Happy Valentine’s Day! This day of love has always had a special place in my heart—who doesn’t love a reason to celebrate with chocolate? But my favorite part of Valentine’s Day isn’t just the indulgent treats, it’s also the sweet, heartfelt cards and mementos for loved ones.
While Valentine’s Day in Japan today is a spin-off of our holiday in the States, traditional Japanese celebrations of love are just as delightful and full of charm. In Kyoto, there’s a popular shrine, Jishu-jinja, where visitors pray to find true love. Devoted to the art of matchmaking, this shrine celebrates the timeless ways of discovering true love. One tradition’s popularity has endured since the Edo period and involves walking between two stones. According to folklore, you walk from one stone to another with eyes closed. If you make it to the opposite stone on your own, you’ll find your love in the near future. If you need the guidance of a friend to make it, you’ll meet your love with the help of a friend. It seems that love has always been blind.
At most shrines, including Jishu-jinja, you can find special omamori, which are Japanese amulets. These amulets give their wearers good luck, protection, or other good fortune. The charms can be as specific as granting someone safe driving, or as broad as warding away bad luck. Usually bound on a string, omamori can be tied to a purse or kept tucked away as a little reminder of the goodness it was meant to bring you. Small and travel-friendly, they make lovely gifts to let someone know you’re thinking of them. Their specificity makes them personal gifts to cherish, for any occasion.
I love picking out a sweet charm for Alea whenever I have the chance to visit a historical shrine. Between us, they’re like any-time Valentines that bring us closer even when I travel. I love watching her eyes light up as I tell her what the amulet is for. This year, I want to find her an omamori she can give to our new kittens, Romeo and Juliet—yes, they even make them for pets!
What are your favorite ways to gift a loved one on this special day? I’d love to hear about any special ways you show love, too.