Hello everyone. January has passed in the blink of an eye, and February has already begun. Today, we would like to introduce Valentine's Day in Japan. Many of you will be surprised to know that the culture is quite different from that of the United States. If you have been reading our newsletter for a long time, you may have already read about Valentine's Day in Japan before, but this year's edition is even more up-to-date, so please read on.
In addition, we will be introducing chocolate products available at Maido that you can give or request for Valentine's Day, as well as Valentine's Day recipes using Japanese chocolate and some other Japanese ingredients. Let's get started.
The origin of Valentine's Day
(It has nothing to do with Japan, but just in case you have never heard about it...)
The origin of Valentine's Day is strongly believed to be ancient Rome, dating back to more than 1,700 years ago. At that time, marriage was forbidden in the Roman Empire in order to motivate soldiers to fight. However, through the arrangement of a Christian priest called Saint Valentine, many soldiers were married secretly. The fact came to be known and the emperor pressured him. However, Saint Valentine did not give in and was executed on February 14th around the 3rd century.
After that, prayers were held by the citizens every year on February 14th in honor of Saint Valentine's love and courageous action. Since the 14th century, more than 1,000 years later, February 14th has become an event for lovers.
How did it become a lover's day?
There are various theories as to why Valentine's Day, which used to be a religious event in honor of Saint Valentine, came to be known as lovers' day as it is today.
Originally, February 14th was the feast day of Juno, the goddess of family and marriage, since the time of the Roman Empire. People drew lots to determine who they would spend the day with at the Lupercalia festival held the following day. This custom, combined with the legend of St. Valentine, is said to have led to the establishment of February 14th as the day of love in Rome.
According to the old calendar, February 14th was also the beginning of spring, which was said to be the season for birds to choose mates. Some believe that this is why it became lovers' day, a day for proposing gifts, as it is an appropriate time to show one's love.
Valentine's Day took root in Japan with its own unique style
There are many theories about how the culture of Valentine's Day was spread in Japan, but one of them is that it was introduced to Japan in 1958. Kunio Hara, who was working for a confectionery company at the time, heard about the custom of Valentine's Day from a friend living in Paris and came up with the idea of spreading it in Japan.
In the beginning of 1960s, Valentine's Day was not that recognized yet, but the exchange of gifts was encouraged not only between lovers but also between family and friends. The event became more popular in the 1960s. Around 1970, the current Japanese style of Valentine's Day, in which women give chocolates to men, began to take root. In Japan, Valentine's Day is known as the day that women give chocolates to men and confess their love to them. Believe or not, about 20% of the annual chocolate consumption in Japan is consumed on February 14th.
Japanese Magazine from 1958
Chocolates with Different Kinds of Meanings
For partners, the gift of honmei-choco, translated to true-feelings chocolate, is given. Homemade honmei-choco is even more special, and many women will take it upon themselves to make it from scratch.
Giri-choco, which means obligation chocolate, that was introduced in the early 1980s and is given to male friends, classmates, co-workers, and even family members is also a unique Japanese custom. The main purpose of giri-choco is to express gratitude, and it is given not only to men, but also to women. It is said to have spread originally among female office workers to give it to men in their workplace.
Between friends, you can exchange tomo-choco, friendship chocolate. Tomo-choco is a way for them to thank one another for their friendship throughout the year. The custom centers around exchanging homemade sweets, and it is common for several friends to hold an exchange. It is said that the term tomo-choco became widespread around the year 2000.
Jibun-choco, which literally means self chocolate, is to give to yourself as a reward. Lots of people buy some fancy chocolate for Valentine's Day that they want to try. So, even if you do not have anyone to give chocolate, you can give it to yourself!
In the past few years, the trend for Valentine's Day has been oshi-choco, dedicating chocolates to your idol. Oshi is what you call your favorite celebrity, singer, and character, etc. For example, you can say Hello Kitty is your oshi, or BTS, a K-pop group is your oshi. (It can be both individuals and groups.) Oshi-choco is a chocolate that incorporates your oshi's theme color(s), their favorite things, or anything related to them. You could give oshi-choco to your oshi if you can meet or send gifts to them, but for most people, it is to celebrate on their own or with friends.
