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Valentine’s Day in Japan

by Winnie Wong | February 14, 2018

Japanese Valentine’s Day is not like the others. Valentine’s Day is the day for Japanese women to get creative and present gifts to men. Back in the 1950s, the act of women confessing their feelings was considered radical and taboo (and sometimes still is). Valentine’s Day was established so that it was acceptable for women to take a risk and confess their feelings in Japan. There is a strong tradition of women giving chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day, which sees Japanese women preparing the Honmei-choco by themselves as many of them think it is not true love if they just buy readymade chocolate in shops. However, women do not only give chocolate to their lovers, they also give chocolate to their male colleagues, bosses, close male friends and even their father and brothers. This is called Giri choco with no romance involved. It is a practice that’s intended to show appreciation to co-workers, and is given just for friendship or gratitude. Men will then return the favour a month later on White Day (14th March).

This phenomenon has caused stress to many people about Valentine’s Day especially at work! According to our Japanese travel consultant Midori, it is an unspoken rule in Japanese society for girls who give out chocolate to their lovers and co-workers, to expect gifts of 3 or 4 times the value of the presents they gifted in return on White Day. It gets stressful to buy chocolates for co-workers as you have to worry about mixed signals and can’t buy chocolates that are too cheap as it could be seen as an insult to the person who receives it. Also, it is common for guys to compete on the amount of chocolate they receive on Valentine’s Day as it indicates their popularity among females. People in Japan are protesting against this unspoken custom and it is becoming more and more common for corporate offices to enforce a ban on obligation chocolates.

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