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Understanding Valentine’s Day (and White Day) in Japan

12 Comments
By GaijinPot

In most places celebrating Valentine’s Day, women can expect chocolates, flowers and a romantic dinner from their partner. However, in Japan, it’s the opposite: women give chocolates to the men in their lives—from their boyfriends to their coworkers—although not all chocolates are equal.

The special men in their lives receive honmei choco, “true feeling” chocolates, while Taro from accounting only receives giri choco, or “obligatory chocolates.” Guys stuck in the friend zone and even lady pals can also receive tomo-choco, or “friend chocolate.” It isn’t entirely one-sided. In March, the tables are turned and men are expected to reciprocate their feelings with sanbai kaeshi (literally, three-fold reciprocation).

Ever wonder how Valentine’s Day started in Japan or why things are so different compared to the West?

Here’s everything you need to know about Valentine’s Day in Japan.

Beginnings and lost in translation

Like most holidays imported from the West, Valentine’s Day in Japan started as an attempt to encourage excessive spending. Morozoff Ltd., a Kobe-based confectionery company, first used the holiday to attract foreigners in 1936 but didn’t start producing heart-shaped chocolates until 1953. Afterward, stores such as Isetan began promoting Valentine’s sales and the holiday boosted in popularity.

While no one is certain, and we’re sure Japan’s patriarchal leanings played a part, it’s thought that the switch from men giving chocolates to women to the opposite originated from a translation error. Thanks to Valentine’s Day, Japanese candy companies reportedly make half of their annual sales this time of the year.

What’s White Day?

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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wish i could go to japan each feb for valentine shopping, best country ever to shop for valentine chocolates.

department store has a floor full of chocolate vendors and samples to give out. brands from all over the world.

how i wish to be there every feb, so sad can't travel with covid.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

A soulless quid pro arrangement. A Western idea appropriated for profit just as Christmas for Kentucky Fried Santa Claus and Christmas Eve romantic date night have been.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

everything is about profit not just valentine. to make life enjoyable look at the positive side and enjoy the sweet.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

A Western idea appropriated for profit

Like Halloween, which was a pagan holiday until the West turned it into am excuse to get free candy and party? Or Santa Claus, who is based on the Christian figure St. Nicholas and is essentially a mascot bigger than Mickey Mouse?

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Like Halloween, which was a pagan holiday until the West turned it into am excuse to get free candy and party? Or Santa Claus, who is based on the Christian figure St. Nicholas and is essentially a mascot bigger than Mickey Mouse?

At least these holidays bring joy to kids, though. In Japan they are celebrated in the stores and that's it.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Western festivals are more popular among Japanese in Japan than their own culture/festivals.

People from Hokkaido doesn't know about Okinawa culture/festival but they know about Western. Same about Okinawans.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Overcomplicating an otherwise simple and easy to understand holiday, as per the Japanese way.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Nothing but large corporations making a day to celebrate to make money like all Holidays!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@mtuffizi.

Seconded. Shopping in Japan is great fun: street food stalls, konbinis, open fronted shops, crowded Donkis, Kinokuniya's international supermarkets, enormous superstores and the highest of the high end in Ginza. Buying chocolates in the Wako Annex in Ginza is an absolute must. It was such an extraordinary experience I included it in a novel.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

gbr48

totally agreed, your comment cheers my day. i like to visit wako annex down in basement as well, so many goodies. i have a simple mind and like to enjoy every minute of my life if i can.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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