Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I have already seen the first posts about this equally loved and loathed season (For example here at hikikomoris blog).
Though this day is celebrated all around the world I never felt it so “right into my face” like the time I spent it in Japan. In Germany you’ll see special offers in restaurants and according chocolate marketing strategies, but still on a moderate scale.
Weeks before my first Valentine in Japan I felt like I couldn’t make a step without facing another pink/red/overflowing with hearts advertisement for chocolates. Every “kawaii” character put on its special Valentines costume and marketed THE best present for the loved one.
Valentine’s Day in Japan has a whole different dimension. Although many are probably already aware of the general Valentine’s traditions in Japan let me lay it out for you again.
On Valentine’s Day in Japan only women give something, whereas chocolate is the most commonly given, it may also be a different gift. It’s the day on which women can show their affection to the person they love or maybe secretly admire. Although this explains special advertisement, it cannot explain the mountains of the chocolate covering the shelves and tables in every store. Why so much?
Well, it is common practice that japanese women not only give chocolate to the one man they love, but to every man in theri life. This “chocolate for everyone to be polite and show appreciation and respect” is called giri-chocolate, which roughly translates to “duty chocolate”. So not only from one woman can men expect chocolate on this day, but from a whole bunch. Giri-chocolate goes to your colleagues for example, which, depending on your working field, can be quite a few to cover.
So, if everyone gets chocolate, how does a man know if a woman secretly likes him or just “had to” give him some?
The clue lies in the packaging, size, prize, and of course in wether the the chocolate is selfmade (“yay, she likes me”) or bought (“tiny, simple packaging? I smell giri-chocolate”).
Accordingly the department stores are filled with different sizes and variations and sometimes even offer hints on what kind of feeling this particular set of chocolates might convey.
Pretty complicated if you ask me (and pricey, too)
For my first Valentine’s Day in Japan I decided nevertheless to go with the tradition an made chocolates and a heart-shaped cake for my boyfriend and brought a whole basket of assorted chocolates to my workplace. As we had quite a few Office Ladies the whole place was covered with beautifully decorated chocolates and smelled like a chocolaterie.
Back in germany I never experienced anything similar (and I gave up the selfmade chocolate for a lack an aesthetically pleasing exterior ^^”)
Of course it would be unfair if only men had a day where they received gifts, so exactly one month later, on March 14th, the Japanese celebrate “White Day” (allegedly brought into the world by the marshmallow industrie, thus the “White”). On this day the men return the favor and give something to the woman they love/secretly admire (well, and every other woman in his life…)
I hope you all have a nice Valentine’s Day!