Author: M.Kok

Valentine’s day in Japan

Depending on your circle of friends, work environment and your gender, you may have experienced this already. Getting chocolates or chocolatey treats on the Valentine’s Day, is a Japanese tradition that started somewhere after the 50’s and carries on strong even now. But the difference to the typical Valentine’s Day in most western countries is that women are the ones that give the chocolates instead of receiving them.  

Chocolates for everyone

It can easily be that your company is very liberal when it comes to gift-giving and interactions between employees, and you do get chocolates. Maybe even from several of your workmates. Don’t be alarmed. It is (most likely) not a confession of love, but common courtesy.

Giving out chocolates as a confession of love only happens in school or fiction. In contemporary Japan, couples do it. But a Japanese woman (depending on her social class and age group) is also very likely to give chocolates to her male relatives and friends.

When you receive chocolates, what you do is say ‘Thank you’ and eat them. You will get a chance to return the favour.

Take and give

‘White Day’ is on the 14th of March. It started at the end of 70’s and is a day where men give presents to the women in their lives. Since then, it has spread to neighbouring countries like South Korea, China and other Asian countries with a big Japanese pop culture following.

The gift choice for the men is not limited to chocolates. You can give anything from handbags up to real estate. Just make sure the person involved is willing to go along with it.

If you did get a chocolatey gift for Valentine’s and if it is practically possible, give a return gift to every woman in the office.

Casual is good, excessive not so much. You want to spread a little bit of sugary happiness not seem as attention needy or possibly even (sexually) passive-aggressive.

Chocolates for lonely me

If you did not get any chocolates at work, it is probably because no one likes you. No, most likely no one bothers with Valentine’s Day. It is a workplace tradition that is increasingly growing out of favour. It has to do with the size of the teams. And the complex new social standards most people have trouble to navigate.

Even if you did not get anything for Valentine’s, you can still surprise your female friends. Just try not to be weird about it.

If you are not giving nor receiving gifts, the Valentine’s/White Day period is still exciting when you like chocolate.

Many big brands do collaborations to promote their brand. For example, a famous chocolatier with a convenience store chain, producing chocolate eclairs.

But if you want to go after the real thing, you wait till the white day is over, and the sales come on. You can get massive deals on craft chocolates in most department stores.

But it does pay to watch out for deals before the end of the Valentine’s period as well. Because everything that has a short shelf life, like cakes and treats with fillings made for Valentine’s Day won’t last till white day.

Whether alone or with loved ones, Japan is the closest thing to a chocolate lovers paradise and the valentines/white day is one of the better times to enjoy it.

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