Valentine’s Day in Hiroshima

ByJustin Hanus
Jan 30, 2023

Valentine’s Day in Hiroshima

Valentine’s Day is a big deal worldwide, including in Japan. To understand why you need to understand how the holiday came to be.

The Origins of Valentine’s Day

Although the origin of St. Valentine’s Day is a bit murky, the holiday as we know it is undoubtedly a mix of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions.

One account suggests Valentine was a Roman imprisoned and killed for his efforts to help Christians escape Roman prisons. He sent the first “valentine” greeting – a letter signed “From your Valentine” – after he fell in love with his jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. The legend goes that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial.

Another claim is that the Christian church may have decided to place its St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.

Various other stories about the origins of Valentine’s Day exist – the holiday is shrouded in mystery. Whatever the case, the stories all emphasize Valentine’s appeal (whoever he was) as a sympathetic, heroic, and – most importantly – romantic figure.

The holiday eventually evolved into a celebration day and an opportunity to express affection between couples, relatives, and friends – for instance, many schoolchildren exchange valentines with one another. Since the avian mating season begins in mid-February, birds also became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts include candy and flowers – particularly red roses, a symbol of beauty and love.

Valentine’s Day in Japan

Japan celebrates Valentine’s Day somewhat differently than the rest of the world. Firstly, it’s a day when only women give gifts to men – but don’t count your chickens yet, fellas – usually in the form of chocolates or cookies. Secondly, it’s not an exclusively romantic holiday as it tends to revolve around a clever marketing ploy by chocolate manufacturers capitalizing on social structure norms in Japan.

Giri choco, or “obligation chocolates,” are, as the name suggests, for those to whom women feel obligated to give Valentine’s Day candy. Examples could be a male boss, coworkers, teachers, relatives, or friends. Receiving giri choco isn’t a statement of romance, although it is often a genuine gesture of friendship and bonding.

There’s also honmei choco, which women give to men as an expression of love or romantic interest. This chocolate can be particularly pricey. In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, stores run overtime, selling immaculate boxes of sugary delights. It will likely be some of the best chocolate you’ll ever eat if you’re lucky enough to receive some.

The gift-giving is not all one-sided, though: the marketing campaign that started this tradition in Japan also saw fit to balance the scales – or perhaps double dip with White Day. Taking place exactly one month later, it’s when men gift chocolate to women.

Chocolate Shops in Hiroshima

To celebrate Valentine’s Day Japanese style, you’ll need to find a chocolate shop in Hiroshima to buy a gift for your special someone. Some options include the following.


GODIVA has been selling gourmet Belgian chocolates since 1926. Order from the online shop or pay one of the stores a visit — there are seven in Hiroshima.


Marco Chocolaterie

Marco Chocolaterie is located in The Outlets Hiroshima (along with one of the GODIVA stores). The chocolates are beautiful and make for a great gift.


Hiroshima Chocola

Hiroshima Chocola offers baked chocolate candy made from Sagotani-brand milk. Although it’s not strictly traditional by Japanese standards, the chocolate could be a great way to gift a loved one something you’ll only find in Hiroshima.


Other Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Hiroshima

You may also seek a romantic spot in Hiroshima to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A couple of options stand out as ideal.

Mitaki-Dera Temple

Located in a forest just north of the city, you’ll find Mitaki-Dera Temple. It’s just a short walk from Mitaki station up the slope of Mount Mitaki to reach the temple. What awaits you is certainly worth the effort: a vibrant-red pagoda surrounded by statues and three waterfalls nearby.

Couples come here for blessings on Valentine’s Day, but you can also enjoy strolling around the grounds and taking refreshments in the teahouse. If you want an active Valentine’s Day, you could also continue along one of the trails through the bamboo forest to reach the summit of Mount Mitaki, where you’ll be awarded fantastic views of Hiroshima.

Mitaki-Dera Temple

Shukkei-en Garden

Another destination that’s particularly popular on Valentine’s Day is Shukkei-en Garden. Its name means “shrunken scenery,” referring to the miniaturized forests, mountains, and valleys. It has everything you find in a traditional Japanese garden, including several tea houses.

Since Valentine’s Day is a big deal in Japan, you’ll also be able to find special romantic meals on the menu at virtually every restaurant. However, since many couples will be doing the same, make a reservation if there’s somewhere you particularly want to go to!

Shukkei-en Garden

Image: by Julie Jablonski via [CC BY-NC 2.0] – modified

About the author

Justin Hanus editor