How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your home country? In most countries, the special day falls on February 14th, and men and women around the world express their love for each other, by exchanging presents or going on dates. In Japan, however, it is not only for couples (or families) but also friends or even co-workers to celebrate Valentine’s Day together. A variety of exciting events are held, and you have the opportunity to try new products or sweets that are exclusively sold during the annual event. Here is some helpful information about unique Valentine’s Day customs in Japan.
- When did people start to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan?
- How to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan
- Japanese Valentine’s Day gifts
- What is White Day on March 14th?
- Popular Events on Valentine’s Day in 2023
- Japan Wonder Travel Tours
- Articles you may also like
When did people start to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan?
There are several theories over the origin of Valentine’s Day in Japan, but it is widely believed to have arrived in Japan in the 1930’s. Morozoff, a famous Japanese confectionery company, started as a small chocolate shop in 1931 when it began a marketing campaign to encourage people to buy and send chocolates to loved ones on February 14th. And so Valentine’s Day was introduced in Japan.
Valentine’s Day became more popular throughout the 50’s, when some other business and department stores started selling heart-shaped sweets, packed in cute boxes and romantic wrappings. In addition, the concept of Valentine’s Sale was introduced. It was clearly for commercial purposes in the beginning, but it gradually changed into a new custom in Japan. Throughout the 70’s – 80’s, it became more popular nationwide with a new concept that still exists even today as the fundamental idea of Valentine’s Day in Japan.
Valentine’s Day in Japan: “Valentine’s Day is when women give chocolate to men!”
This idea is rather unique and only known to some Asian countries including Japan and Korea. In other areas like Europe and North America, it is considered a day when men send a special gift or treat women in a special way, which is completely opposite to what we do in Japan!
How to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan
Unlike other (Western) countries, there is a range of options to choose from to celebrate the special day. It all depends on who you prefer to spend Valentine’s Day with!
Spend Valentine’s Day with family
If you want you can give chocolate or sweets to your kids or family. You can hold a special chocolate party or go shopping for special products and sweets, with limited edition Valentine’s designs or flavors!
Spend Valentine’s Day with a loved one
You can also choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day like most other countries in the world do: take the special day to tell your loved one how much you love them with a memorable gift! It doesn’t necessarily have to be chocolate, but anything can be the perfect Valentine’s present as long as it is thoughtful. Join exciting events held at popular tourist attractions or spend a relaxing time watching your favorite movies at home! It is also very common for couples to go out for a nice meal together and show their love for each other.
Spend Valentine’s Day with friends
The third option that is also popular in Japan is calling your friends and having a Valentine’s party! Get together with your friends and give each other some (home-made) chocolate sweets and enjoy some time together. Or organize an online party to celebrate the special day safely at home or with friends that live far away.
Japanese Valentine’s Day gifts
On February 14th it is customary for women to give presents like chocolate to their crush, but also to co-workers, friends and family to show their appreciation. This time of the year, stores have a wide range of chocolates on offer. In addition, homemade chocolates make a popular and more personal gift to loved ones. There are different types of chocolates to be given, depending on your relation to that person.
1. Giri choco
Giri choco (義理チョコ) is the type of chocolate that you give to someone who you don’t really have a crush on, but want to show your appreciation to. These can be your co-workers, siblings, parents, or any other person around you that supports you. The origin of Girichoko can be traced back to the 1970’s, when women started to give chocolate to their colleagues. Some people regard it as a good opportunity to express their gratitude to others, which can result in smooth communication. Giving giri choco is in no way seen as romantic and often the chocolates are a little cheaper.
2. Honmei choco
Honmei choco (本命チョコ) are the chocolates that you will want to give to your significant other, or the person for whom a woman has romantic feelings. Indeed, honmei choco are the love chocolates that are often of high quality, sophisticated designs, and more expensive. Women take great care into selecting the right love chocolates for their crush!
Also, honmei choco is especially a big thing for young girls who secretly bring chocolate and give it to their crush at school. In this case, chocolate sweets are often homemade and wrapped carefully with cute wrapping papers.
3. Tomo choco
Tomo choco (友チョコ) refers to the exchange of chocolate or other gifts between friends. The unique custom is said to date back to the early 2000’s, when girls and women started to send chocolate to their friends as a token of friendship. Some people get together and hold a (girl’s) party with chocolate sweets, while others secretly bring gifts to their friends and exchange them at school or at the office!
4. Jibun choco
Some girls also like to themselves and buy Jibun choco (自分チョコ), chocolate you buy and give to yourself for a well-deserved little treat.
Heart shaped chocolates with cute, lovable designs are the most popular gift, but not everyone gives chocolates. Other sweets, or gifts like jewelry, watches or other useful presents are popular gifts as well.
What is White Day on March 14th?
Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, on March 14th, another event is celebrated in Japan known as White Day. This is when the men who received a Valentine’s present are expected to return the favor. After girls and women give their loved ones a gift on Valentine’s Day, White Day is something they are looking forward to: is the feeling mutual? White Day is the day when men show their feelings by giving presents to the women that gave them a present on February 14th.
Popular Events on Valentine’s Day in 2023
Some of the popular tourist attractions in Tokyo organize Valentine’s events that draw numerous visitors each year.
Roppongi Hills will host a chocolate fair ROPPONGI HILLS CHOCOLATE COLLECTION 2023. 24 different stores participate in the event offering the various chocolate products for Valentine’s Day.
January 20 – February 14 (Business hours differ from store to store)
My Sweet Valentine & White Day at Tokyo Skytree
This year Tokyo Skytree will be holding an event for couples who are interested in going all out for a special date up above the clouds of Tokyo. They have a special photo spot set up for those who want to capture the special moment, as well as a wish ribbon on which you can write your wish to tie up.
They also offer special discounts for couples to go on a romantic date; ice-skating at an ice-skating rink that is temporarily located at the foot of Tokyo’s landmark! (A double ticket for the ice skating park: ¥3,600 > ¥2,200!)
January 21st – March 14th
Tokyo Tower organizes a Love Step Up event on February 13 & 14, where you can walk up to the first observation deck and enjoy the romantic view from there. The tower is also illuminated in alternating colors of pink and red.
Pray for luck in your love life at shrines
You can also visit a shrine and pray for luck and happiness in your love life. Some shrines that enshrine deities who are said to grant love-related wishes include Imado Shrine in Tokyo, Hikawa Shrine in Saitama, Koi no Ki Shrine in Fukuoka.
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