Jan 22, 2019

Valentine’s Day in Japan

For couples, and girls that have a crush on someone, Valentine’s Day is a big event in Japan. However, it is pretty different from what I knew about Valentine’s Day in Germany. 

Only girls give gifts on Valentine’s Day

In Germany usually, the guys give presents to their girlfriends/wives on Valentine’s Day. Most of the time it is flowers or chocolates, so you see a lot of guys lining up at the flower shop on the evening of the 14th of February.

In Japan, only the girls give gifts on Valentine’s Day and usually it is chocolate which can be self-made or bought at a store.

Valentine’s Day in Japan photo

This is chocolate I made for my husband on Valentine’s Day this year.  

Already in January, you can find special Valentine's areas in several big department stores across Japan where all the famous chocolate brands sell their Valentine's collection. This chocolate is usually pretty pricey but looks quite amazing.

Valentine’s Day in Japan photo

Valentine's chocolate from the brand Goncharoff 

Girls give chocolate to their boyfriend or the guy they have a crush on. In the latter case, the chocolate is considered as a confession of love. This chocolate is called Honmei-choco. There also are other kinds of chocolate you give to others on Valentine’s Day like Tomo-choco (chocolate you give to your female friends) and Giri-Choco (chocolate you give to your coworkers as a social obligation), but these are not related to romantic feelings at all.

You get a present back on White Day

The Japanese culture of gift giving is quite complex and one aspect of it is that if you receive a gift you always have to give a gift in return. For Valentine’s Day, the return gifts are given one month later on White Day on March 14th. White Day is popular in several Asian countries but is not celebrated elsewhere.

Typical White Day gifts are cookies, jewelry or white chocolate. There is a social rule that guys have to give a return present of double or triple the value of the original present, which makes the whole thing quite complex for guys. In the case of romantic feelings this might be understandable but I doubt that a lot of guys want to give expensive presents to female co-workers they received Giri-Choco from. Since the whole Valentine’s Day/White Day issue causes quite some trouble at the workplace some companies started forbidding the gift-giving completely.

Some girls even try to abuse this social construct and give “fake Honmei-choco” to several guys hoping for expensive return presents.

Have you experienced a Valentine’s Day in Japan? If yes, did you give or receive any gifts?



Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/

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