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Are you ready for Valentine’s Day?


The modern Western Valentine’s Day as we know it has changes a lot since its origins in (estimated) 14th century England. Beginning as a day of feasting, and eventually becoming associated with romantic love, Saint Valentine’s Day celebrates a saint that is pretty obscure and relatively unknown. There’s also an idea floating around that the romance comes from birds mating in mid-February, but in reality the origin of Valentine’s Day isn’t agreed upon by many people.

takeo choco

Photo: Valentine’s chocolate from the anime Ore Monogatari!!

Japan, however, put its own spin on Valentine’s Day, as it has done with many other Western holidays. Every February, Japanese women often hand make chocolates for the special men in their lives. This includes fathers, brothers, and friends who receive what is called giri-choco (obligatory chocolate), and also the cute boy in the next class who they have a crush on who receive honmei-choco (romantic chocolate). You can of course also buy the chocolate you hand out, Japanese department stores will stock special Valentines day chocolates and gift wrap accordingly, but a hand made chocolate offers more sentimentality.


Photo: Girls’ cocktails available from Tamageta-ya

If this sounds like the girls are doing all the work, then don’t worry because there’s something else Japan does a little differently. Starting in 1978 as a creation of marketing, White Day is a chance for boys to “answer” the chocolates they received on Valentine’s Day. It takes place on March 14, exactly one month later, and is also celebrated in South Korea, Taiwan, and China. For all the men who received honmei-choco, it’s now their turn to make one of three moves;

  1. Keep the chocolate they received for one month then return it, rejecting the girl
  2. Eat the chocolate and return nothing, rejecting the girl
  3. Return the gift with chocolate, or even jewellery, depending on the relationship

Both White Day and Valentine’s Day are largely consumer driven holidays in Japan. Not to say that Valentine’s Day isn’t consumer driven here in Australia as well! If you’re thinking of taking that special someone out this February 14, then check out our newsletter!

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