What is ‘White Day’ and why should you care?

February is finally over men! We made dinner reservations weeks in advance, spent extra hours at the gym, searched for jaw-dropping gifts, and carefully selected the perfect outfit, all to impress that special someone on February 14th – Valentines’ Day. Congratulations! Ganbaremashita (頑張れました, you gave it your all)! Unless…you live in Japan, then your work has only just begun.

Photo by TruShu

Valentines’ Day in Japan

Valentines’ Day in Japan works a bit differently than in the United States and Europe. Men do not give women anything for Valentines’ Day! Instead only the women hand out chocolates to their male companion(s). There are two different types of chocolates that girls give out.

First is the giri-choco (義理チョコ), “obligatory chocolate,” which are chocolates that women may give to male co-workers, superiors, and friends that they are more socially obligated to give a gift to. Second, the honmei-choco (本命チョコ), “true feeling chocolate,” is reserved for the one guy whom that woman has strong romantic feelings towards. This could be her husband or (prospective) boyfriends. These chocolates are a higher quality and more expensive than giri-choco.

White Day

In 1977, a confectionery company in Fukuoka marketed marshmallows to men as return gifts to women on March 14 and called it Marshmallow Day (マシュマロデー). Men mostly gave white gifts: marshmallows, white chocolate, and white lingerie (mostly likely for girlfriends or wives). With the idea of giving white gifts, the first official White Day was celebrated in 1978.

Today the gifts are not restricted to the color white; cookies and jewelry are common gifts as well. Similar to giri-choco, it may be more of a social obligation when a man gives a woman White Day chocolates instead of feelings of true attraction. The men get to know in advance which girl has the strongest feelings and do not have to endure the anxiety of confessing themselves.

Photo by Tokyo Fashion

Sounds like a good deal right men? Well…the Japanese employ the general rule of Sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し), or “triple the return,” towards White Day. With this rule, the return gift should be about two or three times the cost of the original Valentines’ Day gift. Which means if a woman spends about 2000 yen on your gift, the return gift should be in the 4000 or 6000 yen range!

What do you think? Do you think gift giving should be done on the same day or different days? As well as all other aspects of a relationship, I am sure that the men and women have different opinions on the matter. Share yours below!

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Gregg Muragishi is a graduate from the University of Southern California. Gregg has also studied abroad in Japan at Tokyo International University (東京国際大学) in Kawagoe, Saitama. As a fourth-generation Japanese-American, he is on a continual journey to rediscover and reconnect with his family's Japanese heritage.

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