In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated across the globe where presents like chocolates, candies, and flowers are gifted to loved ones. In Japan, however, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with some unique Japanese traditions. Valentine’s Day edition chocolates and snacks flood supermarkets and shops in February and tempt you with their kawaii (可愛い) packaging and irresistible sweetness. 


Get into the mood of love and learn more about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan, the significance and romance of gift-giving, dazzling collections of Japanese chocolates, and more. 


Valentine’s Day in Japan 

Valentine's Day is celebrated on 14 February
Photo by photoAC

Valentine’s Day has evolved from various cultural and historical origins to a modern and commercial celebration of love. In Japan, a popular Kobe-based confectionery, Morozoff, claimed to be the first to sell sweetheart chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Other chocolatiers like Mary’s Chocolate and Morinaga joined the “Valentine’s Day chocolate club” to promote chocolates as an indispensable gift in the celebration of Valentine’s Day. 

While Valentine’s Day in Japan is celebrated just like how it is commemorated in other countries, there are special customs that make it fun and interesting as the day of romance is celebrated more than once in Japan!

On 14 February, Japanese women usually give chocolates to men, who can be a special someone in their lives or male friends or colleagues. 

 

White Day is celebrated on 14 March
Photo by photoAC

A month later, on 14 March, known as White Day (ホワイトデー), men will return gifts to the women who give them presents on Valentine’s Day to express their sanbai kaeshi (三倍返し), which means "three-fold reciprocation" and a hint that men should send more expensive gifts as a favourable gesture. 

 

 

Gift-giving in Japan: The Types of Chocolates to Give and Receive on Valentine's 

Heart chocolates in Japan
Photo by photoAC

Gift-giving culture in Japan on Valentine’s Day and White Day is fascinating. Here’s a guide to the different types of chocolates you can give and receive. 

 

Honmei Choco (本命チョコ)

This is the classic chocolate gift for that special person to express your affection. Honmei (本命) means "true feelings", so honmei choco is presented to romantic partners. These sweetheart chocolates are usually expensive and fancy chocolates. Some people prefer to give homemade chocolates, their "labour of love", to show their sincere appreciation and love for the important partner in their lives. 

Honmei choco is an exciting kokuhaku (告白) gift for a potential love interest to confess your affection. If you are lucky to receive honmei choco, remember to express gratitude and return with a gift even if you may not reciprocate the romantic feeling. 

 

Giri Choco (義理チョコ)

Giri choco is the most common type of chocolates given on Valentine’s Day. What is the significance of giri choco? Known as "obligatory chocolate", giri choco is given to people you have no romantic feelings for, but you have or would like to show appreciation and thanks. 

This large group of gift recipients can include friends, colleagues, bosses, and more. Remember: giving giri choco should not break your bank. Popular giri chocolates include mass-produced snacks like Kit Kats and Meiji chocolates that you can find easily in supermarkets and convenience stores. 

 

Tomo Choco (友チョコ)

Tomo choco is gifted to your tomadachi (友達) or friends! This "friendship chocolate" is a great way to thank your friends who have been there for you throughout the years. Friends like to meet up during Valentine’s Day to celebrate their friendship and platonic love over good food and gifts. 

 

Jibun Choco (自分チョコ)

Remember to love yourself so celebrate YOU on Valentine’s Day by buying chocolates for yourself. Jibun choco is a perfect way to pamper yourself and focus on self love. As you shop for gifts for others, don’t forget to spoil and treat yourself to your favourite chocolates. 

 

Gyaku Choco (逆チョコ)

While giri choco is the most popular chocolate given on Valentine’s Day, men can still give chocolates to women. Gyaku choco, which is translated to mean "reverse chocolate", is a play on the custom of giving giri choco. Men can surprise their recipients by gifting gyaku choco even before White Day. 

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Japan

heart shaped balloons in the sky
Photo by Unsplash

February is the month of fun and love and Valentine’s Day is celebrated with your loved ones and friends in Japan. Prepare for the celebration of love and romance by shopping for gifts early. Supermarkets or department stores in big malls like Isetan and Daimaru are a shopping paradise with their comprehensive showcase of everything Valentine-related like chocolates, cookies, and macarons. From artisan and designer chocolates to exclusive Valentine’s Day specials to sweets from small neighbourhood shops, you can be creative with your gift-giving. Some bigger malls even host Valentine’s Day food and dessert fairs for your one-stop shopping. 

 

Valentine's Day CookiesPhoto by pixabay

The Japanese love limited edition, gentaiben (日本限定版) food and Valentine’s Day is the occasion to have limited edition snacks. Get ready to see all shades of red and pink and many hearts all over shops tempting both women and men with everything sweet.

Valentine’s Day is a busy day for restaurants so book your dinner spot early, especially if you are looking forward to a romantic dinner with great food and romantic ambience. Some restaurants have special menus just for Valentine’s Day that feature seasonal ingredients. 

 

A marriage ema wooden plaque
Praying for love and marriage in Tottori’s Hakuto Shrine | Photo by Wendy Ng

Some people like to visit shrines on Valentine’s Day to seek blessings for their love life and marriage. There are some shrines that “specialise” in romance luck and you can buy special love-themed charms, omamori (御守) to get more love power! Everyday can be a Valentine’s Day so embrace the romance of your daily life by treating your family and friends with love and kindness. 


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Are you in the mood for love? Feel and spread the love this February with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Omiyage Snack Box “With Love, Izu”! The romantic collection of snacks, curated in collaboration with JR East Yokohama Branch, features exclusive treats sourced from Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture and other regions in Japan. 

Here’s a preview of the delights you can share with your friends and that special someone: Saphir Odoriko Sand Cookies, Shiroebi Senbei Heart-shaped Glass Shrimp Rice Crackers, and Chocolate Arare (Strawberry). Want more spice in your love life? Try the exclusive snacks made with high-quality wasabi from Shizuoka Prefecture like Izu Wasabi Pistachio, a delicious debut from our February Maker, Kameya Foods, and Daships (wasabi and dashi infused chips). 

Start the Valentine’s Day snack feast and apply promo code “IZUOFF3” or “IZUOFF6” for extra savings while pampering yourself and your loved ones with Japanese snacks this February 2024! 


With love,
Wendy Ng

Meet the author

Wendy Ng

Wendy (@whywendywrites) spent 2 life-changing years in Okinawa as part of the Japan and Exchange Teaching (JET) Programme. Now, back in Singapore, she dreams and writes about Japan. A compulsive-obsessive travel planner and foodie, she believes that when we know more (and eat more), we travel better.

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From the traditional wagashi to modern adaptations, Japanese sweets are a delightful exploration of taste and tradition. Let's embark on a journey to discover the art of Japanese sweets—such as...

Sue Lynn Japanese Snacks

The Art of Japanese Sweets: Exploring Tradition...

From the traditional wagashi to modern adaptations, Japanese sweets are a delightful exploration of taste...

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese Seafood Snacks
Sue Lynn

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese S...

If there's one thing Japan is known for, it's the country's incredible range of seafood. Surrounded by the sea, Japan's geographic position has significantly influenced its culinary traditions, with seafood...

Snack Lover Japanese Snacks

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese S...

If there's one thing Japan is known for, it's the country's incredible range of seafood....

Friendly staff at Japanese snack shop
Sue Lynn

September Maker's Story: Rabbit motif snacks fr...

Hailing from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Hamausagi has been making rabbit-themed snacks and confections for over 90 years.

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

September Maker's Story: Rabbit motif snacks fr...

Hailing from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Hamausagi has been making rabbit-themed snacks and confections for over...

japan festival food yakisoba
Sue Lynn

What your favourite Japanese summer festival fo...

During the hot months of July and August, summer festivals (夏祭り natsu matsuri) are held all around Japan where celebrations take shape in the form of mesmerising dances (Awa Odori,...

Sue Lynn Festival

What your favourite Japanese summer festival fo...

During the hot months of July and August, summer festivals (夏祭り natsu matsuri) are held...

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to Catch This Summer
Sue Lynn

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to...

Summer in Japan is incomplete without a spectacle of fireworks! East Japan, where major cities like Tokyo, Sendai, Nagano, and Yokohama are located, is home to many exciting displays of...

Sue Lynn Summer

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to...

Summer in Japan is incomplete without a spectacle of fireworks! East Japan, where major cities...