Valentine’s Day is a day that is celebrated by many countries around the world, including Japan. It was introduced in the 70s originally by confectionery stores and department stores to drive sales. In many countries, it is usually the man who gives flowers, chocolates, and a teddy bear to his lady on Valentine’s Day. In Japan, the roles are reverse. Valentines in Japan is quite unique in that women are the ones who give chocolates to men on February 14th, not only to men they like, but also as a courtesy. Fret not! The favor will be returned by the men who received chocolates one month later on March 14th, a day known as White Day.
The chocolate giving practice falls into several types. The two most popular types of Valentine’s chocolate gift giving in Japan is honmei choko and giri choko, which we are going to describe below.
Honmei means favorite, and choko comes from English word chokoreeto, which means chocolate. So Japanese women give honmei choko to the men they like most on Valentine’s Day. Honmei choko are usually hand made to express the giver’s sincerity to their loved one. You can often see the act of honmei-choco giving in Japanese romance drama, such as Itazura na Kiss.
The men who received honmei choko will return the favor on March 14th, a day known White Day. As the name suggests, men will give white chocolates on this day instead of the usual brown chocolates. This type of chocolate is known as gyaku-choco 逆チョコ. They are usually expensive or can also be handmade. Other popular gifts include marshmallows, cookies, and other white-themed goodies. There is a general rule called sanbai gaeshi in that the returned gift should be three times the value of the Valentine’s gift received.
Giri-choko means obligation chocolate. If you are indebted to someone, it is customary to give them a gift called giri-choko, such as your supervisors or co-workers. Giri-choco is not handmade and is often of lower value than honmei choco. You can find giri-choco sold in many Japanese department stores during White Day.
Tomo-choko are chocolates given to friends on Valentine’s Day. Tomo means friend in Japanese. The givers of tomo-choco tends to be females and the recipients are females as well, although tomo-choco can be given to both male and female friends.
Jibun-choko is a chocolate given to yourself on Valentine’s Day. In a country where singlehood has been increasing, self-love is important.