Love is in the air and couples all around the island are rushing to prepare for a day of wooing and romance. Lovers are setting up reservations at their significant other’s favorite restaurant and pink candies and floral bouquets are lining the shelves of supermarkets. But we’re not the only ones! While Valentine’s Day originated in the West, several cultures around the world have adopted this holiday and added their own twist to it. One of the most unique versions is Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan.
Valentine’s Day in Japan
In the West it’s common practice for men and women to exchange gifts on February 14th. But in Japan, women are the ones to make the first move. How cool is that! On Valentine’s Day, women prepare chocolates and confectionary treats to celebrate all the men in their lives. The more time and effort put into their gift reflects the nature of the relationship. Giri-Choco, also known as “obligation chocolate,” is reserved for friends, bosses, colleagues, and males who the women share a platonic relationship with. Giri-Choco is generally cheaper and less elaborate than honmei-choco. Honmei-Choco, or “favorite chocolate” is given to a romantic interest–– a spouse, a lover, or a boyfriend–– and is a deeper expression of appreciation. While store bought chocolate is acceptable, honmei-choco is often handmade or specially crafted as the time and effort put into preparation indicates how much that person means to the woman. During this time, stores in Japan are filled with large displays of chocolates, candy kits, and all the ingredients and kitchen tools needed for creating a sweet treat.
So you might be thinking that Japan’s take on Valentine’s Day is pretty awesome, but what about the women? They deserve something too. Well, fear not! On March 14th, Japan celebrates White Day, where men return the favor and gift the women in their lives with chocolate and presents, often white in color. White Day originally started as Marshmallow Day, where men would give white marshmallows and candy to the women who gifted them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Over time, the tradition has grown to include non-white treats along with material gifts like jewelry or flowers. On this day, men are known to spend twice or even three times more on their return gifts.
Looking to do something different this Valentine’s Day? Break out your cookbook and try your hand at making honmei-choco or giri-choco and see what you can come up with. Let the people in your life know how special they are to you, even if they’re a friend or family member. Regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship or you’re single, everyone is recognized on Valentine’s Day and White Day. This just goes to show how love is truly a timeless and boundless celebration for people all across the world.