Valentine’s day has come and gone, but White day is now soon to come. “What’s White day?” I hear you say? Well, let Michele tell you about Valentine’s in Japan.
It’s weird. It’s not a celebration of love, but truly a mass commercial money-making holiday. You might think that’s true in your country too, but just wait till you hear about Japan. Firstly, the girls give the boys chocolate. Not the other way around. Girls are expected to give chocolate to not only their boyfriend/partner, but also to almost every male of their acquaintance. For the kids I teach, that means all their male classmates, club-mates and teachers, not including family and extras. And they will probably give chocolate to their female teachers as well. This kind of chocolate is called ‘giri-choco’ obligation chocolate. And then, they are also pushed (by the chocolate companies) to hand make the chocolates, or cookies, or cake, or whatever they decide on. The chocolate they give to their boyfriends is classed as ‘honne’ or kinda like their ‘real feelings’.
I had one student who made an estimated 180 chocolates.
But, the boys (and teachers) don’t get away scott-free! One month later, on March 14 or White day, the boys are expected to return a gift. And although it doesn’t happen so much now, the return gift should be store bought and worth about 3 times what the girl gave them…. (So, in theory that student from before should get about 180 chocolates in return…)
However, White day is really badly timed for students. It’s around the end of the year, and certainly many private schools are on, or just about to start spring vacation around then. So the chocolate isn’t always returned. Recently the invention of ‘tomo-choco’ has become very very popular, as a way for girls to get an instant return. ‘Tomo-choco’ is friend chocolate, which can be given to your female friends, and you can receive ‘tomo-choco’ back on Valentine’s day. So the immediacy is very appealing.
This year I didn’t do all that well with Valentine’s (which frankly is a relief to me – having to give a return chocolate as an obligation is more of a pain than receiving anything), but I did get about 15 small baggies. And now with ‘tomo-choco’ it’s much more acceptable for me to give them a return pressie on Valentine’s day, rather than waiting until March, when I know I’m not actually going to be at school on White day. So thanks Meiji and Lotte and whoever came up with ‘tomo-choco’ for making life so much easier for me!
(but no thanks will be given for making girls obliged to make even more chocolate now…)