Just like in America, Valentine's Day in Japan is a celebration of all things romantic. But just because the holiday has the same name, that doesn't mean it's celebrated in the same way. Let's learn about how Japan celebrates this magical day.
Chocolates Are Super Important
In America, it's typical to give chocolate as a Valentine's Day gift - but flowers, jewelry, trips to Hawaii and Sims 4 expansion packs are all equally acceptable depending on the relationship. While there's certainly room for creativity in gift-giving, chocolate is very much the gift of choice.
Chocolates given on Valentine's Day are divided into two categories - giri-choco and honmei-choco. Giri-choco, also known as obligation chocolate, is given to co-workers, male friends, bosses, male classmates, and any other man with whom the woman has a platonic relationship. Honemi-choco are reserved for boyfriends, husbands, and lovers. These chocolates are often homemade, since that conveys more love than store-bought chocolate does. This doesn't stop Japanese stores from selling tons of chocolate around Valentine's Day, however.
Men Reciprocate On White Day
White Day, which takes place one month after Valentine's Day on March 14th, is the day when men give back to the women who bought them chocolate. Because of the holiday's name, the chocolate is often white - so if you're a woman who prefers dark or milk chocolate, you might be out of luck. It's Kinda Heteronormative
While having two whole days dedicated to love might sound awesome, both Valentine's Day and White Day can feel lonely and depressing for queer Japanese people. If you're a gay Japanese man, buying chocolate for your boyfriend on Valentine's Day feels weird because that's what women are supposed to be doing - but you can't buy it on White Day either, because you're supposed to buy it for women. Lesbians and bisexuals in same-sex relationships face similar issues.
Some choose to make the holiday work for them - Soushi Matsuoka is a gay Japanese man who sometimes gives his partner chocolate on White Day. But he also says he's felt excluded by the holiday, and often prefers not to celebrate it at all.
While there's definitely work to be done in regard to making Valentine's Day more inclusive, Japanese Valentine's Day traditions are still a lot of fun. I know I wouldn't mind getting back chocolate from literally every man I've ever met on March 14th - even if it is white chocolate. What's your favorite Valentine's tradition?