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A woman receiving chocolate for Valentine's Day.
A woman receiving chocolate for Valentine's Day.

Valentine’s Day Candy in Japan: A Brief History!

Tokyo TerryTokyo Terry
Published Time
Posted on January 16, 2024

About 70 years ago, Japanese sweet companies had the idea of increasing sales by selling “Valentine’s Day candy.” But how could they make the holiday catch on in Japan? Let’s find out!

What is Valentine’s Day in Japan like?

From the beginning of February, almost every shop has some sort of Valentine’s Day display. And it can seem like the only colors that exist are pink, red, and chocolate brown. Entire shelves and aisles suddenly become full of Valentine’s Day candy!

A black box of Valentine's Day candy with a red ribbon out of it.
It’s common for women to give chocolate to their loved ones. Image via Shutterstock

Malls and department stores become crowded with shoppers seeking that perfect gift. The shops spend much time and money trying to outdo each other with advertising, sales, over-the-top displays, and custom treats. Regular packaging is replaced with heart-shaped boxes, ribbons, and wrapping services. 

Some stores use bouquets of roses. Others display high-priced chocolates in glass cases. Still, others may resort to gimmicks, such as chocolate boxes the size of cars or chocolate bars as large as a serving tray! And there is no end to the many types, shapes, and packaging of treats.

A plate of Valentine's Day candy--a bunch of heart-shaped gummies.
You can even have gummies! Image via Shutterstock

Every business wants some of the millions of yen spent on Valentine’s Day candy each year. Even shops with nothing to do with sweets get in on the action! Stationery stores might have a ribbon sale. Hardware stores may suddenly put a selection of chocolates at the checkout counter. A lunch box counter might sell onigiri-shaped hearts covered in bright pink fish eggs!

What kind of Valentine’s Day candy do people enjoy?

There is no Valentine’s Day candy rule in Japan, but chocolate is the most popular! Foreign chocolate brands like KitKat and Snickers are popular on the cheaper side. Especially KitKat comes in various unusual flavors like green tea (matcha) and sweet potato. Many people make homemade chocolates for a personal touch. Making a large batch is cheap; chocolate-making supplies like molds, sprinkles, and raw chocolate are easy to find.

A basket of shiroi koibito cookies.
Shiroi koibito is from Hokkaido. Image via Shutterstock

People also enjoy local and novelty treats. Inexpensive Japanese chocolate like “Shiroi Koibito” from Hokkaido is a good example. Ruby chocolate is also made from red cocoa beans. Its unusual berry taste is sure to be appreciated, and it is available as chocolate, ice cream, or cookies.

And, of course, there are the highly high-end brands. “DeLafée” is a Swiss chocolate that combines truffles with premium cocoa beans. Their “Golden Truffle” replaces colorful sprinkles and powdered sugar with edible gold leaf! This chocolate costs as much as 10,000 yen per piece, so consider carefully before buying the gift set!

Are you looking for delicious chocolates and treats this Valentine’s Day? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat delivers limited-edition Japanese noodles, snacks, drinks, and sweets right to your door so you can enjoy the latest Christmas treats directly from Japan!

Where can I get some of the best candy for the occasion?

Harajuku Candy is an online shop with an enormous selection of candies. The site sells popular brands like Hershey’s, Reese’s, and M&M’s, but there are also unusual chocolates like cherry blossom, matcha, and chocolate-filled “marshmallow.” The prices are already low, but you can also buy wholesale to save even more! 

A bunch of chocolate truffles in the shape of a heart.
Chocolate truffles are especially popular! Image via Shutterstock

Candy a Go Go! specializes in imported and original sweets. They sell over 100 different kinds, but you can also create customized Valentine’s Day candy. And you can purchase either online or at one of their many stores. Their colorful shops are worth an in-person visit!

Marmano Chocolate is a specialty chocolate company with a focus on quality. They sell environmentally friendly ingredients from all over the world while supporting local farmers. Their international selection of chocolate products includes raw Amazonian chocolate from Ecuador, Ariba cacao, and cocoa guayusa drink. So visit their online or Akasaka shop if you’re looking for a unique gift!

Why is Valentine’s Day candy in Japan special?

When Japanese candy companies connected Valentine’s Day to the tradition of kokuhaku, the day’s meaning became more serious. Initially, women only gave homemade honmei (“favorite”) chocolate to the men they desired.

But soon, women also began giving giri (“obligation”) chocolate to coworkers and friends. (These are the kinds of chocolates men find on their desks at work.) It also became famous for women to give tomo (“friend”) chocolate to family and female friends.

A bunch of pink chocolate hearts.
What’s your favorites Valentine’s Day candy?Image via Shutterstock

Nowadays, women spend about 5000 yen for different Valentine’s Day candy types. So it isn’t surprising that women also buy chocolate for themselves, known as jibun (“yourself”) chocolate. Luckily, women receive gifts one month later on White Day. And these gifts must be several times the value of the chocolate they gave!

What do you think of Japanese Valentine’s Day customs? Are there any good ideas or shops for Valentine’s Day candy that should have been mentioned? Leave a comment below!

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