This is an example of oshi-choco. You prepare chocolate with your oshi's images and theme color, take pictures with your oshi goods, then worship them.
What kind of chocolates are popular?
Products from the popular confectionery brands all over the world and famous patissiers are very popular every year.
With the recent people's habit of posting on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram, chocolates with a glamorous appearance are popular nowadays. For example, Valentine's Day chocolates with bright colors and designs reminiscent of jewelry are attracting attention.
People that are mindful of the environment tend to choose chocolates that are organic, fair-trade, sustainable, etc. Morinaga, a well-known chocolate maker that Maido sells, is offering to donate one Japanese yen for every eligible chocolate product purchased through February 14th to support children in chocolate-producing countries.
Also, due to the recent healthy boom, many people tend to choose chocolates with no or few additives. In this newsletter, you will also find recipes for homemade chocolates and dessert using chocolate with healthy ingredients, so make sure to read until the end.
Event for Valentine's Day
There is another big culture of Valentine's Day in Japan - The deli section usually in the basement and the event hall typically on the upper level in department stores become a special Valentine's Day event area.
JR Nagoya Takashimaya in front of Nagoya Station is currently holding its 24th annual Valentine's Day event called Amour du Chocolat, which continues to boast the highest sales and scale of any Valentine's Day event in Japan.
Last year, the event attracted more than 700,000 visitors, with sales reaching a record high of more than 3.4 billion yen. Due to the rising costs of cacao, the raw material of chocolate, and logistics, the price of products at confectionery stores has risen 5 to 20% compared to the previous year's event. Still, customers rushed to the brands of famous patissiers, and many people were seen buying in bulk.
Currently, in keeping with the trend of the times, they are also selling their products online. (Unfortunately, they only ship within Japan though.)
If you ever get to go to Japan during the Valentine Day's season, why don't you get some chocolates at the department stores? You will not regret it.
JR Nagoya Takashimaya
Do you give any return gifts?
There is another unique Japanese culture related to Valentine's Day called White Day. One month after Valentine's Day, March 14th is designated as White Day, a day for receivers of the gifts on Valentine's Day to give back something to the givers. Usually, cookies, marshmallows, and candies are the standard gifts. Some people say giri-choco, introduced above, is said to have the underlying meaning of please give me a return gift on White Day.
Chocolate Products Maido Offers
Lotte, Ghana Chocolate (Milk and Black)
Recommended for the recipes in the next section!
Ghana chocolate is a smooth melting chocolate with a rich flavor. It tastes like cocoa powder with a good aftertaste and no unpleasant flavor.
Meiji, Chocolate (Milk, Himilk, and Black)
Recommended for the recipes in the next section!
Meiji's chocolate is pure chocolate made with simple ingredients. The balance of ingredients creates an exquisite taste.
Meiji, Chocolate (Milk and Black)
Recommended for the recipes in the next section!
These ones are individually wrapped in a smaller size. It is good on the go as well!
Glico, Pocky (Chocolate, Strawberry, Matcha, Cookie & Cream, Tasty, and more!)
Pocky are super popular snacks loved by everyone. There are family packs in some flavors as well!
Hapi, Frosted Cookie Sticks (Popping Candy, Peanuts, and Cookie Crunch)
They look similar to Pocky, but the frosting makes these sticks special and irresistable!
Meiji, Meltyblend (Premium Cacao, Fruity Strawberry, Green Tea, and Hazelnut)
These chocolates melt in your mouth! The fancy packaging is perfect as a gift.
Meiji, Macadamia Chocolate
It is a creamy chocolate filled with soft yet crunchy buttery roasted macadamia nuts, so-called the king of nuts. This product also makes a good Valentine Day's gift.
Bourbon, Alfort Vanilla White Chocolate
This flavor is seasonal. The combination of the chocolate and digestive cracker makes a fantastic flavor. Do not miss out this opportunity!
Many more items perfect for Valentine's Day are at the store!
There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)