Valentine’s Day in Japan is just about the greatest day ever (if you are a guy).
Growing up in Canada, Valentine’s Day was not a very good day. If you are a guy in a relationship, you are expected to get gifts, flowers, candy, cards, etc. for your significant other and usually take them out for dinner. Lack of planning is punished, as the price of flowers will double or triple as you get closer to the day. I was actually laughed at one year while calling for a restaurant reservation a few days before February 14.
Being single on Valentine’s day is also no fun. Everywhere you look you will see with images of happy couples enjoying life together, reminding you that you are single and will probably die alone surrounded by cats. I don’t even like cats!!
Japan, for all of its quirks regarding holidays, gets Valentine’s Day right (if you are a guy). On Valentine’s Day, men are not expected to do anything. Women, on the other hand, have to give chocolate to men. Chocolate gifts can usually be divided into two categories: honmei-choko, which is given to people you actually like, and giri-choko (obligation chocolate), which is given to male co-workers, your boss, and other people that you are obligated to give chocolate to.
There is a holiday one month after Valentine’s Day called White Day. White Day was first celebrated in 1978 as a way for men to provide gifts to the women that they received chocolate from on Valentine’s Day. It has caught on, but is not quite as obligatory as Valentine’s Day.
If you are a foreign man in a relationship with a Japanese woman, I highly recommend getting some kind of gift for your significant other on Valentine’s Day. It is not expected or required, but will make you seem like a super boyfriend / husband. It will also cost you a lot less than what Valentine’s Day would have in your home country.
(The above post contains several sweeping generalizations and information from my own experiences. Your Valentine’s experiences may vary)