Marie Ebersolt

15th March, 2023

In Japan, the gift always calls for a counter-gift. So the present of 14 February invites the return. This is how March 14, the "white day", comes to life.

Let's first talk about Valentine's Day as it takes place in Japan. Unlike in France, where it is the man who offers a gift to his sweetheart, his counterpart in the land of the rising sun is in the position of the recipient and it is always chocolate. It is the woman who takes the lead. As you may have guessed, the codes are very different!

First of all, many Japanese men are given chocolate, and not only the lovers. Lovesick men are not left by the wayside. In fact, there are two types of "tchoco". The "giri tchoco", which is given out of duty, and the "honmei tchoco", which is offered to the loved one. The gift is a real cultural fact, which punctuates the year and marks the relationship between two individuals. When you regularly meet someone, you show your gratitude and your desire to nurture a relationship of friendship, group and work. This is why, on 14 February, an office worker will not only think of her loved one, but will also buy "duty chocolates" which she will distribute to all her colleagues. In return, they will give her a symbolic gift, a gadget or a trendy pastry. While the 'giri tchoco' is meant to maintain group relations, the 'honmei tchoco' is surrounded by much more solemnity. It is obviously the one that most single men want to receive, some of whom are disappointed to learn that they are only receiving a 'giri tchoco' from a woman they love. Social obligation is sometimes ferociously cruel.

February 14 is celebrated by all Japanese youth, and it starts in the schoolyard. This is the day when girls get the courage to confess their love. They research the chocolate maker of the moment, take care of the packaging, and the bravest ones make a chocolate pastry themselves, accentuating the committed and intimate dimensions of the gift. Indeed, in Japan, a romantic relationship must begin with a declaration of love. Kissing and physical contact come later in stages, when love is shared. Boys wait to receive them and compete to see how many "giri tchoco" and "honmei tchoco" they have received, the former obviously being more important than the latter. The social learning begins at school as the girls will be waiting with bated breath for 14 March.
While in France, Lovers' Day is for couples who are already together, in Japan it can be the first day of a romantic relationship. At the same time, Japanese couples don't mind reserving this date for themselves, for a restaurant or an intimate day out.

Marie Ebersolt