Love in Translation
In the 1936, Morozoff Limited, a Russian-founded Japanese company, introduced Valentine’s Day in Japan. During an advertising campaign in the 1950s, an error in translation resulted in the custom of women giving the gift of chocolates to the important men in their lives. The Japanese have several different “tiers” of gifts:
- Giri-choco, chocolate given to co-workers and colleagues.
- Chou-giri-choco, chocolate given to the poor guys who aren’t likely to receive chocolate from anyone else.
- Tomo-choco, chocolate given to friends.
- Honmei-choco, chocolate given to a loved one.
If you find yourself the recipient of giri-choco, be aware that it’s an obligation gift; you’re expected to return the favor! (Usually on White Day).
WHEN I PUBLISHED the above article last February, I had no idea that Dancing Lion Chocolate would ship two hundred pounds of Valentine’s Day bars and bonbons to Tokyo in December. On April 10th, I received an email through our website. (I’ve edited the spelling and grammar, but left the meaning intact).
“This is Chizuko M- of Tokyo, Japan. We mainly import the chocolate from Europe and USA. We deliver to FELISSIMO, a very famous mail order company that publishes a Valentine’s Day catalog every year. I am very interested in your chocolate, it has an originality. We would like to visit your shop.”
The visit from Ms. M- and the Felissimo buyer taught us much about Valentine’s Day in Japan.
- It is a very serious holiday.
- People purchase mostly from catalogs and online.
- Japanese women place their Valentine’s Day orders early.
We received the final order on December 15th. Within three weeks we had 500 Haiku bars, 100 bonbon boxes, and 400 bags of Drinking Chocolate on a plane to Tokyo. Yesterday, I received the following email from MIKI in Mitaka-City, Tokyo:
“I felt your HAIKU were the most beautiful and unique.
Since the moment I saw the picture,
other chocolates had gone out of my glance.
Your chocolates look as if mysterious articles from an ancient monument and look as if an art works…
I have never seen this kind of chocolates fulfilled with originality.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Honmei-choco. Miki’s boyfriend is a lucky guy.