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Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan

For those of you counting down, there are only seven shopping days left before the much anticipated (or dreaded) Valentine’s Day! In preparation, we talked with Education Director, Shigeko Honda, about an interesting tradition called White Day that sprang up around Valentine’s Day in Japan. Here’s what we learned:

 Valentine’s Day first became popular in Japan in the 1960s. Women would buy a number of boxes of giri-choco (義理チョ コ), “courtesy chocolate,” and tomo-choco (友 チョコ), chocolate for her female friends, and distribute them around the office to friends or acquaintances.  She would purchase an expensive box of honmei-choco (本命チョ コ) chocolate of love, and another gift, such as a necktie, for her special someone.

As the holiday became more and more widely celebrated, the confectionery industry started to sell white sweets as return Valentine gifts, since in Japan, henrei (返礼), “returning the favor,” is considered important etiquette.  The Japan National Confectionery Association eventually designated March 14 as White Day in 1980, giving men an official day to return the favor. Traditionally popular White Day gifts include cookies, jewelry, white chocolate, white lingerie, and marshmallows.

Stores in Japan take advantage of the Japanese feelings of obligation and promote White Day by giving men plenty of reminders and incentives in the form of White Day sales and special White Day markets. Here are a few examples:

While White Day hasn’t officially taken off here in the states, we think it’s a great way to say thank you!

P.S. If you’re still looking for some sweets for your sweetie, or even your best friends (Gal-entine’s Day anyone?) may we suggest something from the Museum Store? We’re stocked with Japanese snacks and sweets, as well an array of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and more! Stop by or visit us online and check out our selection. We’re sure you’ll find something for everyone on your Valentine’s/White Day list.

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