Holidays & Special Occasions
February 14th is Valentine’s Day, the day designated to honor the martyr, Saint Valentine, in a way that is distinctive and memorable. The Japanese have established a unique way of celebrating this occasion.
While it is typically women in the United States who look forward to receiving romantic gifts from loved ones on Valentine’s Day, in Japan, women are designated as the gift-givers, usually offering gifts of chocolate. A Japanese entrepreneur in chocolate manufacturing started this tradition of affectionate confections around 1958. It was originally promoted as a way in which Japanese women, often believed to be too shy to express their love, could confess their love for a man with a gift of chocolates. Although the promotion was not particularly successful its first year, this unusual variation of the traditional Valentine’s Day observed in Christian countries gained popularity in subsequent years. What originally started out as a strategy to market chocolate has now become an annual opportunity for women to express their love to the object of their affection. However, in keeping with the Japanese custom of reciprocation, men get a chance on March 14th, one month later, to reciprocate in kind, giving their loved ones chocolates in return.
For Japanese Americans—like Americans of most other ethnic backgrounds—chocolate remains a popular staple of the Valentine’s Day tradition, yet creativity is just as important as sweetness in any romance and finding a variety of gifts for a loved one can make the occasion even more special.
We know it sometimes can be tough to decide what to get someone for Valentine’s Day. If you’ve been looking and looking for just the right gift and having no luck, remember this old proverb: “Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.”
Our staff here at the Japanese American National Museum Store have picked out some favorite items you may wish to consider as alternatives—or additions—to the usual chocolates.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Check our Holiday Shipping Deadlines to make sure you allow enough time for Valentine’s Day delivery.