Valentine’s Day is celebrated all around the world on February 14th and by and large we think of this day as a day for lovers to enjoy a romantic day and celebrate their love by exchanging chocolates, sweets, gifts, and other special surprises.
In Japan, however, Valentine’s Day is a little one sided as it’s just for women to give chocolates to men and not just those who you share a romantic involvement with either!
On February 14, women all over Japan will buy or make chocolates not only for their lovers but also for their male colleagues and friends. There are several different categories for these sweet gifts:
Honmei Choco are given to those men that women have romantic feelings for such as husbands, boyfriends and those women hope to have a romantic relationship with.
Giri Choco often referred to a obligation chocolate are those given to bosses, male colleagues, friends and acquaintances as a sign of appreciation and politeness. Women will often pool their resources in an office and buy giri choco as a group for their male colleagues as well to save on costs. This tradition started in the mid 1980s.
Tomo Choco: are given by women and girls to their friends or tomodachi.
Fami Choco: are given by women & girls to their family.
Jiko Choco: bought by women for themselves as an expression of self-love! Who doesn’t need a bit of self-love, right!
Ore Choco: Ore in Japanese is the word used by men to refer to themselves. So, Ore choco, is the male version of Jiko Choco, when men feel they need a little self love!
Gyaku Choco: are for the rebel men who want to break with tradition and give chocolates to women on Feb 14. Gyaku in Japanese means reverse or opposite.
I must admit my first Valentine’s Day in Japan, nearly 30 years ago, as the wife of a Japanese salary man was quite shocking, when my husband came home with 20 boxes of chocolates, as I didn’t understand the tradition at that point and thought there were 20 girls in the office eager to engage in a romantic relationship with my husband. But I soon learned these were all giri choco!!
There are also some other newer versions of the tradition with:
Shako choco: for companies to send to men in other companies with whom they have a business relationship.
Geinojin Choco: for fans to give to their celebrity crushes.
So, do women miss out on Valentine’s Day altogether?
Well, not really. Women get their own day, unique to Japan, known as White Day when Japanese men must then give chocolates to all the women from whom they received chocolates on Valentines Day. White Day is held exactly one month after Valentine’s Day on March 14!!
It certainly keeps the economy going as 20% of Japan’s annual chocolate is sold on February 14.