Valentine’s Day in Nagoya

Valentine’s Day is a celebration that revolves around love and affection. It is a time when people express their love and cherish the bonds they share with their loved ones. This day has its roots in ancient traditions and has evolved through the ages to become a day marked by heartwarming gestures and thoughtful gifts, symbolizing the universal language of love. Whether by sharing chocolates, crafting heartfelt notes, or spending quality time with loved ones, Valentine’s Day unites people in the joyous celebration of love in all its forms. This special day serves as a reminder of romantic love and an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the many ways love manifests in our lives, making it a deeply cherished occasion in the tapestry of human experiences.

Valentine’s Day in Japan has a unique tradition compared to many Western countries, and its counterpart, White Day, plays a significant role in Japanese romantic customs.

Valentine’s Day in Japan (February 14th)

  1. Women Give Chocolates to Men: Unlike in many Western countries where Valentine’s Day is celebrated by both genders giving gifts to each other, in Japan, it’s traditionally the women who give chocolates to men. This practice is a significant aspect of Valentine’s Day in Japan.
  2. Types of Chocolates:
    • Honmei-choco (本命チョコ): These are chocolates given as a sign of true love or affection, usually homemade or high-quality, and given to boyfriends, husbands, or someone the woman has romantic feelings for.
    • Giri-choco (義理チョコ): Translating to “obligation chocolates,” these are given to male friends, colleagues, bosses, or family members. They are not meant to express romantic interest but as a gesture of friendship or gratitude.
  3. Commercialization and Variations: Valentine’s Day in Japan has become highly commercialized over the years, with stores offering a vast array of chocolates and related gifts. Some women also give ‘tomo-choco’ (友チョコ, “friend chocolates”) to their female friends, expanding the tradition beyond romantic contexts.

White Day in Japan (March 14th)

White Day, celebrated on March 14th in Japan and some other Asian countries, is a relatively modern holiday that complements Valentine’s Day.

Origin and Development

White Day was first celebrated in Japan in around 1978 as a response to Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, Valentine’s Day allowed only women to give men gifts, mainly chocolates. The National Confectionery Industry Association initiated White Day to provide an opportunity for men to return the favor. Initially, a Fukuoka-based confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido, marketed marshmallows to men as a gift to return to women who had given them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, coining the term “Marshmallow Day” in the process. Gradually, the concept of “Marshmallow Day” evolved into “White Day.” The color white was chosen to symbolize purity and the sweetness of young love. It also represented the color of sugar and marshmallows, which were among the initial gifts suggested for the occasion.

Details

  1. Men’s Turn to Give Back: Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, on March 14th, Japan celebrates White Day. This day allows men who received chocolates on Valentine’s Day to return the favor.
  2. Gifts Given by Men: The gifts given on White Day vary but often include white-colored items such as white chocolate, marshmallows, or other confectionery. The gifts are typically more expensive or elaborate than those received on Valentine’s Day, following the unwritten rule of “sanbai gaeshi” (三倍返し), meaning “thrice the return.” This rule suggests that men should give back three times the value of what they received.
  3. Significance of the Gifts: Just as with Valentine’s Day, the type and value of the gift can convey a message. A lavish gift might indicate strong affection or a desire to continue the relationship, while a modest or obligatory gift might suggest a more casual or formal relationship.

Where To Buy Chocolate

If you’re in the market for chocolates, you might be wondering where the best places to buy them are. While convenience stores do sell gift packs, they may not be the best choice if you’re buying chocolates for a significant other. It’s better to put in a bit more effort and get some high-quality chocolates. Here are a few ideas for where you can find them. Keep in mind that the closer you get to February 14th, the busier it will be, so it’s best to plan ahead and shop early. I hope this helps, and happy shopping!

Takashimaya

The Amour du Chocolat event at JR Nagoya Takashimaya is ongoing and is Japan’s largest chocolate festival. For 2024, it’s the largest ever, with over 2,500 products from more than 150 popular domestic and international brands. This includes about 20 brands making their first appearance. The main venue is on the 10th floor of JR Nagoya Takashimaya, and there are satellite venues on several other floors and the Food Maison Okazaki store.

