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White Day – Men’s Answer to Valentine’s Day in Japan

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Pop Culture & OTAKU , ,

Tomorrow, March 14, is marked as White Day (ホワイトデー, Howaito Dē) in Japan and other Asian countries (South Korea, Taiwan, and China). It is observed exactly one month from Valentine’s Day.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is typically observed by girls and women presenting chocolate gifts (either store-bought or handmade), usually to boys or men, as an expression of love, courtesy, or social obligation. Handmade chocolate is usually preferred by the recipient because of the perception of sincerity, effort, and emotion put into a home-made confection. On White Day, the reverse happens: men who received a honmei-choco (本命チョコ, ‘chocolate of love’) or giri-choco (義理チョコ, ‘courtesy chocolate’) on Valentine’s Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts. Traditionally, popular White Day gift is chocolate. More often, the color of the chocolate is white because of the name of the day. Flowers, candies and other gifts are also popular along with the chocolates. Sometimes the term literally, sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し, ‘triple the return’) is used to describe the generally recited rule that the return gift should be two to three times the worth of the Valentine’s gift.

white dayWhite Day History

White Day was first celebrated in 1978 in Japan. It was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association as an “answer day” to Valentine’s Day on the grounds that men should pay back the women who gave them chocolate and other gifts on Valentine’s Day. In 1977, a Fukuoka-based confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido, marketed marshmallows to men on March 14, calling it Marshmallow Day (マシュマロデー Mashumaro Dē).

Soon thereafter, confectionery companies began marketing white chocolate. Now, men give both white and dark chocolate, as well as other edible and non-edible gifts, such as jewelry or objects of sentimental value, or white clothing like lingerie, to women from whom they received chocolate on Valentine’s Day one month earlier. If the chocolate given to him was giri-choco, the man likewise may not be expressing actual romantic interest, but rather a social obligation.

Eventually, this practice spread to the neighboring East Asian countries of South Korea, China, and Taiwan. In those cultures, White Day is for the most part observed in the same manner.

In South Korea, White Day is also observed as a day for men to give women sweets, as a sort of repayment for the gifts women gave on Valentine’s Day (usually of the chocolate variety). However, in contrast to Japan, men generally purchase lollipops or other hard candies for the holiday. Chocolate gift sets are also sold for the holiday, but the majority of the gifts sets are filled with hard candies.

References:

1. White Day: Japan’s Answer To Valentine’s Day. Tofugu.

2. White Day. Wikipedia.

3. Images from AC-Illust.

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