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Valentine’s day in Japan

Valentines day in Japan is celebrated differently from western Valentines day, there are no cards or saying happy valentines day but there is a whole lot of giving and blushing that goes into these days but only by the women! How does it work? We figured it out!

In Japan, it is only the women who give presents to men. This is done because women are considered to be too shy to express their love. Though it might not be true especially in modern times, Valentine’s Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings but also courtesy, or social obligation.

Valentine’s day was introduced for the first time in 1936, it started as an advertisement aimed at foreigners. In 1953 Valentines day was promoted as giving of heart shaped chocolates, other confectionery companies followed with promotion and started running valentines sales and other campaigns causing Valentines day become popular by 1960.

The custom that only women give chocolates to men may have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns.

In western countries gifts like cards, candies, flowers or dates are more common than in Japan, usually office ladies give chocolate to their coworkers. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.


Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the day falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), from giri (“obligation”) and choko, (“chocolate”), with unpopular co-workers receiving only “ultra-obligatory” chō-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko (本命チョコ, lit. “true feeling chocolate”), chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ); from tomo meaning “friend”.

White Day
In the 1980s, the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day”, where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women.


Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts received in Valentine’s Day. Not returning the gift is perceived as the man placing himself in a position of superiority, even if excuses are given. Returning a present of equal value is considered as a way to say that the relationship is being cut. Originally only chocolate was given, but now the gifts of jewelry, accessories, clothing and lingerie are usual. According to the official website of White Day, the color white was chosen because it’s the color of purity, evoking “pure, sweet teen love”, and because it’s also the color of sugar. The initial name was “Ai ni Kotaeru White Day” (Answer Love on White Day).


Credit: Google, Wikipedia and AFP News Agency

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