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Happy Valentine's Day from iLoveJapanTours! Let's talk about this joyous occasion today.


Compared to other parts of the world, Valentine's Day in Japan is a little peculiar. First, it is not Japan's default "lovers' day" - that distinction goes to the Tanabata, which falls on July 7. Valentine's Day was introduced in Japan relatively recently, around the beginning of the 20th century. And this introduction of a western equivalent of the lovers' day caused a second peculiarity. It seems that, in Japan, only girls give gifts on Valentine's Day.

And thirdly, Valentine's Day is all about chocolate in Japan. It is rarely flowers, or greeting cards, or other kinds of gifts you would expect in other cultures. In fact, the idea of Valentine's = chocolate is so prevalent that there are even categories within chocolate gifts!

The first is "giri-choco," giri meaning obligation. As its name implies, this chocolate is given out of a sense of duty to other people. Maybe your co-workers, or classmates, or close acquaintances. For many guys out there, being the receiving end of a giri-choco is bittersweet, perhaps, because it makes them feel that they are "motenai" (not popular). Still, there is no refusing a giri-choco - it is a gesture of goodwill.

Now the best kind of chocolate to receive is a "honmei-choco." This is the kind of chocolate reserved for someone the gifter has serious feelings toward. Basically this also means that the chocolate is usually of higher quality. Gifted to boyfriend (candidates) or husbands, a honmei-choco is a gesture of love.

One thing you can be sure of is that, if you are a guy, you will be swimming in chocolate (mostly obligatory ones) on Valentine's Day. So wait, do guys not gift anything back to girls?

They actually do, just on a different day. Exactly one month after Valentine's Day is the "White Day," observed in Japan on March 14. This occasion is even more recent, said to have been started in Japan in 1978. The origin of this name appears to be the "white chocolate" that was marketed to be guys' answer for the dark chocolate they had received. Since the conception of this day, guys have been giving other white gifts to girls as well.

So, did you give/receive Valentine chocolate last Tuesday? Are you looking forward to White Day?

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