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Valentine’s Day in Japan

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Pop Culture & OTAKU , , ,

February is known to be the love month in some parts of the world. It is because of the Valentine’s Day on February 14. As we can see in Japanese shows and anime, there’s also a hype especially among schoolgirls when this time of the year comes. How do the Japanese celebrate this holiday?

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is a holiday observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it is not a holiday in most of them. Just like the Halloween, it also came from a Christian holiday. And again, just like the celebration of Halloween in Japan, the tradition of Valentine’s Day in Japan is created by commercial organizations.

Origin of Valentine’s Day in Japan

In Japan, Morozoff Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later in 1953 it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958, the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo ran a “Valentine sale”. Chocolate bars were sold as St. Valentine’s Day’s gifts for the first time by Mr. Kunio Hara. There was a story on how this day originated in Japan:

When he was a senior at the university, he got a letter from his superior who had been living in Paris. He said in his letter that people celebrate a day called St. Valentine’s Day, and exchange love messages and small gifts like chocolates or flowers between friends, family, etc. He didn’t know the meaning of St. Valentine’s Day at that time, but he held “St. Valentine’s Day Fair” at Isetan Department Store. sHe could sell only 3 chocolate bars and one card during 3 days. After that he read books and knew that St. Valentine’s Day is a day to memorialize St. Valentine, and he was a patron of lovers

In those days, most of the women were modest and seldom express their feeling willingly. Even if they love the men, they were too shy to show their affection. Then he thought that St. Valentine’s Day deserves to be made in Japan. If handing chocolates to men means showing women’s affection, it might be good for women. He introduced this custom by arranging into a Japanese style which tickles women’s hearts. Needless to say, the most important thing for him is to sell chocolates.

Chocolates as Gifts

The following year, he sold heart shaped chocolates because he had knew that St. Valentine was a saint of love. He also made a catchphrase “From women to men”.

The third year, he started a service to draw names of love and sender on the heart shaped chocolates, like “from …. To …” This idea came up among women and became to be know little by little. Then other confectionery companies followed this event. In this way, making gift of chocolates on St. Valentine’s Day has been getting very popular.

Another theory of the origin was there was translation error of a chocolate company executive during the initial campaigns.

valentines

Image from AC- Illust

Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the activity about the gifts is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Nowadays women buy chocolates not only for the men they like, but also for their friends and male colleagues, etc. They sometimes buy chocolates for themselves, because there are so many kinds of delicious chocolates in stores. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.

In our next post of this series, we will talk about the different types of chocolates that girls give during this day.

 

References:

1. St. Valentine’s Day of Japan. Kikuko-Nagoya.com

2. Valentine’s Day. Wikipedia.

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