Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: America vs. Japan

(Some virtual Valentine's chocolate, from me to you. Happy V-Day! :)

I find it fascinating how the same holiday can be so different in different countries. Take America and Japan:

In America, Valentine's Day is mainly about men doting on women - buying them candy and flowers and jewelry and taking them out for fancy meals. This is all well and good - if you have a significant other. If you don't, the holiday becomes just another day on the calendar, since they have yet to make it a National Holiday (if they did, then we'd have someone to love ;). Children are not to be left out, however - there are also the popular Valentine's Day cards, emblazoned with the latest and greatest in entertainment (movies, music, video games), which are purchased by the box and handed out to every friend and schoolmate a child may come into contact with. Some parents even give their kids candy, creating a second Easter (although instead of being delivered by a rabbit it's a baby in a diaper wielding a bow and arrow).

In Japan, however, Valentine's Day is mainly about girls giving boys chocolates. Some prefer to hand make them, but the Valentine chocolate industry is a booming one. It's a great way to announce to a boy you like that, well, you like him (and find out if he likes you back). Some popular boys rate their standing by how many chocolates they get (or, at least, that's what they do in manga ;). Girls (especially ones without boyfriends) sometimes use the holiday to give "thank-you" chocolates to friends and colleagues and people they are grateful to. Smaller children are sometimes required to give chocolates to their whole class by the school - or their mother.

While in America the holiday has expanded to women also giving men things (romance goes both ways), in Japan it's rare for a boy to give anything to a girl on February 14th (unless they are very young). This is because of White Day, which is held exactly one month from Valentine's Day on March 14th. White Day is when the males who received chocolates reciprocate by giving a small thank-you trinket (sometimes white, but not always). Girls who received "thank-you" chocolate sometimes reciprocate as well. Nothing like instituting a holiday to clear up any confusion about when that thank-you is due. ;)

Two different countries, one holiday, two totally different ways of celebrating it. Fascinating, no?


  1. This is really interesting! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Aw, that's actually really sweet. :)

  3. Wow, interesting! I love the idea of getting a trinket on White Day, but I'd much prefer chocolate ;)

  4. Hmm...I think Shonen Jump once had an article on this.

    Wait...I need to renew my subscription.

  5. There was a time when I never knew about Japan's version of Valentine's day...

    And then I started to read manga.

    *sighs in satisfaction* Ah, Manga. ^^