As Feb 14 draws near, you’ll see ads for Valentine promotional campaigns everywhere. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated very differently from other Western countries. Unlike their Western counterparts, on Valentine’s Day in Japan, women are expected to give chocolates to the men. These chocolates range from “giri-choco,” which are given as a form of courtesy to male friends, classmates and co-workers, to “honmei” chocolate, which is reserved for the women’s “one true love”, and can be either purchased or homemade.
Whether it is “giri” or “honmei,” Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. According to the Chocolate & Cocoa Association of Japan, of the ¥452 billion in annual sales of chocolate in 2013, approximately 53% was spent during the month leading up to February 14. It is not unusual for confectionery companies to spend the bulk of their yearly marketing budget on Valentine’s Day.
For Japanese department stores, the Valentine season is one of the biggest seasons of the year. Department stores pull out all the stops for Valentine’s Day, often reserving entire floors for luxury chocolates. In recent years, the European brands have conquered Japan. During their campaigns, department stores often bring the chocolate makers from Europe to be on hand to talk with shoppers and give chocolate-making demonstrations.
All the big name department stores, such as Matsuya, Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya, will be holding their annual chocolate festivals again this year. Matsuya Ginza opened its Valentine Patio on Jan 28 and until Feb 14, will feature hundreds of different chocolate brands, focusing not only on the appearance of the chocolate, but also the taste and quality of the raw materials used. For those looking to put a personal touch on their Valentine’s Day chocolate, workshops and chocolate-making kits are available in stores all over the country.
Hotels and restaurants
Hotels are also cashing in on the Valentine season, offering unique, limited-time luxury chocolates and various restaurant and spa packages. Some Valentine’s Day dinners, such as that offered by The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo or the Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo include services such as chocolates, unlimited champagne and roses. For those looking to spend a night in style on Valentine’s Day, many hotels are offering special Valentine’s Day package deals. The Grand Hyatt Tokyo has a package called “Be My Valentine”, which gives couples the chance to stay in the grand room, with special room service dinner that includes a glass of sparkling wine, and late checkout service.
Dining options for Valentine’s Day are plentiful. Whether it is a romantic dinner for two or just a night out with friends, there are restaurants offering special courses for every occasion and budget. Popular restaurants such as Max Brenner have completely revamped their menu, offering personalized courses for Valentine’s Day.
Besides department stores, hotels and restaurants, there are many other ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan.
For example, there are many concerts and fan meetings organized, including Korean pop group SECRET, celebrity Cha Seung-Won, or the ever-popular girl idol group Momoiro Clover Z, whose concert will be broadcast live at theaters throughout the country.
Tokyo Disneyland is bringing back its annual show, “Valentine Nights”, a special show including all of the characters. Tokyo Disneyland’s Valentine Night 2015 Special Plan includes pair tickets for the show, as well as a two-day passport to the parks, a special dinner at one of the resort restaurants, and a choice of lodging at one of the official Disney hotels. For those who cannot make it to the park itself, Tokyo Disneyland is offering various different Valentine’s Day merchandise, as well as chocolates featuring the popular Disney Tsum Tsum characters.
If you’re in the Asakusa area, check out Tokyo Skytree which has a chocolate-inspired look until Feb 14. Couples can purchase Tokyo Skytree Nightivew Premium tickets, which includes pair tickets to the observation deck, a dinner at Tokyo Skytree’s Sky Restaurant 6 3 4, and a private elevator viewing of Tokyo’s night lights. For those willing to trek outside of Tokyo, Yunessun Onsen in Hakone is offering a limited time chocolate bath.
Although Valentine’s Day in Japan has continued to be a day of gift giving from women to men for many years, there are many advocates of adopting the Western Valentine’s Day traditions. A movement called “Flower Valentine” has been picking up steam around the country.It encourages men to present flowers to their loved ones on Valentine’s Day. Supported by flower shops nationwide, there are also many different “Flower Valentine” events. For example, Shibuya Hikarie is holding an event on Feb 7 called Hikarie Flower Marche, where male customers who have eaten at a café or restaurant in Shibuya Hikarie can take their receipt to the 7th floor exhibition area, where they can pick five different flowers to be made into a Valentine’s bouquet for their significant other.
Japan Restaurant Week is supporting the “Flower Valentine” movement, offering a special flower present to any couple that makes a reservation on Feb 13 or 14 during their Japan Restaurant Week 2015 Winter Premium event.
The history of Valentine’s Day in Japan may not be as long as its Western counterparts, but Japan has adopted the tradition with open arms, and continues to offer unique Valentine’s Day experiences. Whether you choose to spend Valentine’s Day in Japan at a department store, hotel, restaurant, or at one of the many events, the possibilities for Valentine’s Day 2015 in Japan are endless.© Japan Today