How is Valentine's Day Celebrated in Japan?
With February 14th
just over three weeks away, we thought we would share some facts with you about Valentine's Day in Japan. While there may be some similarities, Japanese Valentine's Day customs are somewhat different to the traditions we uphold in the West. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they bear more resemblance to the practices of Japan's neighbours in South Korea, Taiwan and China.
Valentine's Day Gifts in Japan
In Japan, Valentine's Day is seen as an opportunity for women to display friendship and gratitude to the men in their life – and not just the men they have a romantic interest in. These tokens of goodwill are given to bosses, colleagues and male friends, usually in the form of chocolate, and with the size and quality of each recipient's gift reflective of their significance to the sender.
So while a husband or boyfriend might expect to receive honmei-choko
('true love chocolate'), they would be disappointed (and probably a bit worried) if all they got was giri-choko
('obligation chocolate') or, even worse, chō-giri choko
This may all sound a bit one-sided so far, but ladies, do not despair – your time will come. Exactly a month later, in fact, on the day known in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China as 'White Day'. On March 14th
, the men to whom you sent the chocolate will be obliged to send you a gift in return of three times the value. One can't argue with that.
Failure to do so is interpreted as a show of superiority, whilst returning a gift of equal value signals an end to the relationship.
Popular gifts include white chocolate, marshmallows, cookies, jewellery and white lingerie, with the value of the gift dependant on the Valentine's Day gift that is being reciprocated.
The precise origins of the name 'White Day' are disputed. Some say it signifies the colour of sugar and/or the confectionary that is given, while others offer a more abstract interpretation, with white being a symbol of purity in Japan.
History of Valentine's Day in Japan
As with Christmas in Japan
, it all started with a marketing campaign. This particular one was conducted by confectionary company Mozoroff Ltd in 1936 and proved to be a huge success. 20 years on they were selling heart shaped chocolates by the bucket-load, with other confectioners following suit.
Nowadays, Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales on the run-up to Valentine's Day.
During the late 1970s, the Japanese National Confectionary Industry Association launched a campaign to make March 14th White Day. Companies started selling white chocolate to mark the occasion, and the custom caught on in neighbouring East Asian countries and remains popular to this day.
Our Valentine's Day Gifts from Japan
If you fancy giving your loved one a something a little more original than chocolates this year, we have a great selection of Japanese gifts that are perfect for Valentine's Day. From silky soft kimono
to super cute kokeshi dolls for couples
and much more, we're certain to have something that'll set their heart a-flutter.
Browse our website to view the full range, and don't forget to select the free gift wrapping option when you place your order.
Valentines Chocolates image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Heart Shape Of Marshmallows image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net