Valentine’s Day in Japan is an important day, especially for girls and women. Though the customs are a little bit different here than what you might be used to. First of all, it is the girl/woman, who will give chocolate as a present to their love interest on the one hand, but also to good male friends, family members and co-workers (and also the boss sometimes) on the other hand.
In Japanese, these two types of chocolate are called “Honmei choco” for a special someone (even if you are not dating yet) and “Giri choco” for friends, family, and co-workers. But especially, if you as a guy are not exactly sure what your relationship to this girl /woman is, you might wonder how to distinguish these types, right? So there are some more and some less obvious hints on what she tries to tell you with this.
It is usually “Honmei choco” when she confesses her love for you by saying “Sukidesu” or asks you out with the words “Tsukiatte kudasai”. But women are sometimes shy or don’t want to confess so openly when other people are around. In this case she might not say anything, but she will give you a hint by the type of chocolate. If it is either homemade chocolate or a very, very expensive kind of chocolate, chances are high that she wants to say it in a roundabout way. If you receive less expensive chocolate like Pocky, she probably just wants to thank you for being a friend. Sometimes she will underline this by saying “Giri choco desu ne”.
For the ladies who are still looking for some fancy chocolate to give to your special someone. In Sogō Kobe (the big department store right in front of Sannomiya station) there is a Valentine’s special event called ‘Chocolate Paradise Event’ on the 9th floor of the main building. This event features the special Valentine’s Day collection famous chocolatiers from all over the world.
Address: 8-1-8, Onoedori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 651-8511
Open: Everyday 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
For those of you who are the one half of a couple and want to go out on that day, I have some suggestions on where to go. Usually, Japanese couples would meet in the evening (since it is a weekday and they have work or school during the day) and go for dinner together, where she gives him her “Honmei choco”. Around the 14th, most of the cafes and restaurants have special menus for couples, so you can basically go anywhere, but if you feel like going for something more chic, Kitano ward is the place to be for you. There is an accumulation of European style restaurants such as French (the classic), Italian and Spanish cuisine. Also, it’s a nice area to go for a night stroll after dinner.
If you prefer a little more relaxed atmosphere and would like to do something more off the mainstream, why not go to Nankin-machi (china town)? There are several good restaurants and little stores that you can explore with your significant other.
Another suggestion would be taking your partner to the harbor area and enjoying a meal up in the sky. Inside the Kobe Port Tower, there is a slow rotating restaurant with a gorgeous view over the rooftops. One turn takes about 20 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about getting nauseous. But I would kindly suggest making a reservation ahead of time as it’s quite popular and the seats are very limited.
For you non-Japanese guys, if you should also get something for your girlfriend, let’s say it’s never a wrong idea to surprise your significant other with a little gift. However on March 14th in Japan, there is the so-called “white day”, and on this day you are expected to officially return the favor of receiving the chocolate by giving in kind.