Valentine's Day in Japan and the World
Valentine's Day, celebrated on February 14th, is a holiday celebrating love and friendship that is observed differently in many countries around the world, including Japan.
History of Valentine's Day
The origins of Valentines Day are unclear, but it
is believed that it may have originated from the Roman festival
"Lupercalia", celebrated on February 15th, which drove
away wolves and promoted fertility. Cupid, the Roman god of love,
is still frequently seen on Valentine's Day cards centuries later,
using his bow and arrow to cause people to fall in love.
Valentine's Day is named after the Christian Saint Valentine. However, it is believed there were actually several Saints named Valentine. One was imprisoned for refusing to worship Roman Gods. His friends would send notes expressing their love and support through the bars of his jail cell, which is believed to be the origin of exchanging Valentine cards. Another Saint Valentine was known for marrying couples in secret after the Roman Emperor Claudius forbid young men from marrying. February 14th was named as Saint Valentine's Day in 496 AD, and Saint Valentine was designated as the patron saint of lovers. Additionally, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in the 1300's that birds will choose their mates on February 14th . Valentine's Day came about as the result of these different influences.
Early Valentine's Day Customs
Europeans began celebrating Valentine's Day in the 1400's. People exchanged love poetry or gifts, played games, and attended balls. Women believed they would dream of their future husband on the eve of Valentine's Day, or if they stood by their window on the morning of Valentine's Day, the first man they saw would look like their future husband. Commercial Valentine's Day Cards first began being sold in the late 1800's, and exchanging these cards is still a popular practice today.
Valentine's Day around the world
Over the years, Valentine's Day has shifted from being
a religious holiday to a commercial one. Very few people know the
original stories behind Valentine's Day, and think of it as a holiday
In the USA and Canada, children will exchange Valentine's Day cards and candy, and have Valentine's Day parties at school. Traditional Valentine's Day cards are decorated with images of hearts and flowers, but you can also buy inexpensive children's cards featuring cartoon characters. One of the most famous symbols of Valentine's Day in the USA are heart shaped candies called "conversation hearts" which are printed with different phrases related to Valentine's Day such as "be mine".
Adults will exchange flowers or candy in heart shaped boxes, and go out on a romantic date to celebrate.
In Europe, there are many unique Valentine's Day customs, such as singing of Valentines Day songs, and Valentine's feasts featuring special buns flavored with caraway seeds and raisins. In Denmark, people exchange pressed white flowers called "snow drops", and men will give women a type of Valentine called gaekkebrev (joking letter), signed with a series of dots. If the woman correctly guesses the sender, he will give her an Easter egg on Easter.
In Mexico, Valentine's Day is a romantic day called El Dia del Amor y la Amistad, "The Day of Love and Friendship". Couples will go out to dinner together, and vendors sell heart shaped balloons with messages such as "I love you" written on them. A man might even go so far as to hire some Mariachi singers to wake up his girlfriend by singing love songs outside the window of her house.
Valentine's Day has spread within Asia as well, notably Japan, but it has been met by opposition in countries such as India and China, where many people believe that the holiday is incompatible with political or religious beliefs.
Valentine's Day In Japan
Like Christmas, Valentine's Day is celebrated differently
in Japan than in the rest of the world.
Valentine's Day was introduced to Japan in 1958 by a candy company in order to boost sales. In Japan, woman give chocolates to men but not vice versa. Typically a woman will give chocolates to only a few men, such as her husband and close friends. However, many women will give inexpensive "giri choco" (obligation chocolate) to their acquaintances and coworkers so that they will not feel left out. In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, you will see many different kinds of chocolate for sale in department stores and convenience stores. Many women will make homemade chocolates to give as special gifts. The department store Loft (located at Kawaramachi-Takoyakushi) offers a wide variety of chocolate making supplies.
If it seems unfair that only men receive chocolates on Valentine's Day, bear in mind that women receive gifts from men on White Day, March 14th. White Day was invented as a marketing scheme by a Japanese Marshmallow company in the 1960's, but the custom has spread to Korea as well.
Typical White Day gifts include white chocolate (so men cannot recycle the chocolate gifts they received on Valentine's Day), cookies, candy or flowers.
Of course, people who do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend may feel lonely on Valentine's Day. In Korea, single people celebrate the lesser known holiday "Black Day" on April 14th by eating black colored "jajang" noodles.
Whether or not you are single, you can still celebrate valentines day by appreciating the love and friendship you share with people in your life.
