How To Celebrate Valentine's Day in Japan

How the Japanese Celebrate Valentine's Day

Senior Japanese working early in the morning
Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa / Getty Images

Do you have any plans for Valentine's Day? Is there a special way of spending this time in your culture? Learn how the day of love is celebrated in Japanese culture. 


In Japan, it is only the women who give presents to men. This is done because women are considered to be too shy to express their love. Though it might not be true especially in modern times, Valentine's Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings.


Women typically give chocolates to men on Valentine's Day. While chocolates are not necessarily the customary gift to give, this is a custom that smart chocolate companies have spread to boost their sales. This tactic has been very successful. Now, chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine's Day.

Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called "White Day" (March 14th). This holiday is a Japanese creation.


But don't get too excited when you get chocolates from Japanese girls! They might be "giri-choko (obligation chocolate)."

Women give chocolates not only to their loved ones. While "a true love" chocolate is called "honmei-choko", "giri-choko" is the chocolate given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in. In these cases, the chocolates are given just for friendship or gratitude.

The concept of "giri" is very Japanese. It is a mutual obligation that the Japanese follow when dealing with other people. If someone does you a favor, then you feel obligated to do something for that person.

Valentine's Cards and Expressions

Unlike the West, sending Valentine's cards is not common in Japan. Also, the phrase "happy valentines" is not widely used.

On another note, "happy birthday" and "happy new year" are common phrases. In such cases, "happy ~" is translated as "~ omedetou (~おめでとう)."

The Color Red

Which color do you think is the color of love? In Japan, many people would probably say it is red. Heart shapes are usually in red and red roses are also romantic gifts. 

How do the Japanese see the color of red? How do they use it in their culture? Read Japanese Conception of Red to learn the meaning behind the color red in Japanese culture and how it is used in society.

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Abe, Namiko. "How To Celebrate Valentine's Day in Japan." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). How To Celebrate Valentine's Day in Japan. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "How To Celebrate Valentine's Day in Japan." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).