A Celebration of Love: Exploring Japanese Valentine Traditions with EDOBIO
In the month of February, we can still feel the chill of winter in the air. However, the days are getting longer and lighter, signaling that springtime is just around the corner.
This season of the year is also a time to celebrate love with new and old Valentine’s Day customs. With this in mind, today we are taking a closer look at some of Japan’s own special holiday traditions.
A History of Valentine’s Day in Japan
For centuries, men and women around the world have observed Valentine’s Day as an all-encompassing holiday to celebrate love. In many cultures, this means exchanging sentimental gifts, going out to a special dinner, or treating someone you love to flowers and chocolate.
Meanwhile, in Japan, a Valentine’s custom that began to emerge during the 1970s marks February 14th as a time for women to express their feelings of love to men – particularly by bestowing them with lots of chocolate candy. Giving chocolate to one’s significant other is referred to as “honmei-choco.”
In recent years, this trend has evolved to include a practice called “giri-choco” which is an opportunity for women to express respect to male friends or colleagues by, similarly, giving them chocolate-related gifts.
One can also extend the gift of “jibun-choco” or “self chocolate” as a reward or form of self care, and many people even choose to give chocolate to friends, which is called “tomo-chocolate.”
As a result of these new traditions, Valentine’s Day in Japan continues to grow in popularity. In fact, the Valentine holiday is believed to be the most profitable time of year for Japanese chocolate confectioneries, who do as much as 70% of their annual business in February each year.
Giving Back: The Traditions of White Day
Luckily for women, Japanese tradition recognizes that when one has received a gift, the gift ought to be reciprocated. In honor of this principle, the National Confectionary Industry Cooperative of Japan instituted a new holiday in 1980 called “White Day” which is celebrated one month later, every March 14th.
“White Day” is named for the color white, which represents purity, and is symbolic of the fresh, or new, love between young people. In Japan, White Day is observed similarly to Valentine’s Day in the United States and many other Western cultures. However, the primary purpose of the day is for men to reply to the women who have gifted them. According to some sources, at this time, men are even expected to present the women in their life with gifts that are worth two to three times more than the gifts they received the month before.
What makes Valentine’s Day and White Day so special is that, between both holidays, there are many opportunities to show affection and appreciation to the most important people in your life. However you choose to celebrate, EDOBIO would like to wish you a wonderful holiday filled with much love, harmony, and happiness!