Valentine’s Day in Japan (in general)

My favorite chocolatier.

Here in Japan, women give chocolate to men on Valentine’s Day. Men, in turn, do nothing. When I first heard this, I thought it was grossly sexist and unfair. Why do the women have to do everything while the men just sit there? I suppose the same can be said for the reverse, however.

When I was an assistant language teacher, I asked some of the boys at the school what they thought about Valentine’s Day in Japan, and some of them said they hate it, which surprised me.

“We never get anything,” they said. “Every year we have to sit here and watch the other boys get chocolate from girls, and we get nothing.”

In this I understood the power women have in Japan with this duty of giving others chocolate. They can choose to whom they give their chocolate. Men also choose whether they accept that chocolate or not, however.

If the chocolate given is a declaration of love and the man in question feels the same way, then on March 14th, called White Day, he’s supposed to give chocolate back to her. That’s the theory anyway. I don’t know anyone who would ignore someone for an entire month before responding.

The holiday here has also become a little bit softened in that there’s something called “giri choco” or “obligatory chocolates.” Women in the workplace who work with men and women who want to give chocolate to their friends do so and call it “giri choco” so it’s clear there’s no deep romantic feeling behind the chocolate. The men at the office, by the way, are still obligated to give chocolate back on White Day, and usually way better chocolate than what was given to them.

The holiday has recently evolved to the point where, and I love this, women just end up buying nice chocolate for themselves. I did that this year, and it was completely worth it.

Small note: I wish Japan would adopt the American tradition of having everyone in the class give each other Valentine’s Day notes. I know that has to be a humungous pain to every parent making sure your kid writes to every single classmate, but it avoids the pain I saw those boys experience being so utterly left out on Valentine’s Day. I think that makes it worth it.

Also, I have no idea what people in the LGBTQ+ community do on Valentine’s Day in Japan. I’m sure they don’t let these archaic traditions of “women give chocolate to men” stop them from telling others how they feel on this holiday, though.

I also think the holiday should be more about just being an excuse to give people chocolate, and everyone should give anyone they know even just a small chocolate for fun.