Feb 7, 2009

Valentine‘s Day in Japan

I was surprised to discover that there is a big difference between the way the Japanese and Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is a huge event in Japan, especially among single people. I was so surprised that in the United States Valentine gifts are exchanged between spouses, as well as, between single people. In Japan this day is a big event when single girls and ladies make romantic overtures to boys and guys by giving them chocolates. Japanese women are normally shy, but on Valentine’s Day it is the first time they have a chance to say “I love you,” to a particular boy or man.

We see a lot of chocolate commercials on TV beginning in February. I saw a newspaper article that said this custom was created by chocolate industry in the 1960’s to increase their sales. Now, most women give chocolate to men. This holiday makes up 20 % of sales for one year. It is a national event.

When I was a junior high school student, I was so nervous the night before Valentine’s Day. Boys took pride in how many chocolates they received. I got one or zero chocolates on that day every year. If I did not get any, I was very disappointed that evening. Sometimes, my mother gave me chocolate, but that did not work for me. I wanted chocolate from girls instead of my mom. Star players in sports get many, many chocolates. Idols get tons of chocolate.

In the business scene, ladies give chocolates to co-workers and their boss. It is called “Giri-chocolate”. Giri means obligation in Japanese. So, it means “I give you chocolate, but it is not because of love.” If men get the Giri-chocolate, men have to give back chocolate or some sweets with gifts on White Day. I will explain White Day in the next issue.

All generations of women buy chocolates for this season. Girls give it to boys. Single ladies give it to single guys or their boss and co-workers. Mothers give it to their sons and husbands. In the first weekend of February, all department stores have a special chocolate gift center. If you go to there, you can see tons of women shopping. It is a kind of glorious view.


petite spOOn said...

That is a very interesting insight. I guess in the States anyone can give chocolate to anyone. I buy a tons of chocolate hearts and give them to everyone I know. Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you will get a lot of chocolate from all the ladies you know =D

Yutaka said...

Me too! :) Please send me some anytime!

Thank you, Yutaka

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

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Unknown said...

any truth to the odd number tea cup in the tradional tea set being for the mother-in-law?