How is Japanese Valentine’s Day Celebrated?

The Japanese love to do things a little differently from the rest of the world and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Japanese Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th, but it is followed up with ‘White Day’ a month later on March 14th. Why over two days? February 14th is dedicated to women giving gifts to men close to them, including male partners, friends or colleagues. In March it’s the men’s turn to return the favour to the women.

Throughout Valentine’s Day and White Day, couples often spend quality time together such as going out for a meal or going to the cinema. There are also small festivals celebrated throughout Japan, which are particularly popular with the younger generation.

White Day

March 14th is more commonly known as White Day. White Day was first celebrated in 1978 and was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association as an ‘answer day’ to Valentine’s Day.

The gift of choice was initially marshmallows, as a confectionary company saw an opportunity to make a profit from this celebrated day and started a marketing campaign leading to the brief renaming to ‘Marshmallow Day’. However, the name didn’t stick, and it’s only known as White Day now.

On White Day, men tend to purchase white chocolate for the women in their lives. If you travel to Japan in early March, you’ll notice that many confectionary companies target men with their white chocolate products. As well as white chocolate, men buy white lingerie, flowers, perfume, candles and other gifts for their loved ones. If a woman gave a man a giri-choco (more on that in a second) on Valentine’s Day, she would likely expect the same in return on White Day, as this is considered a non-romantic gesture.

When giving gifts to your partner or spouse on White Day, men are encouraged to fork out a little bit more on a present. If both people were to spend the same amount on a present, it can be seen as a way of ending the relationship. As such, men typically aim to spend more on White Day than their partners did on Valentine’s Day.

Japanese Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentine’s Day is widely popular around the entire world and we often find ourselves overspending on gifts for our partners. In the United Kingdom, we tend to buy special Valentine’s Day presents for our other halves like jewellery, games and artwork. In Japan, however, the main gift given during Valentine’s Day is chocolate.

Different chocolate has different connotations so it’s important that you buy the right one to avoid giving anyone the wrong idea! For Japanese Valentine’s Day, there are two types of chocolate to choose from:

  • Giri-choco is given to those with whom you don’t have a romantic association, such as work colleagues and male friends. While the majority of the Western world celebrates Valentine’s Day specifically for romantic couples, in Japan it is seen as polite for women to give gifts to all men close to you, so men who don’t receive any chocolate can be quite embarrassed!
  • Honmei-choco is for boyfriends, husbands and lovers – the ones who have won your heart – as honmei translates to ‘prospective winner’ in English. Honmei-choco tends to be homemade to signify true love, so if you are giving chocolate to your other half you may want to brush up on your baking skills.

Why not celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Japanese style this year and get presents for your friends and family? Browse our recommended Valentine’s Day gifts or shop our extensive range of authentic Japanese gifts.

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