Valentine’s Day in Japan

Published 3rd February 2016
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Our second country for our Asian week is Japan

It is really common that during St. Valentine’s Day, in the western world, men show their love through giving gifts like roses, chocolates, cards, etc. to their women. Although I have to say that nowadays everything is more equal. Girls can express their feelings and give their boyfriends/husbands gifts as well. So, let’s say that on this day, a couple shows each other their love.

However, in Japan it doesn’t work like this! Valentine’s Day is about pampering the guys. On this day, women are the ones who express their love or appreciation to all the males they know, including bosses, male friends, male family, colleagues, loved ones, etc.

The most common gift women give to their man is CHOCOLATES, but not any kind of chocolates. I’ll explain to you why this is so unique and special.


Everything started in 1936, when Valentine’s Day was introduced for the first time in Japan. In 1950, a chocolate manufacturer decided to join the celebration by promoting chocolates. Later, in the 70s, manufacturers decided to go beyond, and they came up with this unique idea of expressing your relationship intent with different types of chocolates.

There are 2 kinds:

  • Giri-choko (義理チョコ) = obligation chocolate (this chocolate can be given to any man without any romantic interest E.g. boss, friends, family, etc.)
  • Honmei-choko (本命チョコ) = True feeling chocolate (This is the one for boyfriends, husbands or lovers)

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Cool, huh? But don’t think women have to do everything and don’t get anything in return. They have their special day as well. Let’s go back to our history class…

In the 1980s, chocolate companies were experiencing a high demand on chocolate sales. So, as life is business and business is life, they came up with another brilliant idea. Due to Valentine’s Day (Feb 14th) being dedicated only to guys, why not having a special day only for the women? This is how ‘White Day’ came up. It is celebrated one month after Valentine’s Day (March 14th), and the idea is that men do the same as women did for them, but better. They can give jewellery, lingerie, clothes and of course, chocolates.

Now let’s learn some words, expressions and endearments for this special day:

  • Yukai Barentaindee Dei (幸せなバレンタインデー)   =   Happy Valentine’s Day
  • Ai shiteru (愛してる)                                                      =   I love you
  • Suki (好き)                                                                      =   I like you
  • Tamago gata no kao (卵形の顔)                               =   It literally means Egg with eyes, but it refers to a face shaped like an egg. (I know you must be thinking ‘what the?’, but this is a compliment as it means attractive for them)

If you know any other words and expressions in Japanese or facts about Valentine’s Day in Japan, let us know! 🙂

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