High School - Japan, High School Abroad

The Fine Art of Friendship Chocolate in Japan

by Colleen McCollum, CCI High School Abroad Participant in Japan

Valentine’s Day! Where Americans might imagine pink cards and heart-shaped boxes, the Japanese have a bit of a different image for this international holiday.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is traditionally the day girls make homemade chocolates for the boy they like. It’s not expected for boys to give anything. They have another holiday for that: White Day. March 14th, exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, boys are expected to give candy or chocolate as a thank-you gift to any girls who made them chocolate back in February.

Of course, in this modern age, no one bothers to stick to the old rules. The popular thing to do now is to give out ‘tomo-choco’ (friendship chocolate). It’s exactly the same as the way Americans give Valentine’s to all their friends. I can’t say for sure, because I attend a girls’ school, but I assume giving tomo-choco is really only popular among girls.

They dedicate an admirable amount of time preparing these treats. I received all kinds of delicious desserts from my friends: chocolate muffins, brownies, balls of chocolate-covered cornflakes, plastic spoons filled with chocolate and decorated with sprinkles, truffles, chocolate-covered dry fruit, cookies, even cheesecake. They were all very well done, and not just in flavor. Their appearance was absolutely adorable! From the heart shapes to the colorful sprinkles to the paper cupcake wrappers, everything was cute. And of course the packaging was not half-hearted. Colorful plastic bags gracefully held closed with shiny twisty-ties, paper packages tied off with lacy ribbons, envelopes taped shut with sparkling stickers. Japanese middle- and high school girls are already professionals at gift-wrapping.

I can’t imagine how long it must take these girls to create these little masterpieces for each and every one of their friends. We were lucky Valentine’s Day fell on a Monday this year, which gave them Sunday to work.

I, on the other hand, was kept busy with both the flu and a trip to Hokkaido, and only managed to give everyone Hokkaido chocolate. Luckily, Hokkaido is quite famous for its chocolate, so even though my Valentine’s Day gifts were bought, I was let off the hook.

I think it might be fun trying my hand at chocolate-making next winter, and handing out homemade chocolate to all my American friends to give them a sweet taste of Japanese Valentine’s Day.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


5 thoughts on “The Fine Art of Friendship Chocolate in Japan

  1. Hi Colleen,
    Sorry to hear you have been sick. Hope things are better now. We are taking CSAP this week. It is a nice break for juniors and seniors! The candy looks delicious. I remember the my kids used to come home with some of those treasures! We’re looking forward to seeing you when you get home!
    Mrs. Bogart

    Posted by Mrs. Bogart | March 2, 2011, 10:00 am
  2. Hi Colleen,
    Nice to hear your familiar “voice” in your blog. Sorry you’ve been under the weather–I presume you’re having your fill of nodoame and misoshiru! We all look forward to seeing you next school year. Enjoy cherry blossom season and the festivities of spring coming up. Spring is my favorite season in Japan–picnicking in the park with hundreds of others with their bento boxes… Natsukashii!
    You must be so well-traveled by now having gone to Hokkaido (never been but my stepfather in Hawaii was from there) and having experienced the rail/ air(?) systems. So proud of all your accomplishments!—Mrs. Witt

    Posted by Sabrina Witt | February 27, 2011, 12:17 pm
  3. Looks good to eat chocolate, Japanese food is good

    Posted by Travel | February 25, 2011, 11:53 pm
  4. it looks like. eat it

    Posted by asfd | February 25, 2011, 11:49 pm
  5. What a great idea, Colleen! We love your blogs.
    Love, Grandmother and Grandfather

    Posted by Lois-Ann McCollum | February 25, 2011, 10:17 am

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