Valentine’s Day? More Like Galentine’s Day

How To Celebrate Love & Life With Your Friends in Japan

By Hilary Keyes
February 13, 2020
Lifestyle, Seasonal Trends

Treating yourself and your friends right on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in Japan is a billion yen industry, the focus on making things “just right” for your sweetheart being almost fanatical at times. Major companies start advertising their select seasonal chocolates at least a month in advance, department stores hold special events selling only the most premium of goodies, and of course, lingerie stores start having special sales for those “added perks.”

But what if you’re not interested in a dating kind of Valentine’s Day? Recently single? Or just want to kick back with some friends and enjoy the day?

Valentine’s Day in Japan

On a traditional Valentine’s in Japan, women are expected to give chocolates to almost every man in their lives.

Basically, there are two main different types of chocolates you can offer on Valentine’s Day. Honmei choco (本命チョコ true love chocolates) are for the person you’re serious about. On the other hand, giri choco (義理チョコ obligation chocolates) are for co-workers or even your boss – the idea being that you feel obligated to give these chocolates.

(Psst, if you would like to know more about traditional Valentine’s Day in Japan, you can have a look right here!)

Lately, a third type of chocolate has rapidly become the norm among Japanese younger generations. Tomo choco (友チョコ) is short for “friend chocolates” or treats you will share with your friends. They can be handmade, store-bought or a combination of the two!

They aren’t necessarily only edible treats either. Generally speaking, tomo choco are small tokens of appreciation for your friends. In other words, if you want to celebrate Galentine’s Day, tomo choco are exactly what you’re after! 

Tomo choco? Check! What now?

How will you spend your special day with your friends?

You can spend the day in any way you’d like, but if you’re interested in seeing some of what Valentine’s Day is like in Japan, here are three perfect ways of enjoying it.

1. Chocolate, Chocolate Everywhere!

If you’re a big fan of chocolate, then this is the right time of year for you. Japanese and international brands go all out with their exclusive “only in Japan” designs and items – often made with some truly luxurious ingredients.

This year, one of the most talked-about sets has been Pierre Marcolini’s “Gradation Cool” heart gift sets. These chocolate hearts are made with raspberry, caramel, rose passionfruit, yuzu, and hazelnut praline. The sets range in price from ¥2,160-¥5,832 (depending on the number of pieces) and are available at Takashimaya Department Stores across Japan. 

Pierre Marcolini, Gradation Cool set 5,832円+tax (out of stock)

Pierre Marcolini, Gradation Cool set ¥5,832+tax 

For those wanting something a little more Japanese, or more booze-y (or both!), Sils Maria’s Pure Nama chocolate sets are a guaranteed hit. These soft chocolate ganaches are offering you the perfect combination between chocolate and Yamanashi white wine, potato shochu (Japanese liquor) or sake. 

Sils Maria Sake Nama Chocolate

Sils Maria also have their original, non-alcohol based chocolates: ones made with Uji Matcha powder or ones made with white chocolate from Belgium. Prices range from ¥1,620-¥1,944.

If you’d prefer some cute, more wallet-friendly options, check out Valentine’s displays at Don Quixote, Ito Yokado, or even your local supermarket. There, you can get your fill of chocolates for less than ¥2,000!

2. Finding Some Cute Seasonal Special Gifts!

Maybe you or your friends aren’t a fan of chocolates or sweets in general – then what can you do? Don’t worry, zakka (the Japanese take on a “happy lifestyle”) shops have got your back!

Loft, Tokyu Hands, Plaza, Asoko Harajuku, Flying Tiger Copenhagen – they all have their own Valentine’s displays filled with cute hearts, roses and love themed goods to choose from. At Loft, for example, you can find Peanuts, Sumikko Gurashi, and other beloved character-themed handkerchiefs, mini albums, and more with a slight Valentine’s twist.

Pokemon chocolate set available at Tokyu Hands

Pokemon chocolate set available at Tokyu Hands, ¥1,200+tax

If you’d prefer something non-Valentine’s themed, they’re still the places to go! For example, if you’re looking for something Pokemon themed, then Asoko has tote bags, kitchenware, mirrors, washi tape, and so much more to delight. They also have a wide variety of items with Kazuo Umezz designs too, for those with spookier tastes.

3. Treating Yourselves Like Royalty!

Maybe you and your friends are more into beauty than chocolates or collectibles? No problem, we also got you covered. Valentine’s is an ideal time to pamper yourself and your besties!

While you might have to book early for groups, going to a spa, beauty parlor, or nail salon and getting the Valentine’s look of your dreams is a wonderful idea. If you’re not sure where to go or aren’t confident in your Japanese skills, check out our ranking of the 50 best beauty salons Tokyo has to offer.

Of course, if pampering yourself is something you’d rather do for ¥5,000 or less, then there are plenty of options to choose from too! Go to your favorite make-up shop (either in your nearest drug store or zakka shop) and look for those cardboard make-up displays on the ends of the aisles. There, you’ll find plenty of late winter/early spring beauty trends to choose from.

Our Make-Up Picks

Two that caught my eye and actually got me to get my wallet out were offered by international brands. Maybelline NY’s Color Sensational Lipstick minis come in either satin or matte finishes and are designed to look like cupcake icing colors. They have honey and hyaluronic acid in their formulas, which help keep them light and gentle on your lips. They’re also only ¥800 a tube, so if you can’t choose between two shades, you can get both without feeling too guilty! 

Rimmel Japan Valentine's special collection, from ¥800+tax to ¥1,600+tax

Rimmel Japan Valentine’s special collection, from ¥800-¥1,600+tax

Rimmel has put out a chocolate-themed collection, including sparkly brown, pink and gold eyeshadows, and an Aquary Boost Lip Lacquer in their season limited color Dark Cherry Chocolate. This one comes in at ¥1,600, but also contains hyaluronic acid and other lip softeners/care ingredients, plus, it is SPF25/PA+ to keep your lips feeling lush!

Their gold eye shadow is heavily pigmented too, so you don’t need to apply ten coats for it to have the kind of impact you want either. It comes in at ¥800, and I’ve already used mine three or four times ever since I picked it up.

Whether you want to celebrate a traditional, modern, or a mash-up of the two, Valentine’s in Japan doesn’t have to leave you feeling blue. Get out with your friends and enjoy the day the way you want!

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