Valentine’s Day in Japan

First, what is Valentine’s Day?

“Noun. February 14, a day when it is traditional to send a card, often anonymously, to a person one is romantically involved with or attracted to” – Oxford

I was once told that it was a holiday made up by Hallmark and Candie makers to sell cards and candies. While no one can deny they take advantage of the special occasion, it’s not true.

“Origin: St. Valentine – either of two early Italian saints (who may have been the same person) traditionally commemorated on February 14—a Roman priest martyred circa 269 and a bishop of Terni martyred at Rome. St. Valentine was regarded as the patron of lovers.” – Oxford

Thankfully, my wife and I don’t buy into “traditional” Valentines Day.  Before meeting my wife, if I was single it was a reminder that I was single. If I somehow had a girlfriend there were copious amounts of pressure to be romantic… so either way I was miserable. My wife (and I) subscribe to the idea that everyday should be Valentine’s day. If you can’t show your love and appreciation for each other every day (not just Feb. 14th), then forget it.

But I digress…

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan but not how you think.

“In Japan, it is only the women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. Japanese women are usually too shy to express their love. (Though it might not be true nowadays.) Therefore, Valentine’s Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings. However, this is a custom that smart chocolate companies spread to boost their sales, and it has been very successful. Now the chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine’s Day. Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called “White Day” (March 14th), a Japanese creation.” – Namiko Abe (

My wife and her friends have told me that Christmas in Japan is actually more like American Valentines day than Japanese Valentine’s day. It’s simply recognized as a holiday for couples rather than just men or women because New Year’s day is the holiday for family instead of Christmas. (Japanese are traditionally not Christian)

So however you’re celebrating, I guess all that matters is that you’re doing it with people who really matter to you.

Life is short, might as well make it sweet when you can.

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Author: hikikomori78

American Hikikomori is an upcoming short film that explores the emotional struggles of a Japanese teenager named Isamu Fujihara, when he moves to America.

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