White Day

Last month marked Valentine’s Day around the world.  As I mentioned in that post, things work a bit differently here in Japan.  Since girls do all the work on Valentine’s day, boys will return the favor this month.  The companion day is called White Day in Japan and takes place March 14th.

Boys will give return gifts for all the chocolate they received.  For the giri choclate (obligation) gifts they received, there are plenty of specially decorated chocolates available for sale.  For the homei (homemade) gifts they received, boys will likely seek out more expensive boxed sets, or some other slightly more extravagant gift to show their gratitude and interest.

Of course, figuring the meaning behind the Valentine’s Day gifts they received will likely be as confusing for boys as their return gifts are bound to be for the girls that receive them.  While the above general guidelines seem simple, there are many ways girls get away with giving chocolate without revealing too much of their thoughts.  The easiest way is to join with friends and give another group chocolate.  This can be even more confusing when the chocolate is homemade.

For the boys this can all lead to a very scary and somewhat expensive White Day.  The general rule of thumb is for a White Day gift to be 3-4 times more expensive than the one you received.  That means if you got 10 of the common 500yen boxes of giri chocolate, you’d be expected to give 10 1500yen boxes of chocolate in return.  That’s 150,000yen or about $180.  Of course, this doesn’t always happen.  Most often, boys will give gifts of roughly the same value, and save that extra expense for the target of their interests.

Unlike Valentine’s Day, White Day isn’t just about the chocolate.  The return gifts can include jewelry, flowers, or any other kind of gift with homemade cookies being popular among my male teacher friends.  The current headline of Amazon’s Japanese Site (2012) is telling- An advert for Coach Jewelry.  If you search for ‘White Day’ in Japanese, you’ll get this page showing lists of chocolates, candies, watches, and more.  I plan on putting my baking skills to work.  Luckily, many Japanese still value time and energy over money.

As far as actually giving the gift goes, they are often wrapped and presented directly with a “thank you.”  For staff gifts you can simply leave the candies or chocolates in a staff room with a note or announcement of some sort.  If you do this, make sure you buy (or make) a few extra for your male co-workers who will get jealous and eat some too (like anywhere this can be sarcastic or real depending on who you meet).  For homemade treats, a common delivery option are decorated clear baggies.  The biggest rule is that there really aren’t any rules.  Use your judgement.

Did you get chocolate this year?  Better start getting ready…

P.S.  If you have actual drawing skills and would like to donate a better drawing than I was able to scratch out… let me know.

I also got a search question “Can I give a gift on white day without receiving one?”  To answer: Why not?  White day is an artificial holiday created by chocolate companies a few years ago.  It may not be overly common to give gifts if you didn’t get one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.  Everyone loves presents right?