From Ireland to Japan
The Western-originated holiday on February 14 is long-associated with the celebration of romantic love - but it didn’t start that way, and some modern customs don’t always reflect that either. Established as a “feast day” to honour the martyrdom of Roman priest Valentine (latin: Valentinus), the recognition of February 14 marked the day of his death in the year 496. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, in the first recorded association with romantic love, referenced Valentine’s Day in 1382. The first annual celebration was then recorded in 1400, which included feasting, poetry, and romantic songs.
Today, the association with sweets, dining, the Roman god of desire Cupid, “valentines” - or written cards expressing love - and other expressions of romance is worldwide. Valentine’s Day was imported to Japan from the West in the late 1950s, and adapted to the culture over time. From the popularity of chocolate to some unique customs, Valentine’s Day in Japan and Ireland may have some recognizable similarities - and some distinct differences. Read on for some interesting facts, traditions and symbols across the two countries.
Giri choco 義理チョコ - a unique japanese custom
Giri choco (義理チョコ, literally, "obligation chocolate"), is a custom where women give gifts of chocolate to male figures who they are specifically not romantically involved with: colleagues, bosses, family members, or friends (however, there’s evidence that this custom is meeting resistance in Japan). There is also the honmei choco (本命チョコ, “true feelings chocolate”) which is reserved for romantic partners and love interests. However, the ladies can then look forward to receiving a gift back - one month later, on White Day…
2. white day (march 14)
First established in 1977, a Japanese confectionary company marketed marshmallows to men as a way to give back to the women who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day. The following year, it evolved to white chocolate and now includes both white and dark chocolate. White Day is also recognised across many parts of Asia as a reciprocity for the giri and honmei chocolates of February 14.
Check out the “8 Weirdest Romantic Traditions in the World” for some more off-beat global customs.
Why do we love chocolate so much? Well, it contains a compound called phenylethylamine which stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine - which helps regulate our emotions and builds the association of eating chocolate with a sense of satisfaction and happiness.
3. Dublin’s relic of st. valentine
Dublin’s very own Carmelite Church of Whitefriars on Aungier Street in City Centre houses a shrine (pictured here) and some of St Valentine’s actual bones; and each year, individuals make a “pilgrimage” to the church to honour him, to pray for true love, or to bless their wedding/engagement rings. The relic was brought in 1835 by Irish Carmelite priest John Spratt, and the shrine erected in 1950. However, it should be noted that there were in fact many saints named “Valentine”, and also that a few other cities, including Rome, Terni, Vienna, Prague and Glasgow, claim to hold relics of St. Valentine as well.
4. claddagh rings
The Claddagh ring, or ‘Ring of Claddagh’, is thought to originate from County Galway, Ireland, circa 1700. The ring’s classic design of two hands clasping a crowned heart is a popular imagery.
The ring is now traditionally associated with friendship, love, and loyalty - and is most commonly used as engagement and wedding rings. It is popular not only in Ireland but in Irish communities in Canada and the United States, too.
5. it’s not the top day for Irish marriage proposals…
Despite the common assumption of Valentine’s Day as the most romantic holiday, recent research by all-things-wedding One Fab Day has revealed that an estimated less than 1% of Irish couples are likely to get engaged on Valentine’s Day. (Maybe the Irish aren’t so romantic after all!?) Comparatively to the UK, “One fifth (21 per cent) of people who are either married or currently engaged said they were proposed to on Valentines day.” Further, according to a survey in recent years from the United States, nearly 6 million engagements were likely on February 14 (of a total estimated 14 million for the year ) - that’s roughly 43% of all engagements. Ireland sure doesn’t follow the pattern there…
6. … but it is a big night for gifting and dining
It is estimated that Irish adults will spend approximately €200 million on their Valentines this year, according to a report commissioned by Circle Pay, with the average gift costing €56, before the meal. And with loads of set menus, advance booking options, and specials on, Dublin is a great place to go out for a special dinner. And it doesn’t have to involve alcohol - try these alternative date ideas, or check out our delicious non-alcoholic drinks selection, available at all our locations.
Psst … try our Valentine’s Day Lovers special on at north city and izakaya for €75 - more info over at our Valentine’s page. (Plus a chance to win a meal on us!)
lucky enough to be in the Japanese capitol itself? Check out this guide to a great valentine’s day in Tokyo
#madewithLove of all kinds
We think all kinds of love should be celebrated - friends, family, and community, too. We have reservation options for all group sizes and types of events across our three venues. Or, show your love to someone special with a Yamamori Gift Card - available online here. And if you’re visiting us anytime this month, take a snap and tag us with #madewithlove on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter - with anyone you love.