TOKYO (Reuters) - Love was in the air in a Tokyo park as normally staid Japanese husbands gathered to scream out their feelings for their wives, promising gratitude and extra tight hugs.

With modesty and reticence traditionally valued over outspokenness, expressing deeper feelings like love has long been hard in Japan.

That's why dozens of Japanese men gather once a year ahead of Jan 31, which in Japanese is a play on the words for "Beloved Wife," to let their feelings fly.

Declarations at the Tuesday night event ranged from a simple "I'll love you forever" to expressions of gratitude for homemade boxed lunches.

"I'm sorry that I've gained weight over the last seven years," a suit-clad man yelled. "But that's because the meals you cook are so delicious."

The event, now in its fifth year, was thought up by Kiyotaka Yamana with the support of a local flower shop to urged Japanese men to show their affection in more explicit ways.

"The economy is getting better in Japan and I see a lot of Japanese married couples getting more active in deepening their relationships," Yamana said.

Wives in the audience laughed and clapped, especially when one man got down on his knees to offer his wife a bouquet.

"He's very fabulous and manly today," said Yuko Todo, 33, after her husband Takeshi's performance. "It just reminded me how macho he used to be - I'd forgotten that in the eight years we've been married. My heart pounded."

(Reporting by Hyun Oh, writing by Elaine Lies, Editing by Michael Perry)