White Day is a special Japanese day celebrated on March 14th. What is it? A day for celebrating clean underwear, porcelain toilets or a promotion of dental hygiene? No it is a modern day marketing coup by the Japanese confectionery industry designed in response to Valentine’s Day.
It seems a little strange but in a previous post I explained about the Japanese take on Valentine’s Day (here forth known as V.D, unfortunate I know!) and how the women give to men and reciprocity is not expected. V.D is a very one sided affair in Japan. White Day is the day that the men show gratitude for V.D by giving candy or cookies in return for the chocolates they received on V.D. Just to clarify here, I am talking about giving chocolates and not a S.T.D.
Valentine’s Day Recap
V.D is not a traditional Japanese Festival. It was introduced by chocolate companies to the Japanese masses inadvertently while they were trying to market to the foreign population in Japan at the time. Being western and rather exotic it took off like wild fire and due to a mistranslation in the material about V.D it came across as V.D was day when women do all the giving and men receive. Please feel free to read more on
White Day can be called completely Japanese. Although it is not an ancient tradition with deep seated historical roots, it did originate in Japan in 1978. I guess it could be called a modern tradition. In 1978 a wily confectionery company started pushing its marshmallows as a perfect gift from men to women to say thanks for the chocolates on V.D. They originally called this Marshmallow Day. It somehow morphed into White Day which took off in the 80’s. It has apparently spread in Asia and is also celebrated / promoted in Korea, China and Taiwan. In Japan, women often receive white chocolates, candy and other presents such as jewelry or flowers from the more serious suitors. Whether this mutation from marshmallows to other gifts was on the companies’ profit margin pushers part or women turning up their noses at marshmallows and demanding more is not fully clear.
Romantic or Obligation?
While there are genuine couples out there who celebrate V.D in a loving reciprocal manner V.D and White Day seem a little forced and all about face in Japan. Giri Choco or obligation chocolate is probably the biggest seller for V.D. Women are obliged to give little treats to their fellow classmates, workmates and customers. It seems that on reading various threads online, their male counterparts very carefully assess what they were given and respond in kind. One fellow said that the office ladies at his work for extremely frugal this particular year so White Day didn’t call for any great output from him. Rotten sod! They probably work the same long hours as him and earn considerably less! He obviously is not taking the Japanese White Day sentiment of sanbaigaeshi to heart.
Sanbaigaeshi 三倍返し literally means returning 3 times as much, meaning the gentleman’s return gift should be worth about three times the monetary value of the lady’s gift to him. Reading I have done suggests that this doesn’t seem to apply to the world of Giri Choco but maybe well worth keeping in mind if you are a bloke seriously courting a young Japanese lady. It could be make or break!
Gift Giving in Japan
Japan does have a very ritualized form of gift giving and there are lots of protocol involved. Gifts are given at mid-year and end of year as part of maintaining important business relationships. This is called ochuugen and oseibo. For weddings money is given but the bride and groom respond to the guests with presents. Any times gifts are given and received there is definitely a lot of thought and indeed calculation put into how to respond. This is reflected in White Day. It is an area fraught with cultural inference and a definite danger zone for us foreigners! Suffice to say, it’s another post in the wings waiting to happen. At the moment the department stores are well geared up with White Day displays, beautifully packaged goodie bags and trinkets galore. Have to say that romance is not really in the air. Feels a little like enforced reciprocal giving with the slight reek of rampant commercialism. Never the less, any girl likes a gift so just in case any of my secret admirers are reading I would just like to put a Marilyn quote out there and say.
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu