The variety of Valentine's day chocolates in Japan
You didn’t eat enough chocolate during the Christmas season? Do not worry, we are reaching this time of the year dedicated to couples, when single people can cry their sorrow while filling their stomachs with chocolate, especially here in Japan...
February the 14th is in Japan, as in any western country, primarily about lovers. However, this marketing event is not only dedicated to love-birds out there.
Custom dictates that Japanese women give two kinds of chocolate: “giri-choko” meaning “the obligation chocolate” and the “honmei-choko” meaning “the favorite/the one that heart’s desire chocolate”.
The obligation chocolates are to be offered to colleagues, friends and sometimes to the men in your family; in brief, any male person towards whom you don't feel infatuated with. It is seen as a sign of courtesy and sometimes as a social obligation. Giri-choko are a good proof of a Japanese important and distinctive cultural aspect: rituals.
This gesture is not appreciated by everybody though. In 2018, the Japanese branch of the chocolate maker Godiva published an article in the Nikkei newspaper, exhorting Japanese women to stop offering those kind of chocolates. It was followed by a media squabble with the Japanese confectionery Yuuraku which main product selling line focus on obligation chocolates. We can say the latter somehow won the tweet spar.
At the opposite, "the chocolate for the favorite" are obviously a proof of love towards your significant other.
The interesting side of this practice is the fact you can offer chocolates to your crush (especially if he belongs to your friend or colleague circle) without him knowing whether or not it is a sign of affection. Anime (popular animation series) love to use this confusion as a suspense: "Are these chocolates sincere or are they an obligation ? ".
The addressee of this kind attention can return the favor a month later exactly (on March 14th), by offering sweets as well or a simple gift. Recently, even the receivers of Giri-choko tend to offer back chocolates, as a sign of gratefulness.
Valentine's day in Japan actually includes many more people than two besotted paramours. Less famous, but still part of the current tendency, “tomo-choko” (literally meaning friends' chocolates) are exchanged amoungst a group of friends as an appreciation token.
Are you hungry now?
Japan is packed with gustative sins that are more traditional: discover our article about 10 Japanese sweets you should absolutely try.