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The Magic of Valentine’s Day in Japan: Not Your Usual Celebrations

Posted By on Feb 13, 2014

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In the month leading up to Valentine’s Day, stores beginning put out elaborate displays selling chocolates and other such gifts, much like any other country. However, these displays are all geared towards women looking to buy chocolate.

In Japan, women have the social obligation to give every man they know chocolate on this day. The men get to sit back and relax as he’s pampered by all the women in his life.

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The types of chocolates given by women are called different terms based on the intention behind the chocolate. Meaning, chocolate you would give your lover is different than chocolate you would give someone who is just a friend.

The lowest form of chocolate is called giri-choco (義理チョコ)literally “obligation chocolate”. These chocolates are given to men you are obligated to give them to. This includes any male bosses, colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc.– basically any men that the woman has no romantic interest in yet interacts with on a regular basis.

Girls will often buy 30 boxes of giri-choco each year. Each box is generally around US$10 so they end up spending well over US$300! It’s no wonder that chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half their annual sales during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Up from giri-choco would be what they call tomo-choco (友チョコ), or literally “friend chocolate”. This would be, as you probably guessed, chocolate they give to friends, including to female friends.

Honmei-choco (本命チョコ) is finally, the chocolate reserved for your true “heart’s desire”. This is of course, the chocolate you give to the man you are dating, are married to, or would like affection returned from. This is usually store-bought chocolate; however, many women will choose to handmade chocolate because they believe store-bought isn’t good enough.

Tezukuri-choco (手作りチョコ), is handmade chocolate and it is preferred by most males because of the effort, emotion and time required to make it. To make it a bit easier, tezukuri-choco kits are now sold in stores providing everything one would need to make handmade chocolate.

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Sometimes women also hand-make chocolate-related goods, such as chocolate cookies or chocolate cakes to give the men in their family, such as their father, grandfather, and so on.

The last type of chocolate is actually called jibun-choco (自分チョコ), with jibun meaning “self”. It’s true that women can’t resist chocolate and with all this chocolate buying, most women can’t help but to spend around US$30 on nice chocolates for themselves.

Having all of these obligations and rules may not make Valentine’s Day in Japan sound very romantic, but it is still a time when many women decide to confess their love to men. However, since men don’t do any of the gift giving, they basically have to wait a whole month to see if their love will go unrequited or if it will be returned, which brings us to White Day.

March 14th – White Day

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White Day was created in 1978 by a Fukuoka-based confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido (石村萬盛堂). Originally they marketed marshmallows to men calling it “Marshmallow Day” (マシュマロデー), but this didn’t do well.

Instead, the National Confectionery Industry Association (全国飴菓子工業協同組合) decided to establish “Ai ni Kotaeru White Day” (“Answer Love on White Day”), now simply called White Day, as an answer day or reply day to Valentine’s Day. So on this day one month later, men return the favor to the women who gave them chocolates and other presents on Valentine’s Day!

[post by Beth]

 

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Beth Williams

Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she studied abroad in Japan during her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduating and is currently teaching English full-time in Hong Kong. Armed with her camera and a passion for travel, she is currently on a mission to photograph the world-- proving that you can work the normal “9-5” and still find time to travel on her blog Besudesu Abroad.

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