Valentines Day the Japanese Way
So how do you think typical Japanese celebrates February 14? Same as everyone, someone gives and someone receives. It may be in form of chocolates, flowers, other material gifts, a date or card. But the difference is the recipient- mainly influenced by culture and market/trade. Here is an article from a Japanese language expert , Namiko Abe, stating how Valentines is celebrated in Japan.
” In Japan, it is only the women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. Japanese women are usually too shy to express their love. (Though it might not be true nowadays.) Therefore, Valentine’s Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings. However, this is a custom that smart chocolate companies spread to boost their sales, and it has been very successful. Now the chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine’s Day. Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called “White Day” (March 14th), a Japanese creation.
Does it sound good to you? Don’t get too excited when you get chocolates from Japanese girls! They might be “Giri-choko (obligation chocolate).” Women give chocolates not only to their loved ones (“A true love” chocolate is called “Honmei-choko.”) “Giri-choko” is the chocolate given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in, just for friendship or gratitude.
The concept of “giri” is very Japanese. It is a mutual obligation that the Japanese follow when dealing with other people. If someone does you a favor, then you feel obligated to do something for that person.
Unlike the West, sending a Valentine’s cards is not common in Japan, and the phrase “Happy Valentines” is not widely used. “Happy Birthday” and “Happy New Year” are common phrases. In this case, “Happy ~” is translated as “~ omedetou （～おめでとう）.“
Being here in Japan for almost 5 years and worked in hospital, aged-care facility with both men and women I have seen such culture where most of the female staff bring chocolates to work on the 14th of February and give it to the male staff. I thought how thoughtful they are but I came to know that it is part of the culture or respect for each other. But also this day is quite reasonable for every women to express their feelings to the man they liked. And in return the women will wait until 14th of March ‘White Day’ for the response of the man, if the man will give back white chocolate it means he likes you too but if he will not give you back something then its the opposite. However, this day isn’t just limited for co-workers or the man you liked but also for male fiends or loved-one.
Personally, I am not into celebrating valentines day. Because i believe everyday is full of reasons to celebrate love. Though I have nothing against this day, in fact i enjoy the gift giving and the tradition. But if we look back to the real story of valentine: it – being associated to some martyrdom stories of St. valentine of Rome and another history is the feast of Lupercalia- as said to be a dark story under ancient Romans . I don’t want to spoil your excitement for today. So, if you want to read more of the past history you can read it here.