Japanese Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is practically upon us. There’s a significant difference between your way this holiday-that-isn’t-really-a-getaway is normally celebrated in Japan vs. elsewhere. Generally in most western countries, Valentine’s is a evening for couples to invest some romantic time alongside one another at a cafe or such. So when it involves gifts, commonly within heterosexual lovers the man sends blooms or chocolates or a cards to the woman.

However in Japan, things are actually rather different.

ROMANTIC DAYS CELEBRATION is of lessons an imported holiday without proven traditions in the united states, so when it had been introduced by confectionery manufacturers to everyone in the late 1950s, it had been marketed as a evening when chocolate presenting was essential – and that it de rigueur for women of all ages to provide chocolates to guys. (There are data of a confectioner in Kobe retailing Valentine’s Day chocolates as soon as 1936, but it appears they marketed them to the expatriate people living there at that time rather than Japanese persons.) According to articles in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper that came out in 1998, the first reference to ROMANTIC DAYS CELEBRATION was by a chocolate enterprise named Merry Chocolates, who set up a hand-written signal at their stall within Isetan section retail store in Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1958 saying “Valentine Sale”.


The sign had little effect the first year, since only a few chocolate bars were sold. But the next yr, they displayed some heart-formed chocolates, and the indication read “For women [to provide] to gentlemen”.

This time the ploy worked well. Another resource which conflicts somewhat with the Merry Chocolate history is that Fujiya released a Valentine’s Day compaign in 1956. an In 1960, Morinaga Seika (Morinaga Co. Ltd.), one of the major confectionery makers in Japan, started pushing the idea of women giving males chocolates on Valentine’s Day in a large way via nationwide newspaper ads.

The Valentine’s Day chocolate ‘tradition’ became firmly founded in the ’60s, and by the ’70s was a large business. This is around the time the idea of giri choco, or obligation chocolate – chocolates given by females to males to whom they have no romantic emotions whatsoever, such as bosses, teachers and so forth, for the sake of giri or a sense of obligation, became founded.

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