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A Guide To Japanese Valentine’s Day Chocolate

Linh LeLinh Le
Published Time
Posted on 
January 20, 2022
Modified Time
Updated last 
June 21, 2022

Japan is one of the countries that has the most unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In the land of cherry blossoms, February 14th is the day exclusively for women to confess their feelings by giving chocolate to men. However, Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolate is not just a confession of love; it has many different types with many different implications.

Let’s take a look at the meaning of different types of chocolate in Japanese Valentine’s Day culture!

Giri Choco (義理チョコ): Obligation Chocolate

A container in a supermarket with Japanese Kit Kats of varying flavors, including strawberry and dark chocolate, popular as Japanese Valentine's Day chocolate.
Individually wrapped snacks in large packs, like these Japanese Kit Kats, are an easy option for Giri Choco as girls can just take one out and give it to anyone they want. Image via Shutterstock

Giri means duty, and literally, there’s no romance in giving and receiving this kind of chocolate. The recipients are usually superiors such as bosses, teachers, and senpai (older workers or students). They could also be colleagues, classmates, and people in the same circles or clubs. It’s more of a duty to build harmonious relationships in the workplace or school, than an expression of affection.

To clarify the meaning behind it and avoid misunderstanding, makers usually produce Giri Choco in common shapes (usually square or round) and place them in simple packaging. In informal situations, such as classrooms or school clubs, some girls even buy a huge box of packaged chocolate sold at the supermarket and hand it over to the boys to take one themselves.

In fact, there has been some controversy about Giri Choco over the years, and nowadays, people don’t place as much importance in giving Giri Choco as an “obligation” like in the past anymore. It’s totally up to you whether you give it or not!

Having trouble choosing chocolate for your family, friends, or that special someone on Valentine’s Day? Let TokyoTreat help you out! TokyoTreat delivers the most popular Japanese sweets and snacks, including some of the finest chocolate from Japan, monthly to your door!

Tomo Choco (友チョコ): Friendship Chocolate

“Tomo” comes from “tomodachi” (友達) – which means “friend” in Japanese. This chocolate is an exception to the rule of men getting chocolate on Valentine’s Day, since it is a gift for friends who can be male or female, as a sign of friendship.

Gifts for friends on Valentine’s Day in Japan can be either chocolate or cookies wrapped in decorative plastic bags and go together with a card with messages like “Thank You” or “To my friend”. Tomo Choco is quite common among female friends. It is also given to guys that girls consider to be good friends, but sometimes, it can be implied as “I only see you as a friend!” if given to you by a girl that you like.

Some people mistake tomo choco as the same as giri choco, but there’s a big difference: one is an expression of true friendship, to cherish our precious and loving friends, while the other is only a gift as an act of courtesy.

Honmei Choco (本命チョコ): True Love Chocolate

A case full of Japanese Valentine's Day chocolate in a mall with plenty of different boxes full of many shapes and sizes of chocolate.
Honmei Choco is the highest tier of Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolate and isn’t cheap, usually costing 3000~6000 Japanese yen ($30~$60 USD). Image via Shutterstock

Honmei Choco is the cream of the crop when it comes to Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolate–the type that Japanese women give only to the man they really love. Honmei means “one’s heart desire”, and this chocolate, perhaps, has the closest meaning to Valentine’s Day chocolate we know in the West.

If the girl has a crush, Honmei chocolate is definitely the declaration of love to the man she loves. If the girl is already in a relationship, Honmei Choco this time means evidence of love.

Around the time leading up to Valentine’s day, sweets shops or department stores start to display a wide range of honmei choco in their stores. It can be quite hard for girls to choose a box of chocolate properly expressing their genuine emotions to their loved ones. 

This chocolate is carefully wrapped in fancy boxes with cute ribbons and available in different shapes – but usually heart shapes, perfect for making someone’s heart go doki-doki (a cute Japanese word meaning heart pounding). Girls usually include a small note or card that has their words of confession together with Honmei Choco.

However, when it comes to Honmei Choco, there’s nothing better than homemade chocolate. Homemade Honmei Choco is special not only for being a one-of-a-kind chocolate, but also for the time and effort girls spend in making, decorating, and packaging it. So, regardless of it being pretty or not, the recipient is able to feel the love in each bite of the chocolate. That’s why people value handmade chocolate as the biggest proof of true affection for another person.

Jiko Choco/Jibun Choco (自己チョコ・自分チョコ): Chocolate for Yourself

This is known as “my chocolate” for all the single souls out there who don’t receive chocolate or have no one to give to. You can also just buy a box of Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolate as a treat to yourself and to enjoy this loving season in your own way.

A woman takes a bite of some Japanese Valentine's Day chocolate in her living room with a shelf of trinkets in the background.
Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolate stops selling the second it becomes Feb. 15th, so if you buy it for yourself, you really have to do on or before Valentine’s Day. Image via Shutterstock

Gyaku choco (逆チョコ): Reverse Chocolate

Gyaku Choco refers to men giving chocolate to women on Valentine’s Day. Although it’s the opposite of the tradition of women giving chocolate to men, it’s common for men to take the initiative to express their affection to the women they love with Gyaku Choco. In addition, Japan has a separate day called White Day a month later (on March 14th), when men are expected to return the favor with a gift.

Fami Choco (ファミチョコ): Family Chocolate

This is a chocolate gift for male family members: father, husband, son. Mothers and daughters tend to make chocolate or buy sweets that can be enjoyed together at home. In many ways, it’s just a way to enjoy some mother-daughter time with a sweet treat with the family. 

In Japan, the Valentine’s Day gift culture is somewhat more special than other countries. It helps Japanese people, especially Japanese women who are well known for hiding their feelings, show their gratitude and genuine emotions towards people they care for, lover or not.

Is there anyone you’re thinking of while scrolling through this article? Why don’t you pick up a utensil and make them a special chocolate as a perfect Valentine’s Day gift?

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