How Japan celebrates a unique Valentine’s Day different to western countries
In December, we introduced the different ways Japanese people celebrate Christmas. The Japanese have a custom of celebrating different kinds of events irrespective of being religious or not. And the way they celebrate them is always different from others. This time, we will introduce how Japanese people spend their Valentine’s Day. Maybe you would also want to try their way of celebration?
The Day Ladies Confess! Giving Chocolates as a Gift
In Europe and the United States, Valentine’s Day is the day men give presents to ladies. However, in Japan, it is the day ladies confess to men. Chocolates are given out as a present during confession, and this actually originated from advertisements by Japanese sweets makers in order to boost the sales of chocolates. Since then it has become a custom in Japan. It is quite usual that in Japan, PR by companies become everyone’s practice.
Giving the Chocolates to that Special Someone
Do you ever wonder if they just pass the chocolate directly during confession? However, as Japanese ladies are quite reserved, it is difficult for them to confess face to face. Because of this, for example, in the case of students, instead of passing it directly, they would secretly put the chocolates in the person's shoe locker or drawer. Perhaps you may think, wait, isn't the locker a place to put your shoes? And to put food inside it? So unbelievable! Also, isn’t it a violation of privacy to open someone’s locker without permission?! Yes, you are right. This is what's strange about the Japanese. These kinds of scenes are usually seen in comics and animations, and people just follow. So, it is quite normal, especially among the students. But in the case of adults, handing the chocolates directly is what people do.
Keep an Eye on the Guys!
And for guys, Valentine’s is the day to compete to receive some chocolate. Hoping to get any chocolates, they will clean their shoes’ locker or drawer the day before Valentines’, or dress up more than usual and go to school with high spirits… Seeing how desperate they become is quite an entertaining scene.
”Girichoko” - A Sign of Appreciation to the Unpopular Men?
“Giri” (Obligation) means an act to which a person is morally bound to follow. The “Giri” in this case, however, has the meaning of doing reluctantly, not with a sincere intention. In other words, Girichoko (Giri chocolate) is what is given to someone who is not of your interest but who has helped you in your day-to-day life. This “Girichoko” is quite a norm among adults rather than students. such as instead of confessing, giving the chocolates to a business partner because of the social obligation. I bet you think it's a little strange, right?
Meanwhile, the most representative “Girichoko” is from your own mother. When you didn't receive any chocolates on this day, getting chocolates from your mother is surely a happy thing to celebrate.
Returning the Favor on White Day
It is a custom in Japan to return something when you receive a present. While Valentine’s Day is on the 14th of February, a month after that, the 14th of March, which is known as White Day, is when men return something for the chocolates received on Valentine’s Day. Generally, men will return with cookies or white chocolate, but just like the Japanese proverb “Throwing a sprat to catch a mackerel”, it is common to receive something more expensive than the chocolate you give out. For men who are popular among the ladies, they tend to spend more on White Day.
Furthermore, this return rule applies to “Girichoko” too. In a Japanese company, it is common for men to buy luxury sweets to give in the company in return for the “girichoko”. For you who plan to work in a Japanese company, be ready!
Usually a month before Valentine’s Day, there are special sites set up for chocolates, or sales of some strange-shaped chocolates. If you plan to come to Japan during this period, please get some chocolates! Perhaps you can get something awesome in return for “Girichoko”!