Do you have any plans for Valentine's Day? Is there a special way of spending this time in your culture? In Japan, it is only the women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. Japanese women are usually too shy to express their love. (Though it might not be true nowadays.) Therefore, Valentine's Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings. However, this is a custom that smart chocolate companies spread to boost their sales, and it has been very successful. Now the chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine's Day. Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called "White Day" (March 14th), a Japanese creation.
Does it sound good to you? Don't get too excited when you get chocolates from Japanese girls! They might be "Giri-choko (obligation chocolate)." Women give chocolates not only to their loved ones ("A true love" chocolate is called "Honmei-choko.") "Giri-choko" is the chocolate given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in, just for friendship or gratitude. The concept of "giri" is very Japanese. It is a mutual obligation that the Japanese follow when dealing with other people. If someone does you a favor, then you feel obligated to do something for that person.
Unlike the West, sending a Valentine's cards is not common in Japan, and the phrase "Happy Valentines" is not widely used. "Happy Birthday" and "Happy New Year" are common phrases. In this case, "Happy ~" is translated as "~ omedetou （～おめでとう）."
Speaking of love, which color do you think is the color of love? Many people would probably say it is red. Heart shapes are usually red, and red roses are romantic gifts. Red can also represent passion, revolution, fire, blood and so on.
How do the Japanese see the color of red? How do they use it in their culture? Please check out my article, "Japanese Conception of Red" and learn expressions including red.