Be My Valentine in Japan

Valentine’s Day is popular the world over – especially with florists and card manufacturers. The same is true in Japan, but they celebrate in a unique way, as we discovered.


Valentine’s Day, as we would recognise it, only dates back to the 1950s in Japan. In those days, it was unheard of for women to express their feelings, so creating a day where it was deemed acceptable immediately became popular. Businesses also saw the potential to make a nice little profit from the idea, too.

In Japan, it is the women who give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day, be it chocolates, cookies or other edible gestures. However, it’s not exclusive to love interests and there are different categories of Valentine’s gift giving.

Giri-Choco

Although the closest translation for this is Obligation Chocolate, there’s nothing forced about it. These chocolates are given to men in your life who you respect or love in a platonic way, from colleagues at work to your Dad, for example.

Honmei-Choco

This category is strictly a love gift reserved for husbands and lovers who you desire with a passion. To get across this message of adoration, Japanese women often make the chocolates themselves, so you’ll find shops selling chocolate-making kits and ingredients at this time of year. We’ve got some great Japanese-themed truffle recipes you might like to try. Here’s a link to a blog post with the recipes.

Tomo-Choco

So no-one feels left out, Tomo-Choco are what the ladies give to each other. This type of chocolate is usually very ornate and expensive. What’s more, friends usually get together to eat all their chocolate. What a great idea!

Gyaku-Choco

Gyaku-Choco is the only type we’re familiar with in the UK. It means reverse chocolate and it’s when a man gives a woman chocolate. It’s not that common in Japan because of their White Day held on 14th March.

White Day

Exactly a month after Valentine’s Day, the Japanese celebrate White Day. This is when men are meant to splash out on their loved ones, returning the favour of Valentine’s Day three-fold.

Gifts aren’t limited to chocolate and presents of all types are equally well received. So canny women make sure they are generous on Valentine’s Day to guarantee a successful White Day for themselves. White Day is very much a marketing creation and dates back only to the 1980s.