On Valentine’s Day in Japan, girls give chocolate to boys, but exactly one month later on March 14, boys respond by giving gifts back to girls for what’s called White Day, according to Katsuhiro Kajiyama, an assistant professor of Japanese language.
Girls’ action on Valentine’s Day
According to Jpninfo.com, there are two types of chocolates girls give to boys containing different meanings on Valentine’s Day. The common one is Giri-choco or Tomo-choco, and it’s what a girl gives to schoolmates, colleagues, friends, family members, or anyone else who she isn’t interested in romantically. A girl expresses her true love for a boy by giving him a chocolate called Honmei-choco.
Reina Nakamura, a Japanese sophomore majoring in graphic design, said Japanese girls usually choose to buy chocolate with better quality and spend more time decorating it delicately.
Nakamura recalled, “I couldn't find any beautiful wrapping paper for Honmei-choco in Foodland, so I just used the paper I found in BYUH bookstore.” She explained that on Valentine’s Day in Japan, Honmei-choco is given to a husband by his wife, a boyfriend by his girlfriend, or a boy by the girl who wants to confess her feelings to him.
Boys’ response on White Day
After a boy has received either a Giri-choco representing friendship or a Honmei-choco made out of true love, he returns a present back to her a month after on White Day out of respect and reciprocity, explained Maria Murata, a Japanese senior majoring in international cultural studies.
“Nowadays, what boys return to girls on White Day doesn’t have to be chocolate. It can be candies, marshmallow or cookies.”
Murata recalled with a smile, “When my brother was little, he received lots of chocolates from girls on Valentine’s Day. The duty of preparing gifts to return to those girls on White Day fell on my mom since my brother was still little. It had always been a headache for her.”
According to Tofugu.com, White Day was first celebrated in 1978 a year after the Japanese company Ishimuramanseido marketed marshmallow to men for March 14 in 1977. The National Confectionery Industry Association, a confectionery company in Japan, started to promote the idea that “men should answer women who gave them chocolate a month ago” in order to boost sales of their marshmallow, Tofugu.com reports.
Later, other types of candies and white chocolates became the mainstream for the festival while the white colored theme stayed the same, according to Iroha-Japan.net. The name of Marshmallow Day was changed to White Day, and the Japanese festival was spread to other Asian countries like South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Celebrated across Asia
SeungHwa Lee, a South Korean junior majoring in business management, said the social obligation in Japan that boys need to return gifts to girls doesn’t exist in Korea. “Not only boys give candies to others. Girls can give candies to boys or even exchange candies with other girls. It’s just a day to give candies. I used to give candies to my parents on White Day.”
Students from Hong Kong and Taiwan who were interviewed said they didn’t know about White Day, but a few said it’s called “White Valentine’s Day” in Chinese. However, the celebration of White Valentine’s Day happens only between lovers in Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Larin Zhu, a Hong Konger freshman majoring in accounting. “Our perception [for White Valentine’s Day] might be different from Japanese people’s. We only think about those who are in love when we hear the word White Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t sound like the festival has anything to do with single people.”
Lexi Li, a sophomore majoring in elementary education from Taiwan, shared, “Only couples and those in a relationship celebrate White Valentine’s Day. I as a single person, don’t care. One Valentine’s Day in a year is already enough.”