Valentine’s Day in Japan

Valentine’s Day in Japan

They always say you should follow the local customs…  Valentine’s Day in Japan has a bit of a twist to it to what some of us from the west might be use to.   It is only the women who give presents to men!   The history of the thinking behind this was that Japanese women were too shy to express their love and that Valentine’s Day could provide a great opportunity for them to do this.    I am not sure the shyness part is true as much nowadays but the tradition still holds.   Traditionally women give chocolates but the yearly ritual has expanded to more elaborate gifts as well.   The chocolate companies in Japan have used this to boost their sales with so much success that they actually do half of their annual sales in the week leading up to Valentine’s day!   Men are suppose to return the gifts to the women a month later on March 14th on “White Day”.

This has gone on to expand beyond chocolate for your true love, or  “Honmeichoko”, to a concept called obligation chocolate or “Giri-choko”.  This can be for your friends, colleagues, or even your boss.   The concept of giri is a complicated part of japanese culture to explain but its a concept of mutual obligation that Japanese follow where if someone does a favor you then you feel obligated to do something for them.   This Giri-Choko is a way of doing that so when you get your chocolate today you might need to spend a little time deciding if you just got Honmeichoko or Giri-choko…

The stores in Japan are decorated to the scale you might see at Christmas in the US.

Valentines Day in Japan

Valentines Day in Japan

Valentines Day in Japan

Valentines Day in Japan

It is a little hard to describe how crowded the counters are to buy chocolate but think of the experience of trying to buy a t-shirt at a rock concert and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

Valentines Day in Japan

Even the Beer Industry is getting in on this with Valentine’s Day Beer.   Genius!

Valentines Day in Japan

My beautiful wife Mayumi was very sweet to me this year.    She got me several things but one of the things was a bottle of 1997 Opus One.  I have always wanted to try Opus so I am very excited.  I will save it for a good occasion when I can sit and enjoy it.   Thanks Mayumi!  I love you!

1997 Opus One

Thanks for stopping by today…



  1. I think the concept of being in favor to someone when they do something for you is an Asian thing. We have a similar belief here in the Philippines. Depending on who you owe a favor to, it’s either a blessing or a burden.

    You should reciprocate on White Day. :)

  2. I just wanted to say I love reading your blog. I find the cultural posts especially interesting. My husband and I are taking our first vacation to Japan in April. It’s always been his dream to go.

  3. Thanks for the feedback Sarah. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. Enjoy your trip to Japan. Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

  4. Interesting viewpoint Kat… I always reciprocate on White Day. I end up giving stuff on V-Day as well…

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