February 3rd 「節分(せつぶん)」

The eve of the first day of spring:

Setsubun actually signifies “the parting of the seasons;” especially nowadays, it falls on about February 3, the day before the first day of spring.  On the evening of this day, people yell, “Out with the ogre!(evil) In with the happiness!” while scattering parched soy beans inside and outside their homes.  To pray for good health for that year, there is also the custom of eating only the number of soy beans as one’s age.  At temples and shrines, too, bean scattering is practiced on a grand scale.

節 分とは本来「季節の分かれ目」を意味していましたが、現在で特に立春の前日である2月3日ごろがこれに当たります。この日の夜、人々は炒った大豆を家の内 外にまきながら、「鬼は外!福は内!」と唱えます。その年の健康を祈るため、大豆を自分の年の数だけ食べるという習慣もあります。また寺や神社でも大がか りな豆まき実施されます。

From Traditional Japanese Culture & Modern Japan

February 14th 「バレンタインデー」

Valentine’s Day in Japan

You might wonder “do people in Japan celebrate Valentine’s Day?”  Yes, we do, but we celebrate in a different way.  In Japan, women give gifts of chocolate to men on Valentine’s Day.  This tradition started in the 1960’s, but it became popular in 1970-1980’s.

There are two different types of chocolate gifts. One of them is called “Giri-choco” which literally means “obligation chocolate” and is bought for friends, co-workers, bosses, and male friends. There is no romance involved.

The other one is called “Honmei-choco” which is given to a boyfriend, lover or husband to signify true love.  Some women prepare chocolate by themselves to give as Honmei choco.  In the past few years, “Tomo-choco” has appeared to give to a woman’s female friends.  You will see large displays of chocolate in department stores, grocery stores and everywhere in mid January – February 14th.  If you visit Japan and go to a department store at this time of year, you will get a sense of the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day!