In Japan, the “Craziness of Valentine’s Day” falls mainly on the women. Unlike most countries of which I am aware, here 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 payday is called “White Day.”
A second Valentine’s day in March…wait… what? The payback 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 Valentine’s Day, plus their significant others, who will require extra special chocolate to compete with that homemade goodness received the month prior.
The history behind this holiday is as capitalist as it comes. Chocolate makers in Japan 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!