Valentine’s Day in Japan

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Since the middle ages it has been the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other through the sending of cards, flowers, and confectionary. After Christmas it is the second largest card-sending day of the year in the West.

The history of Valentine’s in Japan dates back to the post-war recovery era. One of the first valentine’s sales was by the Isetan Department Store in 1958; customers could purchase a special valentine’s set of 3 chocolates and a card for 170 Yen. Since then the tradition of Valentine’s has grown and grown, and now accounts for a quarter of Japan’s yearly chocolate sales.

Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine’s Day has become a day on which women in Japan give chocolates or other types of confectionary to men they like. There are 2 types of valentine’s gift a woman can give. Giri-choko (義理チョコ), from the words giri (obligation) and choco (chocolate), are given to male co-workers sometimes at significant personal expense. Honmei-choko (本命チョコ) is given to boyfriends, husbands, & close male colleagues.

On Valentine’s Day in Japan, women give gifts to men; on White Day, men who received chocolate on Valentine’s Day return the favor and give gifts to women. White Day, on March 14 is a truly ‘Made in Japan’ manufactured tradition that was started by a Fukuoka marshmallow manufacturer and the Iwataya Department Store in 1977. The white marshmallows gave the day its name but other kinds of presents, including chocolates and cookies, have become more popular as the tradition spread nationwide.

What does Valentines mean to the Japanese?
How many gifts did you give last Valentine’s Day? (women)

  • One – 25%
  • Two – Five – 44%
  • Six or more – 15%
  • None – 16%

How many gifts did you receive last Valentine’s Day? (men)

  • One – 26%
  • Two – Five – 47%
  • Six or more – 7%
  • None 20%

On average, how much did you spend on an item of giri-choco?

  • Less than 100 Yen – 4%
  • Between 101 and 300 Yen – 14%
  • Between 301 and 500 Yen – 33%
  • Between 501 and 1000 Yen – 25%
  • Over 1000 Yen – 7 %
  • Didn’t give giri choco – 17%

What type of honmei chocolates did you give your loved one?

  • 42% dept. store or confectioners brand
  • 19% homemade
  • 13% supermarket or discount store brand
  • 8% main-stream domestic brand
  • 6% didn’t give chocolates
  • 10 % other

Source: TEPORE. 

This article originally appeared in the Nagoya Calendar February 2007 edition. All prices, opening times, and season finish dates may vary. Please check with the individual resort before departure.

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