Valentine’s Day in Japan

Valentine’s Day in Japan

It’s hard to miss the once snowflake clad trees now bearing heart shaped lights and shop windows filled with pink and red decor on the streets of Tokyo. The day of celebrating love or nursing lonely hearts is drawing near, and Japan too has caught the Valentine’s Day bug in recent times. Men nervously wait for fear of the day ending without receiving a single chocolate heart.

History Of Valentine’s Day

valentine's ay
Source: Lotte

The beginnings of the romantic Valentine’s day is a bit of a puzzle. There was the pagan fertility festival celebrated by the Ancient Romans around the same date a very, very long time ago. Then a pope adopted the pagan practice into a Christian feast for the Saint Valentine, but there were three of them and it was never specified which one they were feasting for. None of these things had anything to do with love.

Perhaps the first connection to why we give heart shaped chocolates to our crushes today was in famous poet, Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem for the English royal engagement of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia in the 1400’s. And by connection, we mean a single line that mentions Saint Valentine’s day. And there is a chance none of these events have anything to do with the retail holiday.

Japanese Valentine’s Day

But how exactly did it become such a hit in Japan? Well, it began in the 30’s when cake company Morozoff started an advertisement for Valentine’s day aimed at foreigners, and in later years in 1958, the heart shaped chocolates were promoted as a gift to be given.

A surprising fact about the romantic holiday in Japan is that only men receive chocolaty gifts from women. And before the sexist outrage begins in the comments, this was a complete accident! There was of a major translation error from a chocolate company during their campaigns.

Unlike the western world where greeting cards, candies, flowers and special dates are gifted to lovers, this is purely a chocolate only event! Ladies not only buy or make treats for their romantic partners but for friends and co-workers as well. Most chocolate companies in Japan make half their annual sales during Valentine’s day!!

Walking into a department store on the 13th of February, you will be stunned at the piles of chocolate in every flavor and women diving for them as if their lives depend on it.

Japan has taken the Valentine’s chocolate craze to a whole new level with bizarre, promotional items such as Chocolate Ramen and Chocolate Yakisoba?

Or what about the Kit Kat Sushi? The popular Ippei-chan instant yakisoba noodles has a chocolate sauce topping to pour on top. And if you want to try some choco ramen?!

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But if you prefer to just stick to regular chocolate, there are specific categories for chocolate giving!

Honmei-chocolate

Valentine's Day
Source: Naver Matome

Homei-choco translates to “favorite chocolate” and it is given to that extra special somebody! This is where the most luxurious of cocoa treats and usually the one highest priced is given to boyfriends, husbands, and crushes. Sometimes even homemade by melting and customizing to show how true one’s feelings are because nothing says love like expensive chocolate, right? We even have a recipe for all of you ladies in love!

Pick up a chocolate mold of your choice!

Ingredients:
– 4 oz Dark Chocolate
– ½ Cup Heavy Cream
– Almonds or Hazelnuts
– Sprinkles

  1. Chop up chocolate and place in a heat safe bowl
  2. Pour heavy cream in saucepan and heat on medium. Do not let it boil just scald where bubbles appear only on side of the pan.
  3. Pour hot cream on top of chopped chocolate and mix until perfectly blended.
  4. Whisk in nuts.
  5. Pour into mould and add sprinkles on top.
  6. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Tomo-Chocolate

Next on the chocolate giving ladder is Tomo-Choco or “friend chocolates” are given to fellow female friends. These treats don’t require as much work as the above, but you still want it to be cute for your friends.

Giri-Chocolate

Valentine's Day
Illustration: Yummy Japan

Giri-choco or “obligatory chocolate” is exactly as it sounds. These are chocolates you pick up the morning of at the konbini that you “have” to give to people. This sad list includes; bosses, co-workers, and male friends.

White Day

After all the work and ¥¥¥¥¥ that ladies spend on February 14th, some appreciation is shown to them on what is known as White Day in Japan. On March 14th, men who were gifted chocolate return the favour with commonly white chocolate that is three times more expensive than the one received. And they sometimes even throw in flowers and other gifts if they’re the ultimate romantic!

Japan has taken another western holiday and made it their own! Walking through a department store in Japan during early February is like entering Willy Wonka’s secret lair. But exclusively just chocolate. And if you’re feeling the pressure for romance on Valentine’s day, try the Japanese “My Chocolate” or “reward chocolate.” A gift to yourself of your favorite chocolate! Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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