Where: Takashimaya 10F (+), JR Central Gate Tower, 1 Chome-1-4 Meieki, Nakamura Ward (map)

Website: amour.jr-takashimaya.co.jp

Matsuzakaya

If you happen to be in the Sakae area, you might want to visit Matsuzakaya department store and check out the Chocolate Promenade. Here, you can find a wide variety of delicious chocolate treats. There are plenty of luxurious chocolates available, made by renowned chocolatiers such as Yvan Valentin, Pierre Marcolini, La Maison du Chocolat, and Godiva, among others.

Where: 3 Chome-16-1 Sakae, Naka Ward (map)

Website: matsuzakaya.co.jp

Godiva

Belgium is renowned for its production of some of the world’s best delicacies like fries, beer, and, most notably, chocolate. Godiva, a classic Belgian chocolatier established in 1926, offers a wide range of rich and creamy chocolate flavors, from classic milk chocolate to dark chocolate with hints of sea salt. If you’re a chocolate lover, don’t miss the Godiva store in the Unimall below Nagoya Station area.

Where: Nakamura-ku, Meieki 4-5-26 (map)

Website: godiva.co.jp

Tomizawa

If you’re hoping to impress your beloved Valentine in Japan with a thoughtful and unique chocolate gift, the best approach is to craft it yourself. But don’t be tempted to take shortcuts by buying pre-made sweets from a nearby international store. For truly exceptional results, acquiring high-quality baking ingredients from a specialty shop like Tomizawa (also known as Tomiz), located in Midland Square among the upscale fashion boutiques is crucial. This establishment is renowned for its exquisite baked goods and cakes, and some of its knowledgeable staff are even able to offer assistance in English, should you require it. With their premium ingredients and expert guidance, you can create a unique, unforgettable gift that will make your Valentine’s heart flutter.

Where: Nakamura Ward, Meieki, 4 Chome−7−1 Midland Square B1F (map)

Website: tomiz.com

Okashitabetai

If you’re looking for a unique gift, something out of the ordinary, and not something you would find easily, you could consider getting some old-school Japanese candies. Okashitabetai  Candy Store sells candies and snacks that would excite most kids. It’s an excellent choice for a gift that screams “Only in Japan.” However, if your better half is from Japan, it might be a little tricky. They might love it for the nostalgia, or they might think it’s just kiddies’ crap. It’s a delicate balance, so be mindful.

Where: 1 Chome-19-11 Osugi, Kita Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 462-0837 (map)

Website: Okashitabetai

Where To Buy Flowers

Valentine’s Day is a special occasion when people express their love and affection towards their significant others. While chocolates are the most popular gift in Japan, giving flowers remains a timeless gesture of romance. If you are a traditionalist who wants to express your love through the language of flowers, Nagoya offers plenty of options. The city’s florists are well-prepared to help you convey your feelings through carefully arranged bouquets of various kinds of flowers. Whether you want to express passionate love through a classic dozen red roses or a more nuanced sentiment through a mix of blooms, there’s something for everyone. You can choose from elegant arrangements by master florists to simple and charming bunches, depending on your style and message. With Nagoya’s floral offerings, you can add an extra touch of romance to your Valentine’s Day.

Fuyu Hana

Fuyu Hana is well-known for its exquisite flowers and innovative design concepts, making it an excellent choice for floral arrangements. They offer pre-made bouquets for those with time constraints, but their beautiful flowers and exceptional design ideas are worth exploring. In addition, there are always pre-made bouquets available outside the store for customers in a hurry.

Where: 5-5 Ushijimacho, Nishi Ward (map)

Website: fuuyuuka.com

ECO Nagoya

Located just outside of Meitetsu Station in Nagoya, the ECO store is a small establishment renowned for its cordial staff and exquisite range of potted plants. Apart from offering bouquet-making services, the store specializes in an impressive collection of potted plants, all of which are beautifully maintained. The staff is friendly and ever-ready to help customers with their queries.

