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Beyond Roses: Understanding Japan's Unique Valentine's Day Traditions

Updated: Feb 14

Valentines Day in Japan

Valentine's Day (バレンタイン・デー in Japanese), is a celebration of love and affection, and celebrated around the world in various ways. However, Japan's approach to this romantic day is anything but conventional. The Land of the Rising Sun has crafted its own unique Valentine's Day traditions that stand out from the customary chocolates and bouquets of flowers. Let's look into the fascinating world of Japan's unique Valentine's Day customs.

In Japan, Valentine's Day is not only reserved for romantic expressions of love but also extends to gestures of gratitude and friendship. A notable tradition is the practice of Giri Choco, which translates to "obligation chocolate." On February 14th, it is customary for individuals, particularly women, to give chocolate not only to their romantic partners but also to colleagues, friends, and even bosses.

Japanese Chocolates

The concept behind Giri Choco is to express appreciation and maintain social harmony. The chocolates given during this obligation-driven tradition are often store-bought and can vary in quality, with more elaborate and expensive chocolates reserved for close family members or romantic interests.

In addition to Giri Choco, there's a special category of chocolates known as Honmei Choco, which translates to "true feelings chocolate." Unlike Giri Choco, Honmei Choco is reserved for one's romantic partner or a person the giver has romantic feelings for.

What sets this tradition apart is the effort and thought put into making or selecting the perfect chocolate gift. Many individuals take the time to create handmade chocolates, adding a personal touch to express their genuine emotions. It is not uncommon for people to invest considerable time and energy into crafting unique and special chocolates for their loved ones.

In recent years, Japan's Valentine's Day traditions have evolved, with an increasing focus on creativity and personal expression. Do It Yourself (DIY) chocolate-making kits have gained popularity, allowing individuals to craft unique and customized chocolates for their loved ones. From shaping chocolates into intricate designs to incorporating personalized messages, the emphasis is on making the gift-giving experience truly special.

DIY Chocolate

Japan's Valentine's Day traditions stand out as a blend of cultural obligations, romantic expressions, and creative endeavors. The juxtaposition of Giri Choco and Honmei Choco, coupled with the anticipation of White Day, which is celebrated on March 14th in Japan. On this day, people give reciprocal gifts to those who gave them gifts on Valentine’s Day. This adds depth and uniqueness to the way love and appreciation are celebrated in the Land of the Rising Sun. As these traditions continue to evolve, they exemplify the cultural richness and diversity that make Japan's approach to Valentine's Day truly one-of-a-kind.


Works Cited

Albert. “How Janpanese Celebrate Valentine's Day?”, 14 October 2022, Accessed 13 February 2024.

Anas, Aree. “Valentine's Day in Japan: Celebrating Love the Japanese Way.” Bokksu, 12 January 2024, Accessed 13 February 2024.

Anna. “Valentine's Day in Japan.” Japan Web Magazine, 26 January 2023, Accessed 13 February 2024.

“Guide to Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan | JRailPass.” Japan Rail Pass, 7 December 2023, Accessed 13 February 2024.

Santelices, Jen. “Valentine's Day Japan: Everything You Need to Know!” TokyoTreat, 22 January 2021, Accessed 13 February 2024.


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