Valentine’s Day in Japan – February 14
In Japan, the “Craziness of Valentine’s Day” falls mainly on the women. Unlike most countries of which I am aware, in Japan the tradition calls for women to give chocolate to the person they’re dating, want to date, are currently stalking, or is their father…sometimes brothers, and to add insult to injury, co-workers and good friends.
All in, women must provide chocolate to probably 30% of the men they know. Of course, not all chocolates are created equal, and those for co-workers and non-romantic friends are “courtesy chocolates”, or more bluntly “obligation chocolates,” that do not cost very much. The more important the relationship, the better the chocolate given; culminating in the ultimate token of regard, the handmade chocolate. The burden of chocolate distribution and obligation are not without their payback though, and that pay day is called “White day.”
White Day in Japan – March 14
A second Valentines day in March…wait… what? The pay back from “obligation chocolates” comes on March 14th, on a holiday named “White Day.” On White Day, guys have to buy chocolates as a thank you to everyone that gave them chocolates on Valentines Day, plus their significant others, who will require an extra special chocolate to compete with that home made goodness received the month prior.
The history behind this holiday as as capitalist as it comes. Chocolate makers in Japan simply invented the holiday out of whole cloth, to drum up business. It seems to have been a good idea, as business is good! Makers bring in more than half of their annual chocolate sales in the week before Valentine’s Day, in a nearly endless string of varieties within the basic two categories of chocolates given for love, and chocolates given out of obligation.
And that is the intersection of chocolate, love, and obligation in Japan!
Chocolate Shops in Tokyo
Chocolate Shops in Nagoya
Chocolate Shops in Kobe
Chocolate Shops in Hiroshima
Image "Chocolate in KaDeWe" By Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons (modified)