I’ve been in Japan during Valentine’s Day before and it always mystified me that the girls are expected to MAKE chocolates for the guy they like, give it to him directly or put it somewhere for him to find, and then way for White Day, which is on March 14th and is the day guys reply to their Valentine’s Day chocolates by giving the girl they like cookies or white chocolate. The whole ritual just seems like something that only happens in anime. I even asked my students if they got chocolate and most of them said no.
However, Japan really goes all out for V-day, and unlike the other holidays it tends to mess with, like Halloween (where the Japanese mafia give candy to kids on the street) and Christmas (which is observed on Christmas Eve and is mainly a romantic date night or a family-goes-to-KFC outing) I quite like Valentine’s Day in Japan!
Hakata Station was decorated with reds and pinks and advertisements for chocolate were everywhere. I don’t care who you are, any excuse to eat more chocolate is a good one. The entire basement floor of the station, which usually has food vendors, sold special Valentine’s Day treats and it was more packed than I’ve ever seen it.
I asked Junkyu what we would do for Valentine’s Day, since most of the time we celebrate our holidays via video chat, and at first he said he didn’t have a plan. One night, though, he called me and told me he was able to book the ferry to Fukuoka to see me for Valentine’s Day weekend. I was giddy but didn’t really know what to do since Korea pretty much celebrates the holiday in the same fashion as Japan, and in America we usually use V-day for date night and gift giving.
I spent the next week pouring over the internet trying to find out what kinds of Valentine’s specials or events were happening near me, and eventually landed on making reservations for a couple’s dinner at a hotel. I picked him up in the afternoon and we hung out around that station until it was time for dinner.
It was such a special date – the restaurant was only half full and it was all couples, and our seat was in the back with a “Reserved” plate on it. We sat down and saw a candle and wine glasses and our napkins were made into hearts. The waitress asked for our first drink order, so we got white wine and toasted before going to the salad and bread buffet. They had veggies and soup and lots of little dishes that we ate on in between courses. Our first course was caviar and crackers and I was so excited to be eating something I always heard rich people talking about in movies.
Next course was cheesy pasta, and she brought over a huge wheel of cheese she mixed the pasta in, and grated some cheese on top as well. Our main course was a pan-seared bread-crusted fish (couldn’t tell you what kind hehe) and lamb with vegetables. Junkyu is always telling me that he likes lamb and he loves eating fish although the smell keeps me from eating it most of the time. In America, I mostly only ever ate fried fish or fish sticks and the smell was never bad, but in Japan I stay far away from any kind of fish or sushi. I am really sensitive to smells (cigarettes and fish make me want to puke) but since I live in Asia, people are always shocked I don’t eat fish. At dinner, though, I decided to be a good sport and try some. He made me eat a bug when we were in Korea, so I felt like this was the natural progression of my new dietary palate. The fish was good except for the smell, and Junkyu let me drown it in lemon and an herb sauce. The lamb was delicious – tender and juicy – so we loved the food overall.
Finally, they took our coffee and tea order and then brought out our dessert. I had been a little nervous since I made the reservation online and I had to ask them to write our names on the dessert (on the website they encouraged customers to tell them in advance what they would like it to say) but it turned out wonderfully.
We both got a plate of chocolate mousse cake with a raspberry and gold flakes on top, and his plate was decorated with chocolate and mine had our names, the date, and strawberry sauce. Then, the waiter gave Junkyu a small bouquet of flowers to give to me, and the waitress took our picture as he handed them to me. It was a cute little event, and I saw it happening all around us as well. The waiter had to tell the Japanese men, “Usually in other countries, like America, the guy is supposed to give the girl flowers. Give these to her.” It was so cute watching them get coached how to be romantic. I think they picked up on the fact that Junkyu didn’t speak Japanese, and since I’m white they probably figured he knew the drill.
Junkyu told me that he would get me a White Day present so here’s hoping that actually happens. Like I said, it seems like something that only happens in a Japanese drama or something but I’m excited to see what I get. Neither of us are really big on presents, and we mostly just buy each other something when we are shopping together to make sure it’s something the other will actually like/use. It’s already hard enough giving gifts to people in a normal situation, but since he and I are from different cultures, we sometimes don’t even know the other is expecting anything.
That’s the fun part, though, learning as we go and surprising each other with our knowledge. He was really surprised I knew about the Korean custom of celebrating every 100th day of dating and I was excited to teach him about Christmas customs in my family. With us, every day is a learning experience.