Today is Valentine’s day and this day is definitly celebrated in Japan, but in a slightly different way than in the rest of the world; it’s only the women who’re supposed to buy the presents.

Not any present, actually, just chocolate. In Japan chocolate is really important on Valentine’s day and you can buy delicious small chocolates in cute boxes everywhere. There are two types of chocolate; there’s ‘giri-chocolate‘, meaning ‘obligatory chocolate’, to give to your boss, co-workers, male friends, etc. And there’s ‘honmei-chocolate‘, the kind of chocolate you give to the person you want to express your love to. Giri-chocolate is simple and usally not very expensive, but for honmei-chocolate you can easily spent over 50 euro’s on a small box. There are also a lot of women who make their own honmei-chocolate.

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Today I went to the Tobu department store at Ikebukuro to visit their Valentine’s day Chocolate Marché. The best thing was that, just like with their foodhall in the basement, most chocolate counters offered free samples. After trying many delicious small chocolates I felt a little guilty and ended up buying myself a cute box. Considering the price I think I bought myself a box of giri-chocolate.

The reason for the Japanese way of celebrating Valentine’s day, with only the women buying the chocolate, seems to be the result of a mistranslation of a Valentine’s day poster when importing the Western tradition. But don’t worry, the Japanese found a way to give men the opportunity to buy presents as well; they introduced a second holiday! One month after Valentine’s day, on March 14th, they celebrate White day. On this day men can return the favor and buy presents (not neccesairly chocolate) for the woman they received chocolate from on Valentine’s day.