On Valentine’s Day in the U.S., it is popular for couples to give each other thoughtful gifts, flowers, candy and cards at a romantic dinner. This is not the same on Valentine’s Day in Japan but it is a unique experience.
According to Japanese tradition, women give chocolate to men as gifts instead of the other way around on February 14th. A woman can give chocolate to confess her feelings for someone, however, it is also highly encouraged that she gives to male friends, coworkers and supervisors as well. There are different types of chocolate which determine who the gift is for. Honmei choco (true feelings), giri choco (obligation) and tomo choco (short for tomodachi which means friend). Some women usually buy more expensive chocolate as honmei choco and inexpensive ones for giri choco.
Where to Buy
Supermarkets, convenience stores and department stores begin to sell Valentine’s Day chocolates around mid-January. Many department stores have special sections designated for the holiday sweets. Isetan, in Shinjuku, has a large collection filled with over 90 chocolate brands from around Japan and the world. They also have samples of chocolate and different snacks to eat at the venue.
A lot of women prefer to make honmei choco on their own since it is given to someone they love and they do not want to simply buy off the shelves. Materials to make chocolate and nice packaging to present it in can be found in shops like Daiso, the 100 yen shop.
Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, March 14th, is White Day. This is a sort of ‘answer day’ for the men who received chocolate from women in February to give a return gift. Chocolate and other gifts are acceptable.
A ‘New’ Day
Some companies have started to ban chocolate gift giving in the workspace and more women have even stopped buying for others all together. They practice a form of self-care and buy chocolates for themselves, jibun choco, instead of following the tradition.