Valentine’s Day in Kobe

ByJustin Hanus
Jan 22, 2023

Valentine’s Day in Kobe

Valentine’s Day is an essential holiday throughout Japan, but it’s extra significant in Kobe. Here, a chocolate shop advertised Valentine’s Day chocolates for the first time in Japan back in 1932. The advertisement ran in an English-language newspaper and targeted foreign residents. It took another four or so decades for the holiday to become popular among Japanese nationals, but it’s now a major event.

How Does Japan Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

The customs for Valentine’s Day in Japan are slightly different than what you might be used to. Women typically give chocolate as a present to their love interest and to close male friends, family members, co-workers, and sometimes even their bosses.

In Japan, there are multiple types of chocolate, each of which has a different meaning. Understanding the differences is important for figuring out what to purchase for someone and determining the message behind any gifts you receive.

There are four important types of Valentine’s Day chocolate.

1. Honmei Choco

Romantic chocolate is called honmei choco, which means “true feeling chocolate.” For chocolate to meet honmei choco criteria, it must be either expensive or homemade. Since making chocolate at home is laborious, many purchase mixes, shells, molds, and decoration kits. The most elaborate honmei choco features a pearl sugar or cocoa nib finish.

2. Giri Choco

At the opposite end of the spectrum is giri choco: “obligation chocolate.” Although it sounds less than appetizing, it reflects the importance of gift-giving in Japanese culture. Recipients can distinguish giri choco from honmei choco by price, exclusivity, and even amount — it’s common for co-workers to receive just one piece from a larger box.

3. Tomo Choco

To give chocolate when it’s neither an obligation nor for romantic reasons, there’s tomo choco, meaning “friendship chocolate.” Both men and women can give this chocolate — it’s called yuri choco when exchanged between women and homo choco when exchanged between men.

4. Gyaku Choco

The newest type of Valentine’s chocolate is gyaku choco, which means “reverse chocolate.” This is the chocolate men give women on Valentine’s Day. Whether that’s clever marketing or promoting equality is up for debate.

Where to Find This Fancy Chocolate

You can find fancy chocolate to give to your special someone at several places.


L’avenue and its chocolatier Shigeo Hirai are famous worldwide. Arrive early — you may be waiting in line for a long time.

Address: Utopia-Tor 1F 3-7-3, Yamamoto-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 650-0003
Open: Monday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


JHOICE brings customers chocolates made with the finest ingredients, including top-quality cacao. This is perfect for some extra-special honmei choco.

Address: Store 9, 5-21 Hanakumacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, 650-0013
Open: Monday to Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Kobe Hankyu

Kobe Hankyu is the big department store in front of Sannomiya station. You’ll find several options for fancy chocolate here, such as Morozoff (the brand that introduced Valentine’s Day chocolates to Japan), Mon Loire Chocolate House, and Saison de Setsuko.

Address: 8-1-8, Onoedori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 651-8511
Open: Monday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This list of places will also come in handy for the men a month after Valentine’s Day. March 14th is White Day in Japan when men are expected to gift their spouses chocolate.

Where to Go for a Date

Usually, Japanese couples celebrate Valentine’s Day by going out for dinner together. Around the 14th, most cafés and restaurants have special menus for couples. This means you can have a romantic meal virtually anywhere. However, Kitano Ward is great if you want something incredibly chic. As well as Japanese food, you’ll find European-style restaurants serving French, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. Plus, it’s an ideal area to stroll after dinner.

If you’d prefer a more relaxed atmosphere or would like to do something a little out of the ordinary, consider Nankin-machi (Chinatown). There are many excellent restaurants and stores to explore with your significant other.

Another option is to take your partner to the harbor area and enjoy a meal near the sky. Inside the Kobe Port Tower is a slowly rotating restaurant with a gorgeous view over the rooftops. Since it takes 20 minutes to complete one rotation, you don’t have to worry about feeling nauseous. You should make a reservation ahead of time, as the restaurant is quite a popular spot for Valentine’s Day and seating is limited.

If you’re lucky enough to spend Valentine’s Day in Kobe — the city where the holiday began in Japan — make it one to remember.

By Bernd from Yokohama, Japan (One missing, oops.) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Justin Hanus editor

Leave a Reply