St Valentine's Day
by Toshiaki Nishi
As St Valentine's Day draws near, you find piles and piles of chocolate boxes displayed at the entrance or a striking spot of every department store or a supermarket. Those who buy chocolate are invariably female customers. They buy chocolate as a present to their boyfriends, husbands or any male persons who have something to do with them.
Japan's version of Valentine's Day is somewhat peculiar in some points.
First, St Valentine's Day gift must be chocolate and nothing else, so they don't have to bother about what to give. That's why department stores and supermarkets lay in chocolate in large quantities.
Second, giving chocolates varies from "honmei choco" (heart-felt chocolate) to "giri-choco" (obligatory chocolate). Young women employees often hesitate whether or not to give chocolate to their chief, or high school girls waver in their judgment to give chocolate to their teachers. These are cases of what we call "giri-choco."
It is the manners of life in Japan that when you are given a present you are supposed to give back something in return. Shrewd confectionery makers who took advantage of those customs planned to set a day on which men are supposed to return a gift to the ladies they received chocolate from.
It was decided on March 14 by the candy makers' association in 1978, just a month later than the Valentine's Day, and the day was named "White Day." Obviously the makers can make a double profit out of this business practice.