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  • 執筆者の写真April Dykes

Valentine's Day in Japan

We are all very familiar with Valentine’s Day and its traditions.  Did you know that Japan has its own unique traditions for the day?  Before diving into what Japan does differently, let’s go over the traditional way Valentine’s Day is celebrated.

What comes to mind when you think of giving Valentine’s Day gifts as a kid?  If you’re like us, it’s giving cards to and receiving cards from family, friends, and classmates.  If you’re a teen, it’s giving and receiving a Valentine's card, chocolates or flowers from your boo, your crush, or even your friends.  All in all, it’s a day of giving and receiving gifts for men, women, and children alike.

In Japan, mainly chocolate gifts are still given, but only by women. Let’s dig into the story behind this tradition, as it is fairly new. 

According to the  Japan Times, when Valentine’s Day was first introduced to Japan in the 1930s, Morozoff Ltd., a Kobe-based confectionary, used Valentine’s Day to attract foreigners.  Morozoff Ltd. didn’t start making heart-shaped chocolates until 1953.  After the switch to heart-shaped chocolates, other confectionaries started making them, and the holiday became popular.  People from various backgrounds wanted to participate as the holiday grew in popularity.  Somewhere along the way, handmade chocolates also grew in popularity, in addition to the continued purchase of chocolates from confectionaries.

No one knows exactly why only women give chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but many think that it was due to a translation error.  Don’t worry, ladies, on White Day, men return the favor.  Whether you’re giving handmade chocolates or store-bought ones, there are so many rules down to the types of chocolates and the rules when giving them.

There are 5 types of chocolates given on Valentine’s Day:

giri-choco (ギリチョコ),

honmei-choco (本命チョコ),

jibun-choco (自分チョコ),

tomo-choco (友チョコ),

and gyaku choco (逆チョコ). 

Giri choco are basically obligation chocolates.  You give them to express gratitude to male family members, friends, coworkers, and supervisors. 

Honmei choco is ‘favorite chocolate.’  You only give this type of chocolate to your person, boyfriend, husband….situationship (🤷🏾‍♀️we don’t judge). 

Jibun choco are treat yo self chocolates. 

Tomo choco are chocolates that you give to your female friends.  They’re usually expensive, elaborate, and meant to be enjoyed away from the men. 

Last but not least, we have the uncommon gyaku choco, which is given to a woman by a man.  

As one can imagine, the long list of people to buy or make chocolates for can be a bit much.  Japanese women have expressed feeling pressure to buy gifts for bosses and coworkers to avoid offending anyone.  So, in recent years, some companies have banned chocolate-giving to avoid that pressure, making girichoco in the workplace less common.






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