Sarah Hazelwood

Goodbye Valentine's Day. Hello Honmei.

In Japan Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a very unique style. Read on to discover how to woo that special someone in your life Japanese style.

Last week I told you all about the history of Valentine’s and what it now means to the modern world. Then, Stefan Ram shared what happens here at HomeServe on Valentine’s Day. But I’d like to tell you about White Day, a Japanese tradition which is connected to Valentine’s, but is observed a whole month later.

Unlike the Roman history of Valentine’s I delved into, White Day was first celebrated a relatively short time ago in 1978. It was a clever little plan of the National Confectionary Industry Association, who encouraged people to 'answer back' the Valentine’s they received in February – predominantly with the best gift ever, chocolate!

In Japan, Valentine’s is a popular tradition for women to give chocolate to men. But, it’s not as simple as running to the local corner shop for a selection of sweet treats. There are two types of chocolate involved in the special day – Giri-choco and Honmei-choco. This is where things get tricky.

Giri-choco is for friends, colleagues and bosses as “Giri” means obligation, so this Giri-choco has no romantic feelings attached. On the other hand, Honmei-choco is given to a boyfriend, lover, or husband, from the heart. What’s more, Japanese women will often hand make the Honmei-choco to really prove how much they love their chosen receiver.

In response, White Day, which is celebrated on 14th March, is for the chaps to respond to the chocolate gifts with more (colour appropriate) confectionery. That gives them a whole month to make sure they return the message of love back, loud and clear. The tradition has somewhat morphed into a commercially driven event – as have most of our celebrated holidays – but the day is still popular in Japan and also in neighboring East Asian countries of South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

So, while you’re still enjoying the last of your Valentine’s treats, you can relax in the knowledge that you have a few more weeks to pick out the perfect chocolate response. But a word of warning, make sure you don’t get your Giri and Honmei’s mixed up or your White Day could end up under a black cloud.