Being a person who has a major sweet tooth and goes out of her way to explore new desserts, I feel very lucky to be living in an age and in a country where desserts takes numerous shapes and forms. Chocolate is a very delicious delicacy that I love very much. Every year, in February 14th, people would give their friends, loved or close ones a gift, which could be a card, candy or flowers, to express their gratitude or love to them. The receiving end of that gift is known as the sender’s valentine. Chocolate is a popular gift that people give out on that day. Valentines dates back to the 5th century. It has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia. It is recognised as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many parts of the world. In Japan, it is no exception.
I spent my first Valentine’s Day in Japan this year. The build up to Valentine’s Day in Japan is a phenomenon. Although Valentine’s Day is not a tradition that originated Japan, over the last couple of years, it has been advertisement companies goal to make big sales during the period leading up to Valentine’s. At least four weeks before February 14th, masses of advertisement and decorations cover Japan. You will see it on television, on trains, on subways, in waiting spot when you are waiting for a train or subway, at book stores, in shopping malls, at the grocery store, at gas pumps, at convenient stores and more. Valentine’s in Japan is a little bit different to how other countries celebrate it. I found that it is a day where girls give out chocolates to boys. Yes, you heard me right. It is a day where girls give chocolate to boys. I am not saying that girls giving chocolate to boys is something I haven’t heard of. What I strive for you to see is the angle to which is special day is celebrated in.
Depending on the country or part of the world you are in, Valentine’s is celebrated differently. If you were in Hong Kong, I feel that it is mostly boys giving flowers and chocolate to their partner. In America or Australia, it definitely feel more like a two-way celebration. I should emphasis that a lot of advertisements promote Valentine’s as a day that is celebrated between a girl and boy. But, the true meaning of the day is to celebrate love and friendship, regardless of background, culture and gender.
Being a person who is currently working in secondary school in Japan, I am constantly surrounded by high school girls. It was definitely interesting to have conversations with my high school female student about who they were going to give chocolate to, whether they would buy or make their own chocolate and then have the tables turned on me and seeing how much interest and curiosity they had in knowing who I would give my chocolate to. Spoil alert: I didn’t give out any chocolate on Valentine’s Day. If you ask me whether anime or manga is true in showing how high school students celebrate Valentine’s Day by overfilling the most popular boy’s shoes locker with Valentine chocolate or secreting confessing their love to teachers by leaving chocolate on their desk, my answer is, unfortunately, no. I can only speak for my school and what I have seen of course. The reality is that the shoes lockers aren’t that big and are by the main entrance. Plus, students need permission to get into teacher’s staff room to put anything down. Teachers do get chocolate but it is given face to face. Therefore, if you had any fantasy that resulted from manga or anime, I am sorry to say, but it is not true.
I may have not given any chocolate to anyone, but surprisingly, I did get chocolate for Valentine’s. A number of my students cooking homemade chocolate pieces and desserts. All my lovely gifts were in beautiful perfect packaging. I got around 7 gifts from my students and I thought that was an achievement, but later I found out one of my colleague received over 30 plus chocolate gifts from their students. Not that I am counting, but it does turn into a little competition on who is most popular.
As my way of participating Valentine’s, leading up to this day, I made an English Wall at school. The title of the Wall was “Will you be my Valentine?”. The purpose was for students to write on small heart-shape cards a message in English to their valentine. It was a little bit annoying that most of the students wrote their messages in Japanese, however, the wall looked truly amazing.
One month following after Valentine’s Day, on March 14th, is a day called White Day. Growing up I had no idea what this day was, until I watched the anime called Fruit Basket. White Day is a day that has been marked only in countries including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. It is the day where boys may give chocolate to girls or return a thank-you gift or mini-“something” to show their gratitude for the Valentine’s Day chocolate their received. I am not sure how true White Day is, but at least that’s what most of my students told me.
On White day, I gave out chocolate to my teachers. I brought in Foreo Rocher for everyone as my way of saying thank you. Coincidentally, White Day this year also turned out to be the day where the school’s third year students had their graduation ceremony. Hence, we were busy for a different reason and I didn’t get a chance to experience White Day in Japan. The ceremony itself deserves a whole entry itself and I will share my experience later. But there you have it, my experience of Valentine’s and White Day in Japan. You should definitely experience it once yourself and see if there is any difference back in your home town at the least 😀