Valentine’s Day & White Day in Japan

Whilst watching anime a long time ago I came across a celebration day called ‘White Day’. Initially I thought it was the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day that is celebrated on a different day, but it is actually a bit more complex than that.

Valentine’s Day as a tradition started in the 14th Century and became very popular in 18th Century England. Valentine’s grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, confectionery and sending greeting cards. (Incidentally, Wales also has its own version of Valentine’s Day which is Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen, celebrated on the 25th of January.) But since the 19th Century, handwritten Valentines have been replaced by mass-produced greeting cards. In Japan Valentine’s Day is also celebrated however the gift giving traditionally is only carried out by females. 

Valentine’s Day, February 14th, was introduced to Japan in 1936 and gained huge popularity from 1953 when confectionary companies started promoting heart shaped chocolate. Traditionally in Japan on Valentine’s Day, girls and women present chocolate gifts (either store-bought or handmade), as an expression of love, courtesy, or social obligation. However, not all chocolates are created equal. There are two types of chocolate that girls give, giri-choco and honmei-chocos. Giri-choco are quick ready-made chocolates that you give to friends and family and even co-workers. Honmei-choco are given to the ones the girls are truly romantically interested in or their romantic partners. These chocolates are fancier, more expensive chocolates, or are homemade. If the chocolates are homemade then the significance of them is heightened because time and effort has been put into making them, therefore the meaning behind them is magnified. 

But it’s not just the boys who are traditionally spoiled! The girls get White Day! It turns out that White Day is actually Valentine’s Day part 2! Initially first celebrated in 1978 in Japan, White Day is celebrated as a response or reply to Valentine’s Day. A month after Valentine’s Day on the 14th of March, White Day is when traditionally the males are to give gifts in return for their chocolates, often worth three times as much! These gifts are usually not chocolate either, they may be toys, jewellery or something more extravagant.

So, if you don’t receive a gift from your Valentine on February 14th then maybe tell your partner about White Day and hope for a whole lot more!

Published: 2020.02.14

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