If you have a special “other half” in your life, chances are that you might have Valentine’s Day on your mind pretty soon. Valentine’s Day is done a little differently in Japan but it has become a big occasion over the past half a century or so. If you’re living in the Kansai region and wondering what you can do to treat someone, here are some suggestions.
Valentine’s Day is a fairly recent phenomenon in Japan. It is believed to have been introduced in 1950s by the Morozoff confectionery company as a way of – you guessed it – promoting the sales of chocolates. Interestingly, Japan has traditionally had two Valentine’s Days in a sense. The internationally-recognized 14th of February is a day when women in Japan buy chocolates and gifts not just for romantic partners but also for platonic friends – including female friends – as well as work colleagues, bosses and teachers.
Exactly a month later on the 14th of March, men traditionally repay the favour. Those that received a nice surprise on Valentine’s Day are expected to treat their partners to something equally, or more, special. This day is known as White Day.
Although these are still Japanese norms, it is becoming more common for people in Japan to follow the western Valentine’s traditions where both sexes honor their partners – and only their partners – on the 14th of February, while eschewing White Day altogether.
Chocolates are the most popular Valentine’s gift across Japan. Traditionally, there are three types of Valentine’s Day chocolate females buy:
Honmei-Choco – for romantic partners such as husbands and boyfriends, these are typically quite expensive and beautifully-packaged chocolates, although some may choose to be more personal and make their own chocolate treats
Giri-choco– for people known in a professional capacity, such as colleagues or bosses, these are generally much cheaper and bought as a mere token of acknowledgement
Tomo choco – known as “friend chocolate” and bought for platonic male and female friends, this is similarly inexpensive to giri-choco, although if you have a special friend and want to splash out then you will need to make sure that you don’t give off the wrong signals!
Great places to buy nice chocolate gifts in Kansai include Bel Amer, La Maison du Chocolat and Mon Loire. If you’d prefer to send flowers, you can use providers such as Nippon Florist, Flora Japan or Bunches Baskets.
The increasing western influence on Japan’s Valentine’s customs has meant that many couples now look to commemorate the occasion with an experience to create memories to treasure. Popular choices are:
You could also book an excursion on the Sagano Romantic Train, although this is understandably popular around Valentine’s time so book in advance. If you want to treat your partner to a romantic weekend not too far away, it’s worth checking what local hotels have Valentine’s offers. Zentis Hotel in Osaka has promoted good Valentine’s deals in recent years.