Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day-- Part I

Pokemon chocolate hearts for the kids :-)

Valentine's Day-- yes, there is one in Japan-- is a rather different holiday than the one westerners are accustomed to. 

"hand-made Valentine!"'s all about chocolates, first of all.  Hand-made chocolates if you can manage it.  Gambare! (do your best!)  Specifically, chocolates from girls to boys.  Our doorbell rang this evening--one of the girls from Koshi's class (he's in 4th grade) bringing him handmade chocolates in a cute bag.   I said, "Ooh, look Koshi!  You got chocolates from (X)!  Did you get any other chocolates today?"  At which point his big-mouth younger brother piped up and shouted, "Koshi got chocolates from (Y), too!!"... prompting an involuntary smile and pink cheeks from Koshi ;-))

...Valentine's neckties...

...Valentine's hankies...

...Valentine's belts...

...Valentine's underwear (you wanted Hello Kitty boxer shorts, right?  Yeah--I thought so:-))

Have you noticed anything about these Valentine's gifts yet?   Exactly--they're all for men.  With the exception of the chocolates (we'll come back to those in  a moment), all of those presents are for men--boyfriend, spouse (less common than boyfriend)...

And the ladies? What do they get on Valentine's Day?  Short answer-- nothing. (there's a longer answer--more on that below). 

Have you peeled your eyebrows off the ceiling and pasted them back where they go?  Yes, that's right.  Ladies get...nothing.  Ladies buy, or make, chocolates for boyfriends, spouses, a boy at school they like, bosses and male coworkers.  Yes-- so-called "Office Ladies" (OL's) giving chocolates to their bosses and coworkers probably accounts for the majority of revenues generated on Valentine's Day for chocolate companies.  Granted, bosses don't get the "honmei" (real love-- usually handmade) chocolates that boyfriends or spouses get--they get what is called "Giri-choco", inexpensive purchased chocolates.  It literally means "obligation chocolate".  Most working women I know think that particular tradition is just a pain and would rather not participate, but... well, you know about the Nail That Sticks Up already.

preparation...molds, boxes, ribbons, foil cups...
Bosses and coworkers may get the 88Yen bars of Meiji Chocolate, but boyfriends (or not-yet-boyfriends-but-maybe-if-I-give-him-chocolates...) and spouses get the expensive Godiva or Morozoff or original handmade treats (sometimes ridiculously expensive--I've seen tiny boxes of Godiva going for $30 to $40, and that's not in Tokyo.  I can just imagine what that stuff would cost to buy in Ginza...)

a Kitty-chan box for that special guy...
So...the ladies?  (trembling lip...)  Don't we get *anything*?  Yes--but not for a month yet.  Japanese chocolate companies, in their infinite wisdom, came up with (literally-- in the late 70's a bunch of CEO's dreamed this up) White Day.  March 14th was then duly christened White Day--a day for men to buy white chocolate (or other treat) for the lady in their life.  Lately, though (possibly hearing the sorts of things that western ladies get for Valentine's Day), wives and girlfriends are expecting more than chocolate on White Day--as in the west, jewelery, flowers, and brand-name handbags are the things hoped for...  All the things, in fact, that I used to tell my female English students about 12 or 13 years ago.  Their jaws would drop, and an almost involuntary "iiii naaaa..." escaped their lips.  A Time Magazine article I just found also says that those sorts of presents have gotten more popular recently. 

So stay tuned-- Part II will be March 14th.  I'll let you know what I get... ;-))

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. ohhhh Koshi, you little heartbreaker you!
    This post was completely fascinating. Do the bosses get tired of receiving Obligation Chocolate? You'd think some of them would just say "no more chocolates" because they get sick of them

  2. btw - i'm making the spinach AGAIN tomorrow

  3. I just said "Giri choco" out loud and my dogs went crazy thinking I said "Kitty neko" or something. LOL

    So, in Japan, women choose their Valentine and then see if it sticks on White Day? Or do some guys give candies to women who did not give them anything on Valentine's Day?

  4. I love the bit about CEOs dreaming it up. That's exactly what my mother always said about "Mother's Day" - it's not a real thing, it's just something marketers made up so that people would buy stuff. She forbade us to buy her anything for it. Take that, marketers!

  5. Sarah-- I think Koshi's going to *be* a heartbreaker, mainly because he has no idea he's so cute... And--I don't know whether bosses get tired of Giri-choco! Honestly, I'd feel odd receiving any if I were a boss...I seriously wonder whether, in fact, *nobody* really wants to get or give Giri-choco, but nobody can say anything?

    Spinach--Yay! *So* glad everybody liked it!

  6. Aratina-- HA! I am so telling my sis that your dogs went crazy when you said "Giri-choco"! I'm sure she'll try it with her dogs (they tease their dogs by making up sentences using *all* the words the dogs know..."There are SQUIRRELS and TREATS OUT in the CAR going for RIDES!" get the idea;-)

    Hmmmm--do women give chocolates to guys on spec? I'm sure some do--but I don't know whether they wait to see if they get anything back or not! Good question! I think it's mainly schoolgirls, though, who give chocolates to boys they like as a way of letting them know (like Koshi, who would not otherwise notice girls--he blushed SO PINK yesterday when his brother let it slip about the other girl who gave him chocolates!) I would imagine, though, that in an office setting, it would be noticed if a girl gave "Honmei" chocolates to one of her coworkers, and "Giri-chocos" to all the others...;-)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Ophelia--when I first came to Japan, and became aware of the Valentine's/White Day thing, that's exactly what I thought. "This is *so* commerical and made up! Why do people do it at all?" I'm not surprised that Valentine's would make it's way over (as did Christmas--they're both "cute", and they both sell stuff), but I *am* half surprised that the Japanese would go for an obviously Manufactured-In-A-Boardroom "holiday" like White Day. Good for your mother for refusing to play into the hands of marketers! I feel the same way about it (and Father's Day....and Grandparent's Day...what next? Second-Cousin-Thrice-Removed Day?)

  9. Hello Kitty boxers! Omg!

    & Have you seen this Maru post from last Valentine's Day? It's lolzy and it's related to your post:

  10. Hi Miranda! Thought you'd get a kick out of the Kitty-chan boxers...;-)) I haven't seen that Maru yet...and Cici just came home, so we'll watch it together! She's in love with Maru, too:-))

  11. Is pocketmon chocolate delicious?

    And there are so many neckties & belts for valentine day

  12. Hi vvv--I didn't get any Pokemon Chocolate! But given how fast the kids ate theirs up, I think it *was* delicious!! Neckties & belts--for Papa, or Boyfriend...