-Bianca Jarvis and Saburo Narita
Chuka Dokoro Yan: Authentic Chinese Food In Kyoto
From my previous experiences dining at Chinese restaurants
in Japan, my impression has been that the food has become so 'Japanized'
that it is rightly called chuka ryori 中華料理, a variety of Japanese
cuisine. Chuka Dokoro Yan ("Yan's Chinese Place") stands
out as an exception. The food is an excellent balance between chuka
ryori and authentic Chinese food that suits both Japanese and Chinese
tastes. The chef has put a lot of effort into creating signature
dishes such as namako no uma ni (ナマコの馬に) and chuka fu katsudon(中華風カツ丼)
that have been recommended by magazines such as JTB Rurubu and Kyoto
Gohan. The Chinese-style chuka fu katsudon (\840) differs from the
Japanese version by altering two ingredients: chicken soup is used
in place of seafood soup and the katsu sauce on top is thickened
Chuka Dokoro Yang has been in business for 25 years and is conveniently located two minutes from the Shijo Horikawa intersection. The head chef Mr. Yan and his wife are both Chinese-Japanese. One of the surprises of dining at this delightful restaurant was speaking to one of the friendly staff in Mandarin for quite some time before realising he is actually a Japanese person who has studied in Beijing for 3 years.
The atmosphere of Chuka Dokoro Yan is comfortable and homely. There are two floors, the first level seating 24 people while the second level can seat 36 people. The restaurant offers catering for dinner parties, providing four courses Chinese banquets. Many typical chuka ryori dishes such as such as gyoza, tenjin noodles, and white steamed chicken (白切鶏)can be found in the a la carte menu. The service is fast and efficient, and offers a unique braille menu for sight-impaired customers.
Mr. Yan has been actively involved in volunteering for over 20 years and is the leader of a Chinese Cusine Chef's Association known as "Takumakai" (琢磨会). The association's activities have been covered by Chinese community newspapers and the Kyoto News. Mr. Yang has also been honored by the Kyoto City Council numerous times for his outstanding volunteer activities in Kyoto, Shiga and Hyogo Prefectures. These certificates are proudly displayed on the walls of the restaurant for customers to view.
This restaurant offers food that is fresh and delicious, and even my native Chinese friend could not help but praise the flavor, originality and authenticity of Chuka Dokoro Yan.
Chuka Dokoro Yan
Address: Kamigyo-ku, Shijo-dori, East of Horikawa, Hakuyamachi
Telephone: (211) 1333 (223) 2421
Hours: 11am-3pm, 4:30pm to 9:45pm
(Sun and Public Holidays, 11am to 1:15pm)
Beating the Winter Blues: Mental Health Care for Winter
Winter may be the most difficult time of the year
for foreigners living in Kyoto. There are many factors that may
lead to stress and depression in the winter season, such as isolation
from friends and family during the holidays, and reduced exposure
to sunlight. Winter is the season when nature slows down and many
of us take the time to consider our lives, but it's important to
keep a positive attitude.
Sandra Kimball, an licensed counselor working in Kyoto, offers the following coping strategies for beating the winter blues:
- Go outside and exercise. It's important to get plenty of exposure to daylight in the winter time. Take advantage of the beautiful scenery in Kyoto and go for a relaxing walk.
- Take lots of hot baths, or visit your local sento (neighborhood bathhouse). This is a good way to warm up, relax, and get to know people from your neighborhood.
- Eat a healthy diet, with a good balance of nutrients. Try local favorites like nabe or oden for warming up on a cold winter night.
- Become involved with a creative or cultural activity, such as pottery. Take advantage of this chance to develop an interest in Japanese cultural activities as a way to relieve stress and meet new people.
(KICH offers a number of free or low cost classes)
- Get support from friends by talking and spending time together. Schedule activities with friends so you do not feel isolated. Keep in touch with friends and family back home, but make an effort to make new friends in Japan as well.
- Consider your attitude. Remember that things will get better, and that it's important to be patient and gentle with yourself. Take time to consider your direction in life.
- Keep a sense of humor and have a good laugh. Read a funny book or watch a funny movie.
- It's important to get plenty of rest, but sleeping all day may be a warning sign of depression. Don't be afraid to talk to a counselor if needed.
Counseling in Kyoto:
Sandra Kimball runs a Counseling Practice in Yoshida, Kyoto. She can be contacted for an appointment at (075) 762-6322.
The Kyoto International Community House will offer Mental Health Counseling as part of the Free Counseling Day for Foreigners on February 20th. Interpreters available. Please call KICH at (075) 752-3511 to make an appointment.