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Valentine’s Day in Japan

It’s not what you might expect!

In America at least, I never cared about Valentine’s day, because it’s just red hearts and gross candy and cheesy cards and I never participated (got anything).


Pretty and cute boxes of chocolate

Japan’s tradition is equally (if not much more) commercially driven, but totally opposite from the gift giving tradition in the US. (Is it the same in other countries? I only know Japan and Korea are the same.)

Girls buy chocolate for boys on Valentine’s Day!

What!? Isn’t that backwards?


Who wants a chocolate gorilla? Is that romantic?

I read that there was a misunderstanding about an advertisement for Valentine Chocolate targeted towards foreigners in Japan, which is why women give chocolate to men. On Valentine’s Day in Japan, there are a lot of beautifully packaged chocolates and handmade treats going around at the schools and businesses. Some of it because the girl likes the boy and some of it because she brought chocolate for everyone. It’s called giri-choco when it’s for everyone you work with or in your class. This means “Sympathy Chocolate.” I feel obligated to give you chocolate because no one else will or because the insane consumer culture dictates that I do so. Or because this was really cute so I wanted to buy it for everyone. (Hello Kitty giri-chocolate for my coworkers, yes, that was me.)


A shrine known for love (恋の木神社) set up a mini version in a mall in Fukuoka so people can write their romantic wishes and hang them up.

It’s brilliant really. From my perspective, men don’t buy Valentine chocolate unless they feel obligated to (pressured into it) for a partner, although they apparently eat chocolate almost as much as women do. Women on the other hand, seem to really like shopping for chocolate and like pretty things. This means chocolate sales could be a lot better with this tradition. It looks like the United States is still the biggest importer of chocolate, so as far as quantity imported and consumed per capita, Japan is on the low side worldwide, although the highest in Asia.


Nanoblock (similar to LEGO) made from chocolate. This is cool and something men would probably like.

I think this is one way for girls to be bold and let someone know she likes him. The boys are supposed to reciprocate by buying white chocolate on March 14th – White Day. I heard they never do.

The sheer coolness of the products you can buy during Valentine’s season makes me want to splurge and go nuts with cuteness.

people tree

I like to see the fair trade chocolate. These look fun, but I haven’t tried one yet. I think they’re available all year at some stores, so they aren’t specifically Valentine chocolate, just pretty.

In the past, I have bought sort of normal chocolate (for sale everyday in Japan) for my boyfriend. There is a brand called Melty Kiss which just makes me giggle. I got a box of the fancy green tea flavored chocolates, plus a small chocolate bar that looks like money and other funny things. I have also bought some fancier plum wine filled chocolates and treats with cute Hello Kitty packaging.


Super cool (and not to scale) planet chocolates. I wonder why they left out Uranus? (One of my favorite subjects of humor.)

There are items which are obviously for younger boys. There are also really sophisticated chocolates which are way too fancy. I think the recipient would be scared to eat them or gobble them up without appreciating their beauty. It’s kind of a waste.


I will eat you bus! This is cooler than a chocolate bunny. Plus it’s a hybrid.

There are probably better things to invest your money in, but I sure do enjoy being amazed at the craziness around February in Japan. This is just a small collection of photos, mostly cool variety chocolate.


This is what I would buy for my dad and brother if I wasn’t being cheap.

What do you usually buy for Valentine’s Day? Is this tradition cool or just commercialism gone overboard?


2 comments on “Valentine’s Day in Japan

  1. Pingback: Give Yourself to the Dark Chocolate | helloalissa

  2. Pingback: Chocolate and Valentine’s Day in Japan | helloalissa

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2016 by in Living in Japan and tagged .

My ebook, No Time For Love

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