Only in Tokyo! An Explanation of Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan for Foreigners
１．The meaning of Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan
Foreigners who visit Tokyo from abroad are often be surprised at the differences in culture when compared to their home countries.
Did you know that holidays, such as Valentine's Day where the customs vary greatly from country to country? And what in the world is White Day?
Without knowing about this unique aspect of the culture of Japan, you may find yourself in a tight situation, or even in the dog house.
With that in mind, we want to take some time to interact with, and provide a few details to foreigners who have a significant other and will be spending Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan.
If you are a foreigner who may be in Japan for Valentine's Day or White Day in in the future, take heed!
２．How to spend Valentine's Day in Tokyo
How do foreigners celebrate Valentine's Day? Valentine's Day, considered "the day of the oath of lovers," is celebrated based on the cultures of different countries around the world.
Valentine's Day in Japan is recognized as "a day when a woman gives chocolate to her partner or lover." That being said, in recent years, giving the gift of chocolate as a way of expressing gratitude and having nothing to do with romance has gained momentum, such as giving chocolate to a co-worker, also known as "giri-choco", as well as "tomo-choco" which is chocolate given to classmates etc.
One of the recent trends of enjoying Valentine's Day in Japan is to buy high-quality chocolate as a reward for yourself from department stores and keep them to enjoy overtime for yourself.
Some of the finest chocolate is sold for up to 10,000 yen each, and chocolate sales events held in Tokyo are quite busy around this time of year.
It is said that Valentine's Day became widely known in Japan during the 1950s.
After the war, the distribution industry and major confectionery companies devised a strategy to spread the culture of Valentine's Day all over Japan, as well as in Tokyo to promote chocolate sales.
On Valentine's Day in Japan, women buy wrapping supplies, gather the ingredients needed to make chocolate, ask their mothers for recipes, make chocolate and write letters.
On the other hand, some of the more popular men often prepare a bag to transport all of the chocolate they expect to get on Valentine's Day. And if you receive "giri-choco" from the woman you like, it can come as quite a shock.
The unique culture of Valentine's Day in Japan often surprises foreigners as overseas as it is mainly the men that are making all of the necessary preparations for this special day, and that in Japan, it is the exact opposite. Although, when a man gives a woman chocolate on Valentine's Day in Japan, it is known as "reverse choco".
３．How to spend White Day in Tokyo
Foreigners may not have or be familiar with White Day culture. Many countries spend Valentine's Day as a day to convey love between men to women, and White Day (exactly one month after Valentine's Day, on March 14th) is a custom that was started in Japan.
In Japan, White Day has become increasingly recognized as the "day to give back in return for gifts received on Valentine's Day" as a token of thanks.
There are various theories about the birth of Japan's White Day, but it is known that it is a day created based on the "personality" unique to the Japanese, and can be said to be a Japanese holiday. It is a day that was born from the idea of giving thanks.
Overseas, there is a culture in which roses and letters are sent from men to women on Valentine's Day to convey love to them, and White Day in Japan is similar to that way of thinking.
The gifts Japanese men receive on Valentine's Day will be chocolate along with other gifts, and will return things like marshmallows, candy and cookies on White Day.
It is said that Japan and Korea have similar White Day cultures. An interesting fact is that in Korea, there is something called Black Day, celebrated on April 14 and is a day when the single people who did not get anything on Valentine's Day and White Day wear black clothes and eat noodles.
４．Knowledge about White Day
Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan have rules unique to Japan that foreigners may want to know in advance.
Get your knowledge on point so that you don't miss these details about Valentine's Day or White Day.
・White Day Market Price
It is said that if you receive something from a special partner or lover on Valentine's Day, you should return the favor three-fold, along with your confession of love in return for White Day. If you receive handmade sweets, etc., it can be hard to determine the market price for the gift you received, so it would be smart to try and give back in a way that makes your partner or lover especially happy.
If you receive "giri-choco" at work, it is a good idea to return something, such as an easy snack, or something that you can get rather easily from a local store.
・Candy = "Like"?
Depending on the taste of the other party, on Valentine's Day, the basic gift will be chocolate. Some people say that you can tell how your partner feels about you based on what they choose to give you as a gift and what you return.
It is said that if you choose a candy as a return gift, the other person will have a positive impression, thinking that you "like" them or are on a "friendly" basis. On the other hand, if you choose to gift marshmallows, it is said that you may give a negative impression, meaning that you "could not associate with" that person, or that you "are just passively choosing a gift."
Of course, there are not major problems that come about between those who are already dating or in a serious relationship when choosing a gift, but some women interpret the intention of their partner if they don't put much effort into choosing a gift for White Day, so take heed, and stay out of the dog house.
５． In Conclusion
In this article, we have outlined the details about how Valentine's Day and White Day work in Japan, and have provided some important pointers so you can avoid misunderstandings and know how to navigate this unique aspect of Japanese culture. Because the way people spend Valentine's Day in Japan is unique, and the idea of White Day may be something new to you, it is always safe to do your homework in advance before coming to Tokyo.
We hope that the contents of this article will help you to keep cupid in the air during this time of year and bring you a more enjoyable Valentine's Day and White Day in Japan.