Everyone knows Valentine’s Day – the holiday of love, couples and a lot of commercial greeting cards. But Japan has a slightly different (and tastier) approach to this holiday.
Japan was first introduced to Valentine’s Day through Morozoff – a confectionary and cake company started by Fedor Dmitrievich Morozoff in Japan – because of an advertising campaign that was aimed at foreigners in Japan. Then later Morozoff started promoting heart-shaped chocolates and encouraged girls to give them to their boyfriends. This became popular and soon other confectionary companies followed. In contrast with Western cultures, where it was normal to give cards, flowers or go on a dinner date, with chocolates being the secondary gift – usually boys giving them to girls – Japan would instead focus on girls giving boys chocolates. And not only would girls give chocolate to their boyfriends, but their coworkers and friends too. It is very common to see various chocolate-making ingredients and utensils put on display as Valentine’s Day draws near. This is because it is common for girls in Japan to make their ownchocolates for Valentine’s Day and companies were quick to spot the gap in the market with a plethora of chocolate-making devices from heart-shaped molds to different types of packaging available to make the cutest and best chocolates at home. In Japan there is a difference in the types of chocolate you can give to people.
These can be categorized into three different groups:
Tomo-choco (friend chocolate)
Tomo-choco is more common amongst girls, where they would often give the chocolates to each other as a sign of friendship. These can often be handmade or bought and are given because of their relationship and friendship with their girlfriends, although they don’t have the same meaning as Honmei-choco.
Giri-choco (obligatory chocolate)
This would be the chocolate that you would give to your boss or your male coworkers. There has been a tradition in Japan where the women in the office would usually come in earlier on Valentine’s Day and place chocolates on their male coworkers’ desks. Usually the higher a coworker’s position, the more expensive the
chocolate. Rather than from affection, these chocolates would be given out of respect or obligation.
Honmei-choco (affection chocolate)
This would be chocolate that girls would give to their boyfriends or to someone for whom they have feelings. These chocolates are usually handmade or expensive store-bought chocolate.Valentine’s Day is often a date night in Japan too, but it is not as concentrated as Christmas which is the most popular date night in Japan.
Now some of you may be thinking “what about the men?” On Valentine’s Day, men will receive chocolates, but normally they won’t be giving gifts, although in recent years, this has been getting a little more popular. Rather, in Japan, men would reciprocate by giving a gift in return to the women on White Day, March 14th.
By Meghan Bridges