Valentine's Day is celebrated in many western countries – a day where love birdies exchange gifts like chocolate, flower bouquets, cards with little poems or other signs of their (mostly romantic) love.
The holiday is also known in Japan since the 1930s, but it wasn't until the 950's it was really celebrated there thanks to marketing campaigns from big companies.
Over time, Japan has come up with their own specific “rules” and traditions for Valentine's Day.
While in the western culture it's mostly men who are making presents to women they love or are in a relationship with, in Japan it's the other way around: On February 14th, it's exclusively women who make presents to men. And in most cases it's chocolate or sweets that contain any kind of chocolate on this day. Home made chocolate is even more appreciated than the one from the stores, since it shows how much effort you put into the act of gifting someone you like.
The men return the favor one month later on White Day (March 14th) - then they have to give presents in the form of sweets made of white chocolate only (or cake with white frostings, for example) to women from whom they received a present on Valentine's Day.
When I was younger, I usually gave my friends or family some chocolate on Valentine's Day too, because I had seen people doing it in anime and manga. Later I learned that there are three different types of chocolate you can give away:
That's the chocolate for the one you love or have a crush on. Many women/girls make chocolate on their own for this occasion as an especially loving gesture.
Of course you can give chocolate to your friends or people that are close to you, too! I used to do that a lot while I was still in school/university but nowadays I keep forgetting about this holiday... Whenever I receive tomo-choco from my friends I usually give something back on White Day (I don't care about the gender stuff too much...).
This is more of a social pressure for many people in Japan, because that's the kind of chocolate you give to your boss, coworkers or other people you feel obligated to.
There's even a category called jibun-choco (自分チョコ) – chocolate you buy just for yourself. Especially when you're lonely or can't see/meet up with your friends, that's definitely something I would do, too. Due to corona, I think the jibun-choco rate has increased the last two years...
If you've read my last holiday special about Japanese Christmas, you already learned that Japan loves to adapt holidays from the west and make them their own. Every year the stores start their advertisement for Valentine's Day early in Japan and offer great sales. Materials for making your own chocolate are top sellers and some department stores have a whole floor filled with booths where you can buy chocolate in all shapes and sizes. The prices range between acceptable and absurd.
It's the same on White Day – I happened to be in Japan for this holiday once with my partner and he bought me a little white cake. Later he told me there were so many shops offering White Day's chocolate that he felt absolutely overwhelmed.
Do you give away chocolate on Valentine's Day or ever received some? Have you ever made chocolate yourself? Or did you ever express your love through chocolate? Let me know in the comments!