The Tradition of Valentine’s Day in Japan

V's Day wreath

Valentine’s Day wreath ©moonlightbulb/Flickr

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is getting more and more popular every year. The tradition of giving small gifts to the loved persons had reached the Land of the Rising Sun, too.

As everywhere else, Valentine’s Day in Japan is celebrated on the 14th of February. Though the tradition of giving gifts is quite different from the rest of the world, it is still a lovely holiday and much of the population is celebrating this day. Another holiday, White Day is closely related to Valentine’s Day. You will find in this article what are the Valentine’s Day traditions in Japan and information about White Day can also be discovered here.

Valentine’s Day

Choco box

Delicious chocolate box ©Stewart/Flickr

This is a very special day of the year for those who are in love. Millions of people buy gifts to the loved persons throughout the world. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Japan has other habits for this day. Usually only women buy gifts on Valentine’s Day. It is the outcome of a mistranslated text, which indicated that this day is the opportunity for women to buy gifts and to express their feelings.

As a result, women buy chocolate to the persons who are important to them. Yes, it may be surprising, but in Japan not only couples give gifts on Valentine’s Day. Women buy three kinds of chocolate to express their kindness.


Home-made cookies ©smilesofthefox/Flickr

Giri-chocolate, which means obligatory chocolate is usually given to male and female co-workers. These are not very expensive, but kind gifts. Honmei-chocolate (favorite chocolate) is given to the loved persons, like boyfriends or husbands. About these gifts: the expensive the better, but home-made sweets are also welcomed by men. Sometimes, honmei-chocolates are accompanied with small gifts, like ties, socks, etc. Tomo-chocolate or friend-chocolate is given to female friends.

It is not a surprise that a woman buys 20 or even more boxes of chocolate before Valentine’s Day. In Japan, half of the annually sold chocolates are sold around Valentine’s Day.


White Day

White choco

Chocolate hearts ©Annabelle Orozco/Flickr

Men also have to express their feelings towards women. They have a day different from Valentine’s Day to do this. It is called White Day and it is celebrated on the 14th of March, a month after Valentine’s Day. The tradition of this day was invented by local companies, to increase their sales. White Day is not celebrated only in Japan; other Asian countries, like China, Taiwan or South Korea also celebrate this day.

Men who received giri-choco or honmei-choco are expected to buy something to express their kindness or love. On this day, usually white gifts are given. Not only white chocolate, but marshmallows, cookies or jewellery are also famous gifts. The name of the day, ‘white’ comes from the color of sugar, which is used to make sweets and candies.

The term ‘sanbai gaeshi’, which means ‘triple the return’ refers to the price of the gifts. Men are expected to buy gifts which are two or three times expensive than the thing they had received. This phenomenon expresses men’s generosity in Japan.

V's Day wreath

Valentine’s Day wreath ©moonlightbulb/Flickr


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