Updated: February 26, 2016
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Uniqueness Of Valentine's Day: A Special Day For Girls In Japan

In Japan, Valentine's Day is the occasion when women express their love to the men by giving chocolate. In recent years, however, the chocolate has gained more meanings than just love. I will introduce some different types of chocolate for Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day in Japan

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In western culture, on Valentine’s day, men treat girls romantically with a surprise gift.
But in Japan, the idea is opposite. It is almost like an obligation for women to give a chocolate gift to men on Valentine's Day.

The origin of this custom can be traced back to 1950s when the chocolate shop named "Morozoff" first introduced the Valentine's Day as an occasion to express love in Japan.
After that, department stores and the confectionery stores targeted women, and started to sell the chocolate as the special gift of Valentine's day.
Since then, the custom of giving chocolate from women to men has been perpetuated throughout Japan.

Now, Valentine's in Japan has become more than just expressing love.
The chocolate can be divided into 3 types depending on whom you give.

"Honmei (true love)" chocolate

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Honmei(本命) chocolate is given to the man you really love. Originally, it is common to give it to your boyfriend or husband, but recently Valentine's Day is considered as the day to ask the man to be the boyfriend.
Honmei chocolate is usually hand-made. Most women make a great effort to make a tasty one so that you express how much you love, and show how well you can cook to the man you love.

"Giri (obligation)" chocolate

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Giri(義理) means obligation. This chocolate is for the male co-workers in the office as appreciation for daily cooperation. There is no rule, but women feel obliged to prepare this type of chocolate.
Usually, women buy giri choco in department stores.

"Tomo (friend)" chocolate

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You can give tomo(友) chocolate to your friends regardless of sex to show appreciation for the relationship.
Tomo chocolate is usually hand-made, it is not necessary to be chocolate. You can make other types of sweets such as macarons and cakes.

How to recognize Honmei and Giri Choco ?

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For foreigners who aren't really familiar with the concept of honmei and giri choco, getting a chocolate from friends or co-worker can be confusing, because how the heck do you tell them apart?

The difference between "Honmei" and "Giri" is that people don't make serious preparations when offering giri choco.

Also it is likely that people offer giri choco in front of others. As for honmei choco, people usually offer them privately. Also, honmei choco are more likely to be costly or to be homemade.
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Be careful and try not to mistake a giri choco as a honmei choco and save yourself from confusion and an embarrassing moment thinking that she's into you!

Happy Valentine, everyone!
I'm a Japanese student studying English.

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