In a few day’s time it’s going to be the 14th March. ‘So what?’ I hear you say. Well in Japan, as the one month anniversary of Valentine’s day, it’s going to be a special day known as ‘White Day’. To explain White Day first you have to understand Valentine’s day is quite different in Japan. Gone are the Valentine’s cards, the flowers, the restaurants, and (let’s face it) most of the romance. Instead in Japan women, and only women, are expected to dish out chocolates to most of the men in their lives – husbands, boyfriends, family, coworkers, etc. The presents aren’t necessarily a symbol of affection either. It’s part of the Japanese culture of gift-giving I suppose, which is nice at first, but not so nice when you realise if someone goes on anything approaching a holiday they have to bring back gifts for anybody they share that information with. Sometimes I think people view it as an obligation, and less of a friendly act.
Anyway, everyone does it. Children do it; the girls dish out lots of choccies to their school friends, which is kind of cute. Then women give them to their coworkers, family, and indeed boyfriends. Women students of men are likely to bring along chocolate to classes too.
So men get a great deal here right? Well not exactly, as a month later on March 14th the cycle repeats and men have to reciprocate to every women they know who gave them chocolates a month earlier. This is White Day. The origin of White Day seems to be slightly uncertain, but most people I’ve asked seem to point the finger at the confectionery industry and maybe a marshmallow company (hence ‘white’ day). Wikipedia seems to agree with these theories, although I can’t confirm them.
Anyway, I’ve prepared and am ready to pay back those people who gave me chocolates on March 14th. I actually find it quite a nice celebration, although I can see why it might not be for everyone. One person told me he avoided as many women as possible on Valentine’s Day so he wasn’t obliged to repay them a month later. Maybe he’s just slightly misanthropic, or maybe years of receiving more chocolate than you can eat, then dishing out just as much back to all the women in your office, can start to grind a little.
There’s also a question of fairness. Do women give more, do men give more? People seem to have varying opinions irrespective of gender. According to some of my students who I asked there is an imbalance, but according to some others there isn’t. Noticeably some of my older students said the men lost out, as on white day men often give other expensive gifts such as perfume in return, and not just chocolate. On the other hand younger students seemed to think it was the women who gave more, with the men only giving back cheap chocolate when it comes to their turn.
So it might be fair or it might be not. After years of having to go through this cycle it might become a bit tiresome, or it might not. The lack of emphasis on romance could also be good or bad. You could probably debate the UK’s Valentine’s just as easily. I for one enjoyed receiving a lot of chocolate, and am happy to give it back.