Valentines day in Japan
Next week is Valentines week. The week where people confess their love for each other and single people hope for a Valentine ’s Day match made in heaven. Chocolates and cards fly off of the shelves while pens swirl while writing confession letters and messages that may never actually meet their destination and end up in the trash can in a fit of shyness. While Valentine’s Day is similar in Japan it is also very different. Today I will go into Valentine’s Day in Japan.
The first difference that throws off a lot of people when coming to Japan is that on Valentine’s Day only the girls give chocolate. There is an entirely different day called WHITE DAY where boys give the chocolate back. The chocolates that are given by the girls to the boys are generally hand made. Starting in mid-January stores begin to sell chocolate, molds and very ornate boxes. Over the next weeks preceding Valentines girls will work tirelessly to make chocolates for friends, boyfriends and potential love interests.
When Valentine’s Day finally comes the girls face a fair amount of stress. What make giving chocolate so stressful you might ask, that would be Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very group oriented. Therefore gift giving is generally done in groups to help people save “face” and relieve the stress associated with giving chocolates to love interests. However giving the chocolates leaves a girl vulnerable, especially because they have to wait until March for WHITE DAY where the boys give their own chocolates back in response.
While this is an innocent gesture between friends and love interests it can be very isolating, especially if a girl or boy are very serious and stray from the group to ask out a love interest. This adds a new level to the equation because not only is the person isolated from the group and at risk to lose face, but their feelings are put on the line as well. If all goes well, the person who risked stepping away from the group will be praised, but if all goes badly, they may face ridicule from their group and may end up being forced from the group.
Since I have been married for near a decade now, I haven’t participated in Valentines activities like I mentioned for a long time. Times have changed and there may be different methods to give presents and the stress might not be a prevalent now. So, if you have any stories about Valentine’s Day in Japan please share them so we can all learn. What other kinds of traditions have you observed from your own home countries during the month of love, if you even celebrate Valentine’s day. Please share, I would love to hear from you.