Japanese Valentine’s Day and White Day Culture

February 14th is Valentine’s Day—but have you ever heard of “White Day”? In Japan, White Day is celebrated on March 14th in parallel to Valentine’s Day.

In some countries, men give flowers and presents to women on Valentine’s Day— but in Japan, Valentine’s is typically a day when women give chocolates to men.

Here are few unique ways in which Valentine’s Day and White Day is practiced in Japan.

What’s the Difference Between Valentine’s Day and White Day?

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In Japan, women give special men in their lives chocolates on Valentine’s Day. There are several stories that explain the history behind this tradition—in one case, it is said that a Japanese confectionary company Morozoff introduced Valentine’s Day through an ad in an English-language newspaper back in 1936. Another theory speculates that a Japanese confectionary company Morinaga & Co. published ads in the 1960s about giving chocolate as presents on Valentine’s Day. Nowadays, women of all ages celebrate Valentines’— young girls give chocolates to boys that they have a crush on, and the day is considered to be an eventful one.

On the other hand, Japan sees March 14th as “White Day”—a day when men give presents back to women who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day in Japan is reserved for women to give presents to men, and on White Day the vice versa takes place.

Giri Choco” (Obligatory Chocolates) and “Tomo Choco” (Friendship Chocolates): Giving Thanks to Others 

There are women who give chocolates to men and friends, even if there are no romantic feelings involved. These chocolates are called “giri choco(義理チョコ)”, or “obligatory chocolates”, and they’re given to friends and other people.

For example, women give men at their workplaces chocolates as a token of appreciation. Friends exchange chocolates at school. People usually give “giri choco” as a way to thank others, but people call this an obligatory chocolate.

On the other hand, women give “honmei choco”, or “favorite chocolate” to the one, very special someone in their lives (like boyfriends, husbands).

Giri choco” is usually considered not as special, so if you see someone passing out ordinary, store-bought chocolates to multiple people, it’s probably an obligatory chocolate or just a friendship one.

Things like obligatory and friendship chocolates are practices that started recently in Japan, but there’s no doubt that Japanese people take Valentine’s Day celebration very seriously.

Lastly, here’s a little advice for men—even if the chocolate you receive is an obligatory or friendship one, do make sure to give back on White Day, even if it’s just out of courtesy! Some women take White Day seriously and consider it good manners for men to give back on March 14th. Hope you all enjoy Valentine’s Day!