Unique Features of Valentine’s Day in Japanese Culture

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Valentine’s Day is an occasion for couples to express their love for each other. However, each country has its own characteristics. Join Happyinktee to discover Valentine’s Day in Japanese culture!

1. The Meaning of Valentine’s Day in Japanese Culture

Valentine’s Day February 14 is not a strange holiday in the world, but you may be surprised to know that this holiday in Japan is quite different from other countries. At first, it was a day when only women gave gifts to men, usually giving chocolates or cookies; Second, Valentine’s is not exactly a day just for the romance of love. Valentine’s Day in Japan is a day to show respect to all the men you know, including family members, friends, co-workers, and even those who have a simple relationship or a friend. Learn to sit a few rows away from the table.

valentine's Day

2. History of Valentine’s Day in Japan

The history of Valentine’s Day in Japan dates back to the post-war recovery period and has brought about a change in Japanese cultural norms. Before that, the Japanese considered the act of confessing love by women. Thanks to Valentine’s Day, women can “take a risk” to express their feelings through chocolate. Chocolate makers and gift sellers not only found a great market development opportunity but also contributed to a change in the way men and women communicate with each other.

3. The difference between Valentine’s Day in Japan and other countries

In Japan, women will give gifts to the men they love on Valentine’s Day, so in other countries, how do people celebrate this holiday? In Western countries, many people think that Valentine’s is “a holiday dedicated to lovers”, not for ordinary friends. Couples can go out to dinner together and give romantic gifts. It is quite normal for men to give gifts to women. In addition to popular gifts such as flowers, chocolates, and greeting cards, jewelry is also one of the items that women love very much.

In some countries like the US, men often send a bouquet of flowers to express their love to their beloved woman. In Italy, it is believed that if the couple gets married on Valentine’s Day, the couple will have good luck, so many people propose or announce their marriage on this occasion. In Finland, February 14 also has the meaning of “friends’ day”, so people will send gifts to close friends and colleagues on Valentine’s Day. People of each country will have their own way of greeting Valentine’s Day, but the most important thing is still to express sincere affection for those close to them in life.

4. Types of chocolates and their meanings in Japan

Currently, there are many types of chocolate given on Valentine’s Day, depending on the purpose and object. Let’s take a look at the most popular types below:

  • Giri-choco

Giri-choco 義理チョコ means “obligation chocolate” and is often given to men by women who do not have romantic feelings for them. Giving giri-choco to people of higher social rank such as bosses, teachers, senpai, is mainly for the sake of obligation rather than to show affection. In addition, women also give giri-choco to colleagues, classmates, people in the same active group/club.

valentines gifts
  • Honmei-choco

Honmei-choco 本命チョコ means “favorite chocolate” for Japanese women’s “dreamers”. Men will usually only get honmei-choco from a girl they really like. Honmei-choco can be homemade, expensive, or extremely beautiful. Whether the chocolate is homemade or not is also quite important to the recipient. Usually, if women give homemade chocolates (whether the chocolate is beautiful or not), it shows that they put a lot of love into each other. Before Valentine’s Day, shops sell a variety of materials and wrappers so that girls can buy and make their own honmei-choco.

  • Tomo-choco

Tomo-choco 友チョコ is “friend chocolate” to give to friends, mostly female friends. The word “tomo” comes from “tomodachi” which means friend in Japanese. This type of chocolate is the exception to the rule of giving gifts to men only on Valentine’s Day. Essentially, these are chocolates or cakes that women give to their friends of the same sex as an expression of friendship. Tomo-choco is quite popular among schoolgirls. The gift is usually home made and will be given to all female friends, classmates or club members. Not only chocolate, they also often give cookies in transparent plastic bags decorated, tied with a string and a note saying “Thank you”.

  • Jibun-choco

Jibun-choco 自分チョコ is “chocolate for yourself”. We all love chocolate so why not buy one for yourself on Valentine’s Day? For many people, this is probably the most “consumed” chocolate on this special occasion.

  • Gyaku-choco

Gyaku-choco 逆チョコ is “reverse chocolate”, meaning that men give chocolates to women on Valentine’s Day. This is in contrast to the tradition of women giving gifts to men as it is known. In addition, Japan has its own day for men to return the favor to women called White Valentine.

5. White Valentine’s Day

White Valentine’s Day falls on March 14, exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. Many other East Asian countries also celebrate the day, but it originated in Japan in 1978 to give men a chance to show their appreciation for the gifts they received on Valentine’s Day. This is also a day for romantic dates or simply to share a special meal at home together.

On this day, men will give a gift to any woman they received a giri-choco from last month, and there is an implicit rule: this gift must be worth at least three times more than the gift he gave him. he received.

In Japanese, people often use the phrase “san bai gaeshi”三倍返し (“return three times”) to describe this. Men don’t usually make their own chocolates, so they give things like candies and flowers that are available for purchase. For girlfriends, they will give a more elaborate and expensive gift, such as high-end chocolate, jewelry or a cute scarf, especially if the object is white to celebrate the holiday, it is even better. good.

For people who are in a romantic relationship, returning a gift of equal value is said to be a sign of the end of the relationship, and will generally give the impression that you are in a relationship. put yourself in a position of power. So be very careful when reciprocating honmei-choco from a girl!

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 You can read more at >> Valentine’s Day: Meaning & Best Gift For Lover 2023.


Valentine’s Day in Japan is unique, isn’t it? Follow Happyinktee for more useful information about the land of the rising sun!

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