What is Valentine’s Day Like in Japan?

by Megan Taylor Stephens

Valentine’s Day in Japan (and White Day too)

In true Japanese fashion, Valentine’s Day appeared in Japan and then gradually refashioned itself over time. A Tokyo company called Mary Chocolate promoted Valentine’s Day in Japan by advertising chocolates and cards in 1958. Morinaga and other companies later jumped on the bandwagon and began selling chocolate. By the 1970s, Valentine’s Day really took off.

As Valentine’s Day was becoming popular in Japan, it morphed into a different kind of holiday. The expectation was that women would be the first to announce their romantic feelings. Previously, it had been taboo for a woman to confess her feelings for a man, and this was one day when she could do so freely and without judgment.

A twist on the Valentine’s custom is that exactly one month after February 14th comes a uniquely Japanese event called White Day. March 14th is known as White Day, when the recipient of the Valentine’s gift returns the amorous overture—or not. After waiting with baited breath for one month, the woman who confessed to her romantic feelings would find out if she hit a home run or struck out.

Chocolate Choices

Not all chocolates are alike in Japan. There are giri choco, which are basically average, courtesy chocolates that one gives to platonic friends and coworkers. And there are honmei choco, which are heartfelt chocolates of high quality that are given to one’s true love. They are often homemade. Another version is tomo choco, or friend chocolates. Women buy these for each other as a sign of friendship. Lastly, jibun choco are ones you buy for yourself as a little token of self-love.

Despite chocolate’s popularity, you don’t have to limit yourself to buying chocolates on Valentine’s Day. It is becoming the norm to give a range of gifts, such as white chocolate, cookies, jewelry, or flowers.

Bokksu has an incredible line up of Japanese snacks and special treats to wow your love interest or friend.

Recommended Japanese Snacks and Sweets for Valentine’s Day

One Japanese sweets box that is sure to be met with enthusiasm is a collection of six packs of Pocky: Otona no Kohaku Adult Amber. This is no child’s Pocky chocolate candy. It is a malty bread stick dipped in whiskey-scented dark chocolate and meant to be enjoyed with a whiskey on the rocks.

Pocky: Otona no Kohaku Adult Amber

The red wine lover might prefer the Pocky: Megumi no Rudy Goddess collection. The dark chocolate coating has a subtle fruity flavor and the bread stick has cheese and black pepper undertones. It is specifically made to accompany a glass of red wine. You can really stir up some trouble with these grown-up dessert bread sticks.

Pocky: Megami no Ruby Goddess Ruby

Besides chocolate, there are other Japanese treats and candy that send a message of appreciation. The Daimonji Ame Honpo Candy Gift Box is a collection of 12 bags of artisanal hard candies. This candy company from Kyoto has been in business since 1921 and takes pride in their age-old approach of making candy by hand. With traditional Japanese flavors such as mikan (Mandarin orange), kaki (persimmon), sakura (cherry blossom), and yuzu sake, there’s something for every taste bud.

Daimonji Ame Honpo Candy Gift Box

A great way to send cupid’s arrow straight to your crush’s heart is by giving them a Japanese snack box subscription. By signing up for Bokksu’s Japanese snack subscription box, you can get a Japanese candy box or snack collection sent to your doorstep. Every month you’ll be greeted with a different assortment of Japanese candy, savory snacks, and teas. This month the Pink Valentine box is featured. It includes an enticing assortment of chocolates, cookies, candies, and crackers, such as the Hokkaido White Raspberry biscuit and Choco Arare, a rice cracker dipped in milk chocolate.

Hokkaido White Raspberry

How to Say I Love You in Japanese

It’s true that how to say I love you in Japanese is usually through top-shelf Japanese candy, fancy chocolates, or high-end Japanese snacks. But in addition to these Japanese snack and candy boxes, we recommend that you practice some love language.

Here are some Japanese phrases that you can practice in your head or out loud, depending how far along you are in the relationship. You can even try to copy the writing and put it in a love note:

Anata ga suki desu あなた 好き です = I like you.

Anata ga daisuki desu あなた 大好き です = I like you a lot.

Ai shiteru 愛してる = I love you.

Tsukiatte kudasai 付き合って ください = Please go out with me.


These Valentine's Day chocolates are droolworthy! Check them out below.

Good luck with Valentine’s Day, White Day, and your pursuit of love!

By Megan Taylor Stephens

Author Bio

Megan Taylor Stephens interest in the Japanese language, culture, and food goes way back. She was a Japanese exchange student in high school. Then she studied Japanese and linguistics in college, returned to Japan to work through the JET program (Coordinator of International Relations), and was an interpreter and translator for a while. Megan taught English as a Foreign Language in Japan and other countries before getting a Master's degree in ESL and becoming an ESL teacher. She then pivoted to becoming a school-based speech-language pathologist, so still gets to be immersed in the field of applied linguistics and loves working with bilingual students. Megan enjoys writing on the side for companies like Bokksu. A love of language, culture, travel, food, and learning never dies, it only gets more intense--just like cravings for ramen and Pocky!