Ah, Valentine’s Day! It’s the time once a year that people declare their feelings for the ones they love. Here in the states its a holiday for both men and women, but caters more to men giving gifts to women. In Japan, it’s more like the other way around. Couples may go on dates, but it’s more common for women to give chocolates to the men that they like.
What I find so intriguing about this western holiday in Japan, is that there are distinctive types of feelings behind the chocolate gifts given. In America, if you give a guy chocolate on Valentines, we’ll it’s got to be because you like the guy, otherwise why bother. However, in Japan, many guys just hope to receive any kind of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so they’ve come to differentiate between the feelings behind the chocolates given.
For instance, if you were a teen girl in Japan and had some boys that were in your club or that you associate with frequently, then you might give them giri-choco. Giri means “duty” or “obligation” – so in a sense you feel obligated to give your guy friends chocolates so that they don’t feel left out on Valentine’s Day.
Now let’s say you really are crushing on a guy. Valentine’s is a time when you can give confessions. So you might give the guy some “honmei-choco” or “sweetheart chocolate”. You never know, he might just become your boyfriend!
I can’t recall the first time I came across the different terms of “giri-choco” and “honmei-choco”. However, a good example I recently came across is from Kimi ni Todoke, Vol. 7. Main character Sawako is struggling with giving Kazehaya-kun chocolates on Valentine’s because she can’t decide what her feelings are. Are the chocolates she made just “giri-choco”, or does she really feel more strongly for Kazehaya and wish them to be “honmei-choco”? Kurumi, who knows she’s already lost Kazehaya to Sawako, gives Sawako a push to see if she’ll give Kazehaya the chocolates or not.
Whichever type if chocolate you give in Japan, “giri” or “honmei”, it is important to distinguish between the two. If you don’t, you might end up with a guy following you around because he thinks you like him, when you only think of him as a friend. Oops!