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Valentine’s Day: Japan Style

Valentines Day is a day of flowers, chocolate, and love letters.  It is a day where couples can get together to enjoy the loving spirit that flows within them.  All around the world it seems that Valentine’s day is celebrated using the same general idea.  Contrary to popular belief, Valentine’s Day is much different than what we know to be true in the U.S.

All through grade school, we would buy or make our own standard Valentine cards that paid homage to our favorite character at the time.  I can recall having Simpsons Valentine cards for one year.  Anyway, we would write each classmates’ name and give one to each student in the class.  Afterwards, we would have some event to make a Valentine’s Day themed box to store our cards inside.  Other times we had similar activities related to the holiday.

As you get older, Valentines tend to change from cards to every classmate into something more private.  Through high school and up, cards are typically sent privately to someone you like or even a secret crush.  Flowers may be given or delivered along with a box of assorted chocolates.  In fact, last year I gave my Valentine a heart shaped cake with a stuffed animal and flowers.  Some couples go out to dinner to celebrate the holiday and others stay in to watch a movie together.  It is a holiday that is celebrated in many different ways, but generally in an affectionate way.

As for those lonesome single folks, there is plenty to do on Valentine’s Day.  Despite the holiday, single people will find another single friend to ‘protest’ the holiday with as they search for their ‘true love’ for the next year.  Being that Americans tend to be labeled as strong-minded characters, it helps a lot with their independence of an ‘exclusive’ holiday.  This independence is something I value about my culture.

Since I’ve covered the general celebrations in America, I’ll proceed with the ways of doing Valentine’s Day in Japan.  It is focused around the same idea, but is actually quite different.  Rather than men giving women chocolate, flowers, and/or a letter, WOMEN are supposed to give MEN chocolate!!  I can’t stress enough, this is my kind of holiday.  Reversing roles makes it quite rewarding to be in a relationship.  Another specific is that flowers are not commonly or often given.  Instead, the women make the chocolate themselves and give it to their friends or their partner.  In addition to the chocolate, they may give a card that says, “Get fat with all of my chocolate”, not that my girlfriend wrote that or anything.

Following Valentines Day, on March 14th, men are supposed to return the favor and repay the women for the gifts they received a month before. This is called, “White Day”.  On White Day, the men will reciprocate by giving chocolate to the women, but if the woman gave something more valuable such as a nice watch then it is expected of the man to respond with an equally valuable present.  Most commonly being handbags, watches, or jewelry (everybody wins!).

Happy Valentine’s Day and feel free to let me know how you celebrated (or protested) the day where you live.

Via my "beautiful, wonderful, sweet, amazing" girlfriend (self-titled)


About travelnihon

I recently graduated from the University and am currently teaching English to all ages in Japan


8 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day: Japan Style

  1. I too love that the roles are reversed in Japan! Sometimes I like to do that just for fun in America 🙂

    In Thailand, however, I spent the day teaching high school and left covered in stickers. I even had to pick a few out of my hair in the shower. The younger students like to stick hearts and flowers all over their favorite people. They also give flowers and candy and stuffed animals to those they love. Like most other western holidays in Thailand, they take the good parts to celebrate and leave the rest. I certainly can’t blame them!

    Posted by jessicajhill | February 16, 2012, 4:31 am
  2. The women write ‘get fat with my chocolate’ because there’s an idea that when a couple are really happy, the man will get fat. It’s actually called しあわせ でぶ “shiawase debu” or ‘happy fat’. Unsurprisingly enough men don’t write this in their cards!
    What I did note though was some of that egalitarian giving that you mentioned from primary school days continues on in Japanese culture. While men don’t all receive chocolates, on white day, all women you have a relationship with ( co workers included) should receive chocolates. That’s a big point of difference.

    Posted by doubledynamite | February 16, 2012, 11:17 am
  3. THE COURIER, Findlay’s newspaper, ran an article previous to Valentine’s Day statying these traditions of Japan. Fascinating!!
    Aunt Karen

    Posted by Karen Fitzpatrick | February 19, 2012, 1:50 am
  4. This is amazing information! Would it be wrong for me to like celebrate ‘white day’ here in the u.s …would it have any relevancy? oh well, i would love to try:)

    Posted by hungryhippos2 | February 19, 2012, 10:30 am
  5. Excellent post! I like that the chocolate is homemade, more significant. Will you be celebrating/writing about the follow up White Day?

    Posted by dapperdolly | March 9, 2012, 10:51 pm
  6. Valentine’s Day in japan has been modified where women rather than gifting to boyfriends or spouses, feel their duty to present chocolates as a gift to all male co-workers. Girls on this day are also free to gift candy to their loved ones or friends.http://www.whatisall.com/entertainment/what-is-white-day.html

    Posted by matrixbricks12 | December 11, 2012, 6:25 am

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