White Day in Japan – Chocolate, Love and Obligation

Feb 23, 2023

White Day in Japan – Chocolate, Love and Obligation

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,” which do not cost much. The more important the relationship, the better the chocolate given, culminating in the ultimate token of regard, the handmade chocolate.

On the other hand, men are required to simply receive chocolate and remember who gave it to them because while Valentine’s Day’s burden 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 Valentine’s day and provide the woman who provided it an equal gift of chocolate on women’s own Valentine’s day, in March, called “White Day.” On White Day, men are the obligated party. However, men do get a slightly better deal as they are only required to provide reciprocal gifts of chocolate as a thank you to anyone 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 White Day 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!


By Bernd from Yokohama, Japan (One missing, oops.) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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