Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, Japanese women give chocolate to men. Men give gifts to women on March 14th called White Day. This tradition started as a marketing tool for chocolate companies in Japan. Japanese women are encouraged to express love to men by giving chocolate and other gifts on February 14th.

Grocery stores, department stores, and convenience stores sell many different kinds of domestic and imported chocolate. More than half of the chocolate sold in a year is sold around Valentine’s Day in Japan. Women buy chocolate for their co-workers, bosses, male friends, brothers, father, husband, boyfriends, and so on.

Chocolate given to men whom women don’t feel special love are called “giri (obligation)-choco (chocolate)” in Japanese. Chocolate given to co-workers and bosses are usually considered as giri-choco. Many men feel embarrassed if they don’t receive any chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Women usually make sure to give giri-choco to men around them so that they don’t feel left out. The average price range for a giri-choco is from 200 yen to 500 yen each.

Women tend to give special gifts, such as neckties and clothes with chocolate to those men whom they love. Chocolate given to a special man from a woman is called “honmei (prospective winner)-choco.” Honmei-choco is more expensive than giri-choco and is sometimes homemade. It’s lucky if a man could receive a honmei-choco. Green tea chocolate ball is a choice for Valentine gifts.

But there is a shit happening, researchs show that 20% of Japanese men plan to give presents to women on Valentine’s Day this year, and now a couple of Japan’s major confectioners have included in their lineups new products targeting male purchasers.

The product shown above is a clever example from Morinaga. Splashed with a blue ribbon that roughly translated says “This year, give in reverse,” the package makes a playful appeal to men with English language product copy that’s printed backwards.

Trying to gt men behind Valentines Day is an interesting new tack for confectioners that may help boost sales. White Day has been around since 1980, and for 10 or 15 years, men generally gave women white chocolate, cookies or marshmallow sweets as thanks for their Valentines gifts. However, in recent years other industries have been imploring men to give more expensive presents, and a lot of gents have stopped purchasing sweets–or have given up celebrating altogether.

Moreover, especially in the 80’s and 90’s, social convention pressured women to give giri choco, or “obligation chocolate,” on Valentines Day–even to co-workers, bosses and classmates they didn’t like. In recent years, thanks to pent up resentment, especially towards men who fail to provide return gifts, a lot of women have quit giving giri choco.

With sales down for both Valentines Day and White Day, Japan’s confectioners have been feeling the pain. Which is why they’re now trying to get both men and women to exchange chocolate on February 14.

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