Valentine’s Day The Japanese Way

One of the things I love learning about here in Japan is how they take Western Holidays and make them different. Valentine’s Day is a great example of that.  In the States Valentine’s Day is a romantic day to exchange candy, flowers, and gifts with your loved ones and to pass out cards and candies to coworkers or classmates. Here in Japan it is a little different. For starters Valentine’s Day is actually two days.

Valentine’s Day in Japan is February 14th just like in the states but unlike in the States, this is a holiday for the men. Women are expected to buy or make chocolates for the men in their lives. Not just boyfriends or husbands but also classmates, coworkers, bosses, or anyone she has a social obligation. They actually have it broken down into three types of chocolate the women buy.

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First type is called Giri Chocolate. Typically this is the social obligation chocolates. The woman purchases inexpensive chocolate to give to coworkers, classmates, bosses, male clients that she interacts with often, etc.. There are no real feelings behind these chocolates other than a social obligation.

The second type is called Honmei Chocolate. This is reserved for a woman’s husband, boyfriend, or someone she wants to express feelings for. Honmei Chocolates are usually an expensive chocolate or homemade chocolates and usually include a gift.

The third type is Tomo Chocolate. These are chocolates women give to their female friends.

I know this sounds a little one sided but on March 14th it is the women’s turn to receive stuff. March 14th is called White Day. Any guy that received chocolates a girl on Valentine’s Day now has to return the favor. Traditionally the chocolates the guys buy are slightly more expensive than they received. Instead of regular chocolates they give white chocolates, white candies or marshmallows (this is why the day is called White Day). Husbands and boyfriends will also give jewelry or white clothing or lingerie.  I obliviously haven’t been here for a white day yet so keep your eye out for a more in depth post about in March.

While learning about Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan, I learned about Black Day in Korea. In Korea if you don’t if you don’t receive anything on either of the days, then you are suppose to dress in black on April 14th for Black Day and go out to eat a noodle dish called Jajangmyeon with other friends who didn’t receive anything for either holiday.

Valentine’s Day in the states seems so much simpler.


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