Valentine’s Day honors love and romance

Valentine’s Day candies come in many shapes and forms.

Valentine’s Day is on Friday, and men and women are hurrying to department stores and candy shops to purchase treats for that special person in their lives. In America, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by men wooing their women with chocolates, red roses, gifts and romantic outings; however, in Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated a little differently. Girls and women, rather than boys and men, spend their money on gifts and chocolates for their boyfriends, husbands and coworkers.

There are two types of chocolates given on Valentine’s Day — giri-choko and hon-mei. Giri-choko are given to coworkers and friends out of obligation. These chocolates, usually smaller in size, are offered out of respect and are in no way a sign of love or infatuation. Whereas giri-choko are not so personal either for the giver or the receiver, hon-mei are the chocolates and gifts given from a girl to her beau. These presents are often bigger than giri-choko and are much more intimate; they have personal meaning and feelings attached. Although a man will likely receive many giri-choko on Valentine’s Day, he will most likely receive only one hon-mei. These gifts are reserved for boyfriends, lovers and husbands.

While shopping for Valentine’s Day treats roses, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and other traditional presents can be found everywhere, but in some local shopping centers, you could find a large variety of unusual gifts. From ¥100 up to ¥2,000, you’ll find chocolate lollipops, chocolate-covered fruit, gift items such as wallets and handkerchiefs with a few chocolates enclosed, “sardines” made of chocolate, Band-Aid and medicine containers containing “love medicine,” miniature awamori bottles filled with chocolates and packaged mixes for you to make your own homemade treats. You can also purchase empty chocolate casings that you can fill with handpicked chocolates.

In these Valentine gift corners, you will also find boxes and envelopes for your gift and cards in which to write a special message. In the past, many Japanese companies came up with interesting – and sometimes even eccentric — chocolates in strange and often perverted shapes, but recently companies have been focusing on making higher-quality chocolates. No matter what you’re looking for while shopping for that special gift, you’ll be pleased with the variety available at many department stores and other specialty shops.

The Japanese Valentine’s Day traditions may seem a little backwards when compared to their Western counterparts, but the locals have another day called White Day, when men return the favor to their loved ones. On March 14, men show their affection by purchasing gifts, flowers and chocolates for their spouses and girlfriends. Also, if a male received giri-choko on Valentine’s Day, he will buy a gift for the giver in return. Oftentimes, men buy white chocolate for their spouses, girlfriends and coworkers, but it isn’t required by tradition that it be white; many of them do this simply because of the holiday’s name.

Whether following Western or Japanese Valentine’s Day traditions, be sure to treat that man or woman of your dreams to something special to remind him or her of your love. Happy Valentine’s Day!