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.