White Day in Japan – Chocolate, Love and Obligation

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In Japan, the “Craziness of Valentine’s Day” falls mainly on women.  In fact, 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, 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.

Men, on the other hand, are required to simply receive chocolate and remember who gave it to them because while the burden of Valentines day falls on the women of Japan, the ladies get their payback on “White day.”

White Day in Japan – March 14

Men are required to remember every chocolate they received on Valentines day, and provide the woman who provided it an equal gift of chocolate on their own, second Valentines day, in March called “White Day.”   On White Day men are the obligated party, though men do get a slightly better deal as they are really only required to provide reciprocal gifts of  chocolate as a thank you to any one  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 white day is 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!

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