We introduced how Christmas is celebrated in Japan in one of the previous articles (Christmas in Japan). You may have been surprised by the unique way developed in Japan to celebrate Christmas. We are now going to surprise you even more by introducing you to how Japanese people celebrate Valentine’s Day!
In Japan, typically on Valentine’s Day girls and women give chocolates to their boyfriends or to confess love to someone. Yes, it’s the other way around from Western culture where men send gift to women. Also, why specifically chocolates?
Similarly to Christmas in Japan, the beginning of Valentine’s Day trend was also for merchandise purposes. A few confectionery manufacturers started to promote the idea of sending chocolates as gifts on Valentine ‘s Day around the 1950s, by the 1970s women sending chocolate to men had become a well-established concept.
With Japan’s own uniqueness, the trend has developed further. On top of “Hon-mei choco” (the literal translation is “chocolate for the favourite”), which is a chocolate to give to loved ones, there is “Giri Choco” (the literal translation is “chocolate out of obligation”), which is a chocolate to give to male friends. Giri Choco is usually handed out to male colleagues from female colleagues. There are also “Tomo choco” (chocolate for friends), “gyaku choco” (the literal translation is “reverse chocolate”, meaning men giving chocolates for women), so on and so on…the list continues !
Is it only men who get the benefit of Valentine’s Day? Actually, there is “White Day” in Japan, which is the day for men to give gifts back to women. White Day is on 14th March, just a month after Valentine’s Day. On White Day, traditionally men send confectionary products including sweets, marshmallow and white chocolate, but in recent years the contents of the presents have diversified.
Having explored the birth of these unique adaptations of the Western customs, Japanese companies seem to love taking advantages of the European cultures and turn them into business opportunities. It’ll be interesting to discover what the next adaptation would be!