Valentine's Day in Japan

Japan is well-known for putting its unique spin on western holidays. Christmas, Halloween, even St. Patrick's Day - so why not Valentine's Day?

The chocolatier Morozoff Ltd. introduced Japan to Valentine's Day back in 1936. By the mid 1950s, after it had marketed a hugely successful campaign of giving heart-shaped chocolates, other Japanese confectioneries quickly followed suit. By 1960, "Valentine Sales" became a yearly ritual.

But it's Japan's custom of women giving chocolates to men that continue to turn western heads. Many believe this practice was caused by a translation error by a chocolate-company executive during one of the first Valentine campaigns. As most who have lived in Japan long enough know, women give chocolate to their male co-workers and superiors, boyfriends, and friends only to have the favour (or obligation) returned exactly one month later. This tradition, known as "White Day", was started in the 1980s by the Japanese National Confectionary Industry Association, which may explain why Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during these two months.

Well, with Valentine's Day right around the corner, all you need to do is take a look around. You'll no doubt have seen the plethora of signs and boxes of chocolates and adverts for Valentine Day date spots. Being a "Hamako" (Yokohama local), my favourite places to recommend during this time are:

Sogo Department Store in Yokohama Station
They celebrate a floor-wide “Yokohama Chocolate Paradise” from the end of January until mid-February. You've never seen a chocolate sales frenzy until you've been here:


Motomachi Street's St. Valentine's Day Special and Charming Sale event: imagine a whole city getting in on the action!

by Former Deep Japan Writer

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