HONMEI, HONMONO, HONKI Do you celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day? And do you celebrate with love?
The trio of Japanese words, as I put them poetically next to each other – honmei, honmono, honki (true name, true materie, true feeling) provokes me to write to you about the Japanese celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. It’s quite fun and besides – the holiday is coming. February 14! Some of you are looking forward to it, but some are already terrified of the flood of pinkish hearts. And the argument why „No Valentine’s Day!“ may be that the whole hype around is often full of insincerity. Plenty of hearts and little love. I must admit that also I decorated our Miyabi Valentine’s food with hearts, and please allow me that because I honestly – honki wished to please you, eventhough these hearts are from radish and I don’t even know names of those who will eat them.
Who? Whom? What? The most beautiful thing is when the partners give each other a sign that their love is nicely confirmed. Priest St. Valentine did so – he hastily blessed couples who were in love, believing that being in love is good! Little did he know that one day we would have a holiday of love and call it St. Valentine’s Day. He had no idea that in our western regions on that festive day, man presents woman a gift while in Japan women present men. I deliberately put Japanese actors in the plural, because … well, it is something to experience – the amount of chocolate that Japanese men collect that day is enormous! Wanting or not wanting they receive hearts in all sorts of visages and all these are made from chocolate. Choko = chocolate.
The funny thing is that this chocolate always has an additional name to it. An adjective. In case of the obligatory massive acts of presenting gifts, the chocolate is called “giri choko”, simply stating what is appropriate – to buy, to bring, to give. Even those who would otherwise get nothing, will be remembered and get a choco with the adjective onasake. „Onasake Choco“. The word “nasakenai” comes immediately to my mind. It, points to someone who is unfortunate, poor, not well looking, simply someone we are a little ashamed of. And because love is to be honored on Valentine’s Day, these people get chocolate too. I like it very much. Maybe that’s where true love dwels. Love without need to be earned. A bit nasakenai are also those whom no one remembers that day, who do not go anywhere that day, and they, in order not to be sad, give themselves chocolate too. Such Valentine’s chocolate is called “jibun choko”. Jibun means himself or herself. I can imagine that feeling of giving self a chocolate. In Japan, I gave myself gifts for MDŽ (International Women’s Day), for Christmas and for my birthday. It encouraged me in a way, but I didn’t go so far to create a special word for it. It could be for instance “jiai purezento”. “Ji” is from jibun and “ai” means love. Purezento you can guess – the English present (gift) pronounced in syllables.
But seriously. What other Valentine’s Choco adjectives do exist? One is „gyaku choko“. There are growing cases in contemporary Japan that, according to Western influence, a boy wants to give a girl a present on Valentine’s Day, in which case the chocolate takes this avant-garde name “gyaku choko”. Gyaku means the other way around. And here I finally get to the most important thing in this giving and receiving Valentine communication, that it doesn’t matter if she gives or he gives, what matters is that the thing gets to the honestly chosen dear person. To the one with a real name, true name – honmei. Yes, the real choko from true love that “the real one” gets is called “honmei choko”. The power of a once-established custom is like law in Japan, and it probably won’t change much in the foreseeable future, but maybe one day the gyaku choko will be forgotten and a new name will be created and it will read: ” honai choko ” – the Valentine’s Chocolate Given Simply out of True Love. “Ai” is, as you already know, love. 愛。The character itself is beautiful, because love indeed is the most beautiful thing life gives us.
We touch love, we long for love. When we talk about the Japanese Valentine Choko of Love it is so that girls choose boys and sometimes exceptionally give their true honmono hearts and they mean it honki. Honki de. Honestly. Now, the story has more to it. In the Japanese culture, the basic social rule is to reciprocate a gift with a gift, so it happened that the Japanese were the only nation in the world to create the echoes of St. Valentine’s Day, and they named the day “White Day”. It is celebrated a month later on March 14, and the merchants rejoice again because the men who received chocolates should present chocolates in return. To girl-givers, of course. And to make a good distinction between the the holidays, White Day chocolate must, of course, be made of white chocolate. Those chosen men who believe that some of the chocolate they received was “honmei choko” have the good opportunity to come to their chosen givers with a gift that far exceeds the received one. They can choose a perfume, jewelry or even a diamond wedding ring. White Day is an opportunity!
When I think about the Japanese chocolate language, it occurs to me that women are ahead of men in Japan in terms of relationships. First, they are those who begin the celebration of love tactfully challenging men, and second, they try to be materially creative and express themselves through devoting their time. They make “honmei choko” pieces ideally on their own. Manually. They want to put emotion in their gift. Care. Love. In stores they can buy a ready-made Valentine kit in which is everything they need. They simply melt chocolate mass through heat, poure into a mold, decorate, wrapp and the mirracle is there. It counts. Handwritten choco. Tezukuri choco.
Maybe it takes not much to please, but we need to rise up and know who the honmei is, generate the honmono and go honki. Honmei, honmono and honki are triune. They belong together.
So let us wish that we all are triune HON. Sincere and full of love. Saint Valentine, thank you!