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Valentine's Day in Japan a blizzard of chocolates

by Yuka Suzuki, staff writer

St. Valentine’s Day is a unique event in Japan, though its celebration is very different from the United States. Traditionally in Japan, St. Valentine’s Day is the day when women declare their love for men and present them with chocolates. Japanese females also present chocolates to males as a social obligation, especially in business situations. While this can be occasionally confusing, it ensures that in Japan, it is a blizzard of chocolates on Feb. 14.


Originally, in the time of the Roman Empire, St. Valentine’s Day was celled Saturnalia and was a holiday to honor the Queen of Roman goddesses, Juno, who was known as the goddess of women and marriage. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius, soldiers were prohibited from marriage. Valentine, a priest, married many military couples secretly, for which he was arrested. While he was in jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter and Valentine was given her sight through his prayers. St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world as day the patron saint of lovers, St Valentine, and lovers all around the world send cards, flowers or candy to each other.

Japan’s St. Valentine’s Day tradition was started by a chocolate company in 1958 and quickly become popular by 1975; females throughout Japan were confessing their love to males and presenting them with chocolate. A variety of special chocolates are made especially for St. Valentine’s Day, and many females buy them at prices ranging from $3 to $50. Some Japanese women make homemade chocolates to impress the men in their lives.

Japanese society traditionally uses indirect communication. One of the classic examples is for some shy schoolgirls to put chocolates in boys’ shoe boxes or on their desks at school. Popular boys need to bring extra bags to school on St. Valentine’s Day.

Many Japanese females present chocolates not only to their lovers, but also to their bosses, coworkers, or friends as a social obligation today. At some offices the females staff collect money to buy chocolate for their male bosses and coworkers. This practice has recently been criticized by those who argue that it is better to donate money to relief funds than spend it on chocolates.

Every year, national TV news features stories about St. Valentine’s Day, including interviews with the public about how many chocolates they bought or recieved. St. Valentine’s Day has become a social celebration rather than a personal event.

Turnabout is fair play, and there is another unique event in Japan, White Day, on Mar. 14. On White Day males give gifts to females, including candies, cookies, or dinners. Most males gave gifts to the females who presented chocolates to them on Valentine’s Day.

According to survey by, some Japanese think it would be a better practice for both males and females to have the opportunity to give gifts for St. Valentine’s Day as in the United States.


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