Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Earth's the right place for love. I don't know where it's likely to go better.

Birches by Robert Frost

Valentine's Day in Japan is a "Hallmark Holiday" introduced by a chocolate company in 1958, as a way to sell chocolates to women. There are actually TWO Valentine Days in Japan, one on the 14 of February and another, known as "White Day" on March 14th.

In Japan, on Valentine's Day, women give chocolates to men. In a typical Japanese fashion, you can't leave anybody out, so even if you don't like your male coworkers, you have to give them (inexpensive) chocolates. These "obligatory" chocolates are known as "giri-choco". If you really like a guy, then you give him "honmei-choco". Since a lot of the women consider a gift of store-bought chocolates too impersonal, the honmei-choco are often handmade by the woman herself.

A month later comes "White Day" introduced by yet another candy company (a maker of marshmallows) and taking complete advantage of the Japanese sense of obligation. White Day is when the guys are supposed to give the girls candy, usually white (like marshmallows or sugar almonds) or at least packaged in a white box. This is a much newer holiday and isn't quite as popular.

More than half the chocolate sold during a year is sold around Valentine's day, making it important to the candy companies. Prices do seem go up around Valentine's and White day. However, some Japanese manage to save a bit of cash by brining in a box for the whole office to share, rather than buying individual boxes for coworkers.

Japanese chocolates tend to be darker and less sweet than American chocolates and even the "cheaper" brands tend to be good quality (I haven't met a Japanese Chocolate that I didn't like--unfortunately for my figure). The packaging of course is always pretty, regardless of the price point.

No comments: