If you happen to be in Japan on February 14th why don’t you have a Valentine's Day Japan style?
In Japan, it’s the ladies who give something to the men on Valentines Day. That something is usually chocolate. You can buy chocolate for Valentine's Day everywhere in the weeks leading up to the event. You will have the best selection at department stores and patisserie, but you will be able to find some small gifts at convenience stores as well.
But if you want to show your boyfriend or husband that you really love him, you should make the chocolate yourself. So before Valentines Day every year, there are a lot of mothers and their daughters who make lovely chocolate for their loved ones by melting chocolates into heart shapes and decorating them with colorful pearls or writing.
This year I decided to make some chocolate muffins. I found the recipe on the internet and the valentine themed cups and some decoration to top them off at the 100 Yen store around the corner where they sell lots of cute supplies for your Valentine's Day baking.
You might be wondering why I made so many muffins. Well, let me tell you: In Japan, there are three types of chocolate that you give on Valentines Day.
Honmei Choco (本命チョコ) is the chocolate you give your loved one. Your boyfriend or husband (or maybe the guy you are secretly in love with). This is the most expensive kind. It should be clear right away that the person means a lot to you just from the chocolate itself. So for your loved one you buy chocolate at a department store where there are thousands of high end chocolates to choose from. I went to Mitsukoshi in Tokyo two days before Valentine's Day and it was crazy busy with all the people wanting to buy chocolate there.
Giri Choco (義理チョコ) is chocolate for example for your male work colleagues and bosses, and male friends. Giri means obligation, and women in Japan feel obligated to give some chocolate to all the males in their close environment. This chocolate doesn't have to be expensive and is just meant as a small gesture to say thank you and that they are not forgotten on this day of love. You can buy this kind of chocolate at a convenience store. It will cost you about 5$.
The last category is Tomo Choco (友チョコ) which means friend chocolate. You give this kind of chocolate to your female friends. I also give chocolate to my female coworkers. Same as Giri Choco this doesn't have to be anything expensive. It is just meant as a nice gesture.
But don’t feel bad for us girls. Because White Day is only one month away. On March the 14th it is the men's turn to return all the favors they have gotten on Valentine's Day. The White Day gift is usually not made of chocolate, which makes me very sad because I love chocolate, but can be any other kind of sweets. I even heard that as a general rule the men's gift on White Day should be 3 times the value of what they have received on Valentines Day. But I am not so sure about that. And how would we even know how much some chocolate or sweets cost?
All the girls in my team (or project) collect some money (usually about 10$ each) and from the pool, we buy some chocolates for all our male colleagues. On White Day the men will do the same and buy something sweet for us in return. For me, it is actually kind of nice to give and take, even though it is more or less obligatory and might feel forced to some.
Like I mentioned above, I made some muffins because I love baking and even when it’s not Valentines Day I love bringing cakes, muffins, and cookies for my colleagues at work.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Valentines Day is a huge profit machine in Japan. And not only the patisseries and department stores make insane amounts of money from chocolates. Starbucks as with any big event in Japan is always adept at making some money for themselves. This year there is a Valentine Chocoholic Cocoa and Valentine Chocoholic Frappuccino and I have to tell you: They are both sooo delicious.
Even if you are not in Japan why don’t you try to have a Japan-style Valentine's Day? Get some small chocolate praline and spread the love between your friends and colleagues.