It’s a man’s . . . . holiday: Valentine’s Day in Japan


Romance and the smell of chocolates is filling the air. . . . . must mean that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Like many other holidays that are celebrated by both Japan and the United States there are some interesting differences.

Although you can find chocolates, cookies and cakes the one thing about Japan’s version of IMG_5422Valentine’s Day that is different is who gets them. Here in Japan women give gifts of chocolates and pastry to men including love interests, co-workers, bosses, friends and family members. 

(Don’t worry ladies you’ll have your chance to receive lovely treats from the gents on March 14th. That’s a holiday called White Day when the roles are reversed but the concept is very  much the same.) 

Like in the United States department stores, specialty shops and bakeries around Japan jump at the opportunity to show off the delicious confections and other fun treats. Often times the wide variety of products are shown off in large displays like the one depicted at the local San A Ginowan Convention City in Okinawa.

IMG_5423With mountains of chocolates and sweets available how on Earth is a someone supposed to decide what to get? Luckily there are a few guidelines that can help you make your choice. For those men in a woman’s life who are not a love interest there are chocolates called “giri-choco” or obligation chocolate”. These are the chocolates given to co-workers, bosses and other men who may be involved in your everyday life. In general these giri-choco are smaller, less expensive chocolates.

For the love interest a woman might buy more expensive, elaborate chocolate or even make treats of their own. These are called “honmei-choco” or “prospective winner chocolates”.  Although that translation might not be the best  I think the idea comes across.

In more recent years there is a new trend of women exchanging chocolates with their girlfriends on Valentines Day and has been given the name “tomo-choco” or “friend chocolate”.

Whether you want to confess your love for that hunk at work or share the love of chocolate with your friends department stores, grocery stores, bakeries and confectionaries around the island are bound to have what you’re looking for!

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