February 2019


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Valentine’s Day in Japan is a little strange…

It’s the first Sunday in February. The three coworkers Yuna, Nanako and Giuseppe came to Ginza.

Look! Window displays all around town are filled with pink hearts.
Yuna
It’s almost Valentine’s Day. I have to buy some chocolate soon.
Nanako
Are you buying honmei (true love) chocolate? Or giri (obligatory) chocolate?
Yuna
Both, of course!
Nanako
In Japan, women give honmei chocolate to men who they truly care for and giri chocolate to men such as their supervisors and colleagues at work. Valentine’s Day in Japan is a little strange…
Giuseppe
In Europe, Valentine’s Day is a day for true sweethearts, right?
Yuna
Yeah, so we don’t give presents to people whom we aren’t in a relationship with. Also, men usually give presents to women. Of course, I had never heard of giri chocolate! I remember when I first started working at a company in Japan and a women in the same section gave me chocolate—I was surprised and couldn’t understand why she had given me a gift!
Giuseppe
In the first place, chocolate is a somewhat uncommon gift for Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?
Nanako
You’re right. I think that flowers are the most typical gift for Valentine’s Day.
Giuseppe
The custom of giving chocolate as a gift on Valentine’s Day in Japan started because of advertising by confectionary companies. Hearing that gives me mixed feelings. How about Valentine’s Day in your country, Yuna?
Nanako
Valentine’s Day in Korea is almost the same as Japan. Girls declare their love for boys by giving them sweet chocolate. The most popular gift is a beautifully-wrapped basket filled with chocolates. We also have giri chocolate and White Day in Korea.
Yuna
White Day on March 14! On that day, men give a present to women in return for gifts that they received on Valentine’s Day. White Day was another big surprise for me.
Giuseppe
In Korea, we also have Black Day. Lonely men and women who didn’t get anything on Valentine’s Day or White Day get together on April 14. They dress in black clothes, eat black jajangmyeon noodles, and try to cheer up each other.
Yuna
That sure is a unique Korean holiday!
Nanako

Upon visiting the chocolate counter at the department store, the three coworkers were overwhelmed by the jostling crowds of people trying to buy chocolate.

By the way, I don’t know the origin of Valentine’s Day.
Yuna
Let’s ask Giuseppe! He’s from Italy, the country where Valentine’s Day got started!
Nanako
In the era of the Roman Empire, a Christian priest named Valentine was executed on February 14 for the crime of performing secret marriage ceremonies for young people, which violated the Roman Emperor’s marriage ban for soldiers. Afterwards, Valentine was canonized as a Saint and February 14 became a day for lovers to exchange vows.
Giuseppe
Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by people all over the world in various ways. Still, the expression of love and gratitude is a common theme of Valentine’s Day everywhere on earth.
Nanako
For Valentine’s Day this year, I want to buy chocolate which includes a donation for helping people. I’d like to send my love and gratitude to the needy people in our world.
Yuna
Choco bokin, or Chocolate Donation, is a program in which people donate the money that they would have spent on chocolate. The donations are used to support needy children throughout the world.
Nanako
That is a good idea, not only people giving chocolate but also people getting chocolate could have warm feelings. Valentine’s Day is once a year, the custom and the way of celebrating is different from the countries and areas, but I hope everyone can enjoy the day in each ways.
Giuseppe

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