In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a unique way. Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love. It’s a day to appreciate your significant other. That being said, men are supposed to buy flowers or gifts to give to their wife or girlfriend.
In Japan, the equivalent to Valentine’s Day is Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, Japanese couples usually spend time with each other rather than with their family. Japanese Valentine’s Day is vastly different from Western Valentine’s Day and involves chocolate that girls and women give out to men and to friends. This practice is very popular amongst Japanese High School and University students.
Interestingly, there are three kinds of chocolate that are given out on Valentine’s Day. One kind of chocolate is called tomo-choco (友チョコ) – ‘tomo’ stems from the Japanese word tomodachi which translates into friend. Tomo-choco is mainly distributed to female friends, classmates and other society and club members. The second kind of chocolate, honmei-choco (本命チョコ), is given to men as a sign of true love. Women work especially hard to make honmei-choco special. The third type of chocolate is given to co-workers and bosses purely out of obligation and with no romantic feelings attached. This chocolate is called giri-choco (義理チョコ).
One month later, on the 14th March, Japan celebrates White Day. That’s the day men are expected to return the favour. They present gifts or white chocolate to women from whom they received chocolate the month before. White Day gets its name from the colour of the chocolate and appears to be very similar to Western Valentine’s Day. As a general rule, the gift presented should be of more value than the chocolate received on Valentine’s Day.
Often, chocolate for Valentine’s Day is handmade, however it is possible to buy the chocolate from stores and supermarkets. During Valentine’s Day chocolate factories make nearly fifty per cent of their yearly profit. However, women and girls almost always make their honmei-choco for their true love by hand.
To make tomo, honmei and even giri choco, girls start preparing the chocolate a day or two before Valentine’s Day. The most important baking tool here is the mould. You can easily find heart-shaped and round-shaped chocolate moulds in Japan. Chocolate hearts are usually given to boys and men of true love. First, the chocolate is melted in a bowl that is floating in hot water and during this process you stir the chocolate. You then take a spoon and fill the moulds with the chocolate. Let the chocolate cool down and then put the moulds in the fridge to make the chocolate set. To make red heart-shaped honmei chocolate, which is very popular, simply melt white chocolate and add red sprinkles.
By Michelle Heinrich