Almanac Flashback – Valentine’s Day in Japan

The Footy Almanac first published this enlightening story by our Japanese correspondent Yoshi in 2015. He reflects upon what Valentine’s Day means in Japan.

Valentine’s Day Promotions offered by retailers have been running here in Japan since January and it is time for me to write a culture article, like what I wrote about Christmas in Japan last December. If you are disappointed because my writing is not about a sport, I apologise for it…

 

While I was researching about trends and situations for this writing, I found different trends that I was not familiar with and shocked to hear. I realised that meanings of Valentine’s Day have been changed. I will detail these later in the article.

 

The Valentine’s Day’s trend that I have been familiar with for most time for me is that women and girls give chocolates to men and boys. Valentine’s chocolates can be for their partner (husband or boyfriend) or son(s) or colleagues or bosses.

 

Japanese Valentine’s Day’s roots are said that women are given opportunities to express their wishes for dating to a man whom she likes. It is said that one of major chocolate make, Morinaga started the campaign for shy women. But other online sources tell us that it was to break old fashioned Japanese custom where women were not allowed to choose partners by their own. In old years until WW II ended, Japanese marriages were arranged where men’s parents negotiated women’s parents for marriages.

 

Valentine’s Day’s Promotions started getting bigger in the mid-1950s. Morinaga started big advertising in the newspapers in 1960. Giving chocolates to men became popular in 1970s.

 

Traditional Valentine’s chocolates are divided into two main categories.

 

The biggest one is called Honmei Choco, chocolates for partners and potential boyfriends. These sweets are made with heart shaped ones. Some ladies purchase ingredients and cook on their own.

 

Other major Valentine’s Day chocolates are called Giri Choco, chocolates for mainly bosses and colleagues as obligations.

 

Valentine’s Day in Japan seems good for me, but as I worked for a railway company as a signal electrician and signal project engineer where almost all of employees were men, I had no luck with getting a chocolate in adulthood. Actually the custom of giving obligated chocolates can shock men who have no female colleague or were not popular amongst women.

 

Sales of Valentine’s Day chocolates for partners and obligations have been declining in the twenty-first Century. But new trends help chocolate makes gain more profits.

 

The first adopted trend is that women purchase chocolates for themselves as retreats. I found this trend when I took a research seven years ago for my essay at an adult learning organisation in a small town in New Zealand. I was surprised and shocked to hear the trend. My loss of interest in Japanese Valentine’s Day and being an expat in New Zealand (2004 – 2008) were facts of having been unaware of the new trend.

 

Thinking about what to write here, remembering about the new trend made me wondering if Japanese trends follow true meanings of Valentine’s Day or not.

 

Indeed another research has been done. I found that the origin would be a Roman priest, St Valentine who encouraged young people to get married at the Christian church, while young soldiers were not encouraged to get married due to fears for their wives and children if they lost their lives.

 

Even if the origin of the day is mystery, I believe that St Valentine’s Day was established to show love between partners.

 

Japanese customs on Valentine’s Day are far from true meanings and too commercial. I thought that these were right in early my life, but now feel guilty of changing true meanings in Christian occasions including Christmas.

 

But I think Japanese media and retailers are to be blamed for establishing such trends and customs as they only focus on profits.

 

Then today, I found the second new trend while researching. Women give chocolates to their girlfriends to express appreciations for friendships. According to surveys, some women choose to give chocolates to their girlfriends because they are happier and more appreciated for getting chocolates than blokes.

 

Also I found shocking results of surveys. But feeling shocked is not because women are not willing to give chocolates to men (I have no luck with getting a chocolate).

 

The one which was taken in 2005 shows that many women were against the custom they gave chocolates (obligated ones) to men and want such customs to end. But they wanted to get chocolates from men instead.

 

To be honest, only negative words and comments from me would be said to these ladies. They forgot about White Day (14 March) when they would get biscuits back from men.

 

I would advise these kinds of women to seek someone else if they want a boyfriend. Rich men are for them. I would be happy to give flowers and chocolates to my girlfriend on 14 February when I have got the one, but a woman who is not kind or warm or helpful or caring to me (I would offer these attitudes towards the future girlfriend) is not whom I want to date.

 

And such attitudes are indeed ignoring true meanings of St Valentine’s Day. I am very sad to hear…

 

For me, Valentine’s Day will be a day showing the love to a girlfriend, but it would not come this year because I am single and have no special feeling towards a woman. I may feel strange on 14 February this year, but it is okay for now…

 

 

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About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Ah Yoshi,

    you are blessed with an honesty and open heartedness which is refreshing. Valentines Day in Australia is where MEN are expected to surprise their partners with flowers, chocolates and wedding proposals! I am sure women buy gifts as well, and perhaps it is more of an exchange over here. But my memory (no VAlentine for me either) is that the pressure was on the man. So in my mind, it would be more like what you are describing. So you are a true Aussie male in spirit – you want to find a girl special enough to give her gifts of love.

    Your time will come

    Yvette

  2. Louise Currie says

    Hi Yoshi

    Thanks for this insight into Japanese Valetines Day. It’s about time that women and girls started giving their blokes Valentines gifts (chocolate or another) rather than expecting it all themselves.

    Happy Valentines Day.

    Louise

  3. Hi Yvette and Louise,

    Thanks for reading the article and your comments.

    Yvette – Thanks for your warm words. I am surprised to hear you think pressure on Valentine’s Day was put on men. But exchanging is good and much better than nothin.

    Louise – It would be nice, but I have no luck today. I was jealous to see queues ladies buying chocolates today. But it’s a friendly reminder that there is no Miss Right here. Awe, it’s okay because I am moving to Kyoto in a fortnight. I will have a western girlfrien. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too :)

    Enjoy the weekend :)

    Yoshi

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