day men gift women, often with not just chocolate, but also handbags, lingerie, flowers and clothes, and customarily, worth three times the value of what they recieved on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️

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