Valentine’s Day in Japan
The history of how Valentine’s Day got started in the U.S. is … confusing. A man named St. Valentine decided to disobey the Emperor and marry young couples (which was against the law). Or he tried to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. The legend goes that he fell in love with a young girl who would visit him while he was in prison. “Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and -most importantly- romantic figure.” All of this happened before the middle ages (which I find crazy that the guy behind Valentine’s Day is not some guy in the last century that wanted to make extra money).
There isn’t even a clear cut reason to the day celebrated as Valentine’s Day. Some think that it’s celebrated in the middle of February to pay tribute to the anniversary of Valentine’s death (crazy right). Others say that
“the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia (an ancient festival, observed on February 13th -15th, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility).”
What every the reason, it wasn’t until the end of the 5th century that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. Little details also led up the holiday becoming a romantic one. There was a belief the February 14th was the beginning of the bird’s mating season which helped with the idea of romance. Valentines greetings were popular but written Valentine’s didn’t come until after the 1400’s. American’s didn’t start exchanging Valentines until about the 17th century.
The history of how Valentine’s Day in japan got started is not so complex. Around the late 1950s, post-war era, Valentine’s Day began to come around. A department store decided to sell some chocolate. People could get a small box of chocolates and a card for about 170 ¥ (about $1.50 today). The man that came up with this idea wanted to help the economy. He was trying to make more jobs and create revenue. Since this time the tradition of Valentine’s Day has grown exponentially.
So how does it all work? Well there are two types of chocolates to give during this holiday. First there are the “giri choco (義理チョコ、ぎりちょこ),” which mean obligatory chocolates and then there are “honmei choco
(本命チョコ、ほんめいちょこ),”which is the chocolate that women and girls give to someone they like or even love. Typically, giri choco is bought at a store and probably bought all at the same time. This type of chocolate is the kind that you give to you co-workers, male friends, and (yes) your boss. I know what you are thinking, “Chocolates for my boss?” It is expected that you give giri choco to ever male that you work closely with (this could get pricey) and your boss.
Honmei choco is usually had made or, if bought, really expensive. A girl will take the time to pick out the right types of chocolate, the types of molds to make the chocolate in, and the box or bag to put the chocolate in. Then the girls hand make (well put them in molds and stuff) the chocolates and decorate each of them. These are the chocolates that are most important because the tradition is that the girl gives the chocolates to the guy as a declaration of love. Then on White Day (we’ll get to it) if the guys comes back then they become a couple. That makes this chocolate a BIG DEAL!
Now don’t think that the boys get all the luck because one month later (March 14) they have to return all of the chocolate they were given at 3x the value of what they got, this is White Day. So say that you give a guy some chocolates that are $3, well that guy has to spend $9 on the chocolates that he returns. Can you imagine what a super popular guy has to go through that day?!
So, somewhere between Valentine’s Day and White day the department store that started Valentine’s Day in Japan and a Fukuoka marshmallow manufacturer decided that there should be a day for men to return all of the delicious chocolate that he had been given. Thus White Day was born. The color of the marshmallows is what gave the day its name but all kinds of gifts were given even at the beginning of the new holiday. White Day is really a day for girls to get excited for. Not only is there a ton of delicious chocolate coming their way but also their crush just might become a boyfriend on that day. Now I have to say that if the girl was to get turned down then this would actually be a very sucky day for her. These chocolates, just like the girls, are sometimes handmade or bought for the girl or girls that the guys have to return.
So, here’s what I think…
This version of Valentine’s Day just gets me a bit confused. I like the idea of it being a back and forth exchange but I am not so sure about a guy having to pay more for the chocolates than me. I am not being some stubborn independent woman (although sometimes I am) about this; I just don’t think it’s fair to the guys. Plus the stress of not forgetting anyone in the office or any of your friends AND then being SUPER nervous to go up to your crush (who obviously knows what the chocolate are for) and hand him a box of chocolates. I think that there are pros and cons to this method but I can say that this is entirely Japanese and there is no other country (that I know of) with this tradition. I also think that it could be very fun and a really cool experience to have. I know that sounds kind of hypocritical but that is how I feel.
I can’t wait for this experience!!!! If you haven’t seen the exciting announcement on my last post you should go check it out!!
Question of the week: Do you have a secret crush? Do you think that giving then chocolate on Valentine’s Day is an easier way to tell them?
Please note that I do not take credit for any of the photos used in this post. I found them all on Google. I am very sorry if I have used your photo and you do not want me to. Please let me know and I will take it down. Thank you!! 😀