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Did You Know? Valentine’s Day’s Evolution in Japan

February 14 in Japan is a day that women give chocolates to men they have secret crushes on. Valentine's in Japan has evolved into a different event from the West, where it originated. Here is some information about Valentine's Day in Japan including why it evolved the way it has and how it is continuing to evolve.

What is Valentine's in Japan?

Valentine's in Japan is said to have originated in the sales strategy of chocolate manufacturers that promoted "Valentine's Day, a day for women to gift chocolates to men." When February 14 nears, people of all ages become anxious. It is a day for women to give chocolates to their boyfriends, or to proclaim their love to their secret "crush" by giving him chocolates. It is also a day that men anxiously await to see how many chocolates they receive. There are different types of chocolate gifts, with the chocolates given to a special someone being the "honmei choco" (chocolates for the favorite), chocolates for superiors at work and others one is indebted called "giri choco" (chocolates of obligation), chocolates for friends called "tomo choco" (friend chocolates), for family members "fami choco," and for oneself "jibun choco." Most of the chocolates exchanged today are "tomo choco," and with the appearance of "gyaku choco" (reverse chocolates) given by men to women, the significance of Valentine's is expanding.

The Variety of Chocolates Sold During this Period is Stupendous!

As soon as the New Year's excitement dies down, special Valentine's counters are set up in department stores, supermarkets, and even convenience stores. At this time, chocolates by famous chocolate makers, and even overseas chocolate brands that usually aren't sold in Japan, are sold primarily in department stores, and famous pastry shops all introduce limited offer Valentine's items. The limited availability Valentine's product that GODIVA introduces every year is in a package that tickle women's hearts, and is popular not only as gifts but also as "jibun choco." You may be surprised by the frenzy of the season, when it feels like all the chocolates of the world have come to Japan.

Handmade Valentine's Sweets Kits are Also Abundant

There are statistics that indicate that 60% of girls between ten and twenty who give Valentine's Day chocolates make their own chocolates, and in fact, handmade is the norm for "tomo choco" exchanged among friends. It is not unusual for kindergarteners to make "tomo choco" with their mothers. So a variety of kits from kits for children that do not require using the oven and just require mixing and baking, to professional-grade kits are sold. MUJI and Tokyu Hands, which are famous for selling knickknacks, and supermarkets even set up special counters with these kits in mid-to-late January.

Valentine's Season Events

As Valentine's is an important event for couples, second only to Christmas, a variety of events are held throughout the country at places like amusement parks, which are standard date spots, and aquariums, where couples can enjoy a leisurely day out. There are also restaurants that offer Valentine's Day dinners. At Tokyo Tower, an event where you can climb the outer staircase is only held on February 14. You are likely to have a magical date where you'll forget the cold climbing up the approximately 600-step outer staircase hand-in-hand while enjoying the night view. Couples on Valentine's Day often go out on a date, during which the woman gives the man some chocolates.

White Day on March 14 is a Day for Thank You Gifts

Men who receive chocolates on Valentine's Day give thank you gifts a month later, on March 14. It is not as enthusiastically celebrated as Valentine's Day, but it is standard to give a thank you gift, even if the chocolates were "giri choco," Gifts do not have to be chocolates, and it is common for sweets such as cookies, candy and marshmallow to be given. In the case of "tomo choco," chocolates tend to be exchanged in both directions on Valentine's Day, so nothing more is done on White Day. Men who receive a lot of chocolates on Valentine's Day have a lot to give back on White Day. Still, they tend to get anxious about how many chocolates they receive on Valentine's Day.

In Japan, Valentine's Day has customs different from those in the West where Valentine's Day originated and cards, flowers, and sweets are exchanged. What a surprise that they were started by chocolate manufacturers' sales strategies!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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