February 6th, Waitangi Day in NZ and 1 week and 1 day until Valentine’s day. Valentine’s Day is a western celebration celebrated in an uniquely Japanese way. This week is boom time for all purveyors of chocolate in its many hallowed forms. Figures show that chocolate companies pull in half of their annual sales in this week in Japan. That is huge, made all the more stunning by the fact that in Japan Valentine’s day has morphed into a chocolate giving frenzy where only the women give chocolate to the men. Women alone boost Japan’s flailing economy during this one lead up week to diabetes in a box for many an over indulgent man.
From a western point of view, I would be a little surprised if my boyfriend or husband came home toting bags of goodies around Valentine’s day. I’d be thinking who are these brazen hussies who think they can steal my man with sweet offerings of chocolate baubles and hope that that was the only thing on offer!
However in Japan through clever marketing, the Japanese penchant for gift giving and the need to fit in and not buck the trend, women are basically obligated to dole out little goody bags of chocolate to male workmates, classmates, teachers and friends. This chocolate even has a name, “giri choco” Giri means obligation. I do apologise to any foreign guy who didn’t know about this and is under the mistaken assumption that he is hot stuff with a gaggle of young ladies obviously hankering after his body!
A word of warning to the foreign ladies out there. If you are worried the guy at the office might take the chocolate as a true romantic gesture, just watch your pronunciation when you tell him, “it is just a little gift of Giri Choco”. If you say “Geri choco” you are telling him it is diarrhea chocolate. But I guess it doesn’t matter either way, you will have made your point!
A survey by Lotte, a chocolate company, showed that women ranging from Junior High to their 40’s spend an average of about 3266 yen or about $35 on Chocolate. Sales are better when Valentine’s Day falls on a week day as women feel obligated to give chocolate to their work mates.
Now men, I don’t want to completely dash your hopes. The is also Honmei choco. This is the real thing, the ” true love chocolate”. It is often hand made and presented to that special person. Department stores are not only cram packed with chocolates but also with all the moulds and paraphernalia needed to make that special token of love. Of course you may just have a colleague whose hobby is making chocolates so what better time of the year to indulge in something one enjoys.
How did this little aberration in the time continuum come about? Apparently in the 1950’s a western Chocolate company put together a campaign targeting foreigners living in Japan. The Japanese companies saw this as an opportunity to boost their own sales by introducing Valentine’s Day to their own domestic customers. It was a period in time where all things western were very hip and in vogue. Some along the way there was a literal “lost in translation” moment and the campaign mistranslated the original English blurb suggesting men give the special lady in their lives a treat and said Valentine’s Day was a woman’s chance to show her love for a man. It seems that people took this to be law and not being people to challenge or step outside of the box, so began the Japanese tradition of women giving and men receiving the chocolate.
Ladies, while this may seem a tad lopsided and the lack of reciprocation on the day somewhat of a let down there is another corporate money grabbing scheme afoot that will make you feel loved and appreciated or at least get you some obligatory sweeties in return for your expenditure on Valentine’s Day. It’s White Day on March 14th! No you don’t have to get married in some mass moony style wedding and wear a white dress. This is the days that the blokes buy sweets and hand them out to all the ladies.
Recently a 3rd kind of chocolate has emerged. It is called Tomo Choco. Tomo comes from the word tomodachi, meaning friend. Now women can give chocolate to their girlfriends on Valentine’s day too. Women apparently often get together and have a handmade chocolate party. This tomo choco may well have more genuine felling attached that anything else on Valentine’s day
Whether it is true love, obligation or friendship there is no doubt that there are many a sugar induced high out there following February the 14th. Wishing you all love and a special Valentine’s day. Hope you don’t scoff yourself sick!
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu
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How fascinating. Clearly our Western traditions don’t always translate accurately. I wonder what the story is about the White Day on March 14th. Maybe I’ll find out in a month?
Will investigate further, though I suspect it is just clever marketing!