There are many western holidays that have made their way to Japan, one largely popular one being Valentine’s Day. This romance holiday has gained so much popularity in Japan that it’s even spawned it’s own Japanese counterpart: White Day (ホワイトデー), a day for people to give back to people who gave them a gift on Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day was introduced to Japan in the 1930s by a Japanese chocolate company in an ad campaign aimed towards Japan’s growing foreign population. As time passed, it became more and more popular among Japanese citizens as well as Japanese companies, and by the 1950s, stores were selling a wide variety of heart shaped cakes and candies for this sweet holiday.
On Valentine’s Day in Japan it’s usually the girl giving chocolates, often homemade or home decorated, to people they like or people they see every day. The difference between these two has actually resulted in two separate “types” of chocolate Valentine’s gifts: giri-choco (義理チョコ) and honmei-choco (本命チョコ). Giri-choco literally translates to obligation chocolate and it’s very similar to people in school giving Valentine’s gifts to everyone of their classmates so they don’t leave anyone out. On the reverse, honmei-choco translates to favorite chocolate and is a chocolate that is given to the person that the girl really likes. This chocolate is very often handmade or fancy chocolates in order to properly convey their feelings.
Because in Japan Valentine’s Day is a holiday where it’s the women giving chocolate to those they like, in the 1970s a holiday called White Day was established by the National Confectionery Industry Association as a type of “answer” holiday, which satisfies the very Japanese cycle of constant gift giving and returning. White Day falls one month after Valentine’s Day on March 14. When White Day started, the same kinds of chocolates that were given for Valentine’s Day were given for White Day, but shortly after it became popular to give white chocolates and other white themed gifts. The main point of White Day is for people to give chocolates back to those who gifted them with chocolates on Valentine’s day, but can also be used as a day for men to give out giri or honmei-chocolates, too!
If you missed out on Valentine’s day or simply want to celebrate White Day by giving some unique chocolates and sweets, come to Asahi and buy some delicious Japanese chocolates and candies!
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