Japan's Culture


Valentine's Day in Japan
Written by: T. Ramune
Gifts like this  Godiva Chocolate (from Amazon.com)are big business on Valentines day in Japan where it's the ladies who do the giving.
Valentine, Valentine, Valentine's Day in Japan!! Did you already prepare for your special loved one on Valentine's? Valentine's in Japan is a little bit different than in the US. It is mega marketing in Japan. On Feb 14, consumers purchase 25% of the total annual chocolate sales in Japan.

As a young lady, I used to work for a Japanese company in Tokyo and on February 14 I would carry tons of chocolate to the office, running to each floor and giving chocolate to my boss and my male co-workers. Yes, this is the day for men in Japan, not for us women. This is called "Giri Chocolate". The word Giri means obligation in Japanese and we jokingly use this term to indicate that giving the chocolate is something that is expected.

We of course buy chocolate for our special loved one too. This will be more expensive and very special chocolate. Japanese department stores prepare two kinds of chocolate gifts; one for Giri-chocolate and another for Honmei-Chocolate (only for a serious love). Obviously, Japanese women spend more money for Honmei-chocolate. Limited chocolate from Europe by air can cost about $200 US.

Men, if you receive chocolate from Japanese woman which cost less than $3.00, I'm sorry, that is likely Giri-chocolate and she is not so serious about you, but she meant to say thank you. (However, my husband loves this chocolate, he claims Japanese chocolate is not so sweet and has a real cocoa taste.)

For school girls, this is a more serious tradition. This is the day to tell their Honmei-person (person they have a crush on) that they like them, to confess her feelings to him with Honmei-chocolate. On Feb 14, a school boy will know how popular he is in school. Some boys carry bags of chocolate back home while unfortunate school boys go home with none… This is heaven and hell for all school boys in Japan.

To balance the gift giving, another holiday called White Day is celebrated on March, 14th. On White Day, men return the favor to women who purchased chocolate on Valentine's Day for them. Gifts from the men can be chocolate too, but sometimes lingerie may be given. In Japan, a man may even give lingerie to a female co-worker on this day. This is not really a serious invitation, it's just for fun. On one White Day I received two gifts of lingerie from bosses of mine. The new Christian Dior slip and panties were most appreciated. I was happy to receive them but it wasn't personal as most women in the department received similar gifts.

In Japanese culture this exchange of gifts on Valentine's Day and White Day smoothes relationships between coworkers and friends, giving us an entertaining break from our busy and stressful jobs.

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