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No matter where in the world you are, Valentine’s Day is the day where we can all express our love to that special someone in our lives. Whether it’s with a heartfelt card and a gift, or a grand romantic gesture, the 14th of February is a day many couples celebrate and look forward to. Japan is no exception, though Valentine’s Day is celebrated a little differently compared to traditional western ways.
Most of us are used to the notion of males presenting flowers and gifts to females on Valentine’s Day, in addition to taking them out on a date. It’s the opportunity for us to make our partners feel special. In Japan, the rule still applies, but instead of girls expecting to receive gifts from their boyfriends, it is usually the other way around.
You’ll still find pretty flower bouquets and nicely wrapped gifts, but it’s universally understood in Japan that Valentine’s Day is when girls present the guys in their lives with gifts, especially chocolate.
A gift of chocolate sounds as simple as it could get, no planning of dinners or special surprises required. In a country where a whole lineup of delicious chocolate can be bought from the nearest convenience store, it can almost seem like you can put no effort at all into purchasing these gifts for Valentine’s Day.
While some people do purchase packaged chocolate from stores, the truth is that there are in fact different chocolates meant for different people. The general rule is that the more special you are to someone, the more effort they would put into the chocolate they give. For example, a woman in a loving relationship would hand make chocolate for her boyfriend, buying ingredients and making it from scratch. She might also incorporate special designs and package the treats up herself. Handmade, one-of-a-kind chocolate is sure to make anyone feel special!
If a woman has a crush on a guy, but they are not yet in a relationship, she might hand make chocolate for him too. DIY chocolate kits are frequently sold in stores around this period specifically for these purposes, complete with molds, piping, and other decoration tools. These kits are also a hit with teenage girls, as making chocolate together with friends and giving them out at school is a popular activity in high school.
Then, there’s what is known as “giri-choco”. “Giri” in Japanese means obligation, and “giri-choco” is basically chocolate given out to coworkers, classmates, or other members of the same social circle that the woman has no romantic feelings for. While they are usually not expected, sharing chocolate is always a nice gesture and many women will bring treats to the workplace or gatherings on Valentine’s Day. These are typically simple chocolates that can be bought in stores, though some women might make custom gift bags that contain a variety of store-bought chocolate to give out.
While primarily a romantic celebration, Valentine’s Day in Japan encompasses much more than that. As celebrations and festivals become more and more commercialised, there’s something heartwarming about giving and receiving delicious treats that you know someone spent time and effort making at home. The fact that chocolate isn’t just limited to people you have feelings for also makes it so that Valentine’s Day is an occasion everyone can enjoy!