Shoujo Sensei: Honmei vs. Giri Chocolate

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 the other way around.  Couples may go on dates, but it’s more about women giving chocolates to the men that they like. That’s why you tend to see a valentine scene in almost every slice of life shoujo manga or anime told from a girl’s perspective.

Anime Girl Valentines Day

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-choko”.  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-choko” 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 from a shoujo manga is in 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-choko”, or does she really feel more strongly for Kazehaya and wish them to be “honmei-choko”?  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.

From Kimi ni Todoke vol. 7

From Kimi ni Todoke vol. 7

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!

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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  • So how do people diferentiate between giri choco and honmei choco? Does the giver just say “here’s some honmei choco!” or… how is that handled?

    • I’ve not experienced this myself, so it’s just speculation on my part.

      Usually you would make it clear that you were giving giri choco, so the boy knows that you are not romantically interested. “Here’s your giri choco for this year. Thanks for your support.”

      Honmei choco is usually given with a confession. A boy knows he’s getting honmei choco if the girl hands him the chocolate and says, “I like you.” Even if you are already dating, you would hand them the chocolate and say something like, “I love you.” or “I like you so much.”

  • Another really cool difference in cultures. Sadly, Japan is still a very male-dominated culture. Have you written an article on the unfortunate statistics of Japanese men who cheat on their wives and vice-versa? Apparently after the wife becomes a mother the cultural stigma is that the wife can no longer be considered “desirable” in the husband’s eyes as she is the mother of his children. It’s acceptable for the men to go fool around with other women as the married couple doesn’t engage in certain activities and the wife either ignores the truth or just lets it go on. She too may cheat on her husband. It’s a sad thought especially when you are brought up to believe that love conquers all but this isn’t the case in Japan. Sorry for such a depressing fact, but there are always negatives to every positive in a country. This is one of the reasons I am a little hesitant about the possibility of marrying a Japanese man like my cousin. Besides that, Valentines and White Day are something I really want to experience in Japan!

  • I’ve always wondered about this. I’ve read about honmei and girl chocolates in many of the shoujo manga that I like. I’ve been reading Kimi Ni Todoke (Chapter 82 Online) and I finally decided to search it up, and what do you know, this page popped up.

    I haven’t read much on this site, but I really like it and find it quite useful. In fact, I,be only read this one article and I’ve already subscribed… Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. ( ̄▽ ̄)ノ Nina Porkntuna

    • Thanks, Nina! I hope you continue to enjoy Heart of Manga.

  • […] started in 1978 by the National Confectionery Industry Association. Whether they received a honmei or giri choco, they should “triple the return (三倍返し, sanbai gaeshi)” or give a gift […]

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