Where: Outside Meitetsu Station, 1 Chome-2-1 Meieki, Nakamura Ward (map)

Tel: 052-541-8739

Tsuboi Kaen

Tsuboikaen is an upscale florist with branches in Nagoya. Their flagship store in Sakae is particularly elegant, and they offer a bespoke service to match the occasion, person, and home. They are the largest florist in Nagoya and have several branches throughout the city. You can find more information about their services on their website.

Where: 3 Chome-21-18 Nishiki, Naka Ward (map)

Website: tsuboikaen.co.jp

Flower Produce Kaori

Flower Produce Kaori, located in Sakae, is a specialized florist that deals with preserved flowers. They have a vast collection of gift boxes, table arrangements, and framed flowers. You can either select from their pre-packaged sets or create your own. This florist provides a unique perspective to traditional flower gifting by specializing in preserved flowers.

Where: Naka Ward, Nishiki, 3 Chome−19−30 Daiichi Nishiki Building 1F (map)

Website: fp-kaori.com

Flower Noritake

If you’re looking for chic and original floral arrangements, Flower Noritake, located near the TV Tower, is the perfect spot. They offer a variety of options including bouquets, baskets, and standing plants. Everything here is unique and stylish, making it the ideal destination for those seeking something a bit more sophisticated.

Where: Higashi Ward, Higashisakura, 1 Chome-10-3 1F (map)

Website: flower-noritake.com

Where To Spend Valentine’s Day

Nagoya Agricultural Center

At first glance, the term “agricultural” may not seem romantic. However, at this time of year, the lovely plum blossom trees are starting to bloom, and what could be more charming than taking a leisurely stroll hand in hand under the 800 trees of 12 different varieties? Additionally, the Nagoya Agricultural Center grounds are perfect for picnics, and you can also visit the cafe or the shops selling organic products, or even meet some adorable animals that you can pet and feed.

Where: Kuroishi-2872-3 Tenpakucho Oaza Hirabari, Tempaku Ward, Nagoya (map)

Website: Dela Farm: Nagoya Agricultural Center

Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

If you’re looking for a lovely place to take a romantic stroll on Valentine’s Day, the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a great option. The zoo has been renovated recently and is now greatly improved. Not to mention, the world’s most handsome gorilla, Shabani, is sure to add some sex appeal to your visit! While some people may not enjoy seeing animals in captivity, the Botanical Gardens are still a lovely place to explore. The greenhouses are especially perfect for a warm and romantic experience.

Where: 3-70 Higashiyama Motomachi, Chikusa Ward (map)

Website: Higashiyama Zoo

Conca Cucina Italiana

Conca is a delightful Italian restaurant located not far from Nagoya Station. It’s where we go on big, romantic occasions, and it’s not difficult to see why. The restaurant has soft lighting and is tiny, with only about four tables, making it perfect for an intimate date. But what truly sets this place apart is the food. On our most recent visit, we had a whole wood pigeon, deep-fried foie gras and anago, and spaghetti in a creamy sea urchin sauce. Everything was divine, particularly with the excellent wine list. The owners are also happy to help you match the perfect wine to your meal. Once you’ve eaten, if you want to go for a quiet drink, Pub Arco is located right next door. The landlord, Yoshi-san, makes a mean cocktail with a considerable whisky list to choose from.

Where: 2-20-28 Meieki Nishi-ku (map)

Websitewww.conca0615.com

Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium

There is no doubting the simple, romantic quality of the sea. It could be the relaxing qualities of the undulating water or the majestic gracefulness of the sea creatures, but the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium makes an excellent place for a date. Wandering around the exhibits holding hands, chuckling at the stranger creatures, laughing together as you get splashed at the dolphin show, one of you looking fidgety as the other mentions that it’s a little-known fact that most penguins mate for life. The Aquarium can get pretty busy over the weekend, but with Valentine’s Day coming on a Tuesday this year, you will likely avoid the crowds of kids.

Where: Minato Ward, Minatomachi, 1-3  (map)

WebsiteNagoya Public Aquarium

photoSyced, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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