White Day, that perfect day for all Japanese ladies who bothered to give away chocolate on Valentine’s day. As a following post for my earlier post about Valentine’s day a month ago, today I’m going to tell you more about White Day, celebrated today on 14th March – exactly one month after Valentine’s Day.

White Day is commonly celebrated only in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Taiwan. As Japan was the first to establish such a day and that’s also the country I’m most familiar with, I’m going to tell you about Japan’s way to celebrate White Day today. In Japan, White Day was first celebrated in 1978 so it’s still a fairly new celebration with no tight roots. In my experience, many of the older Japanese generation refuse to celebrate or even acknowledge that there is such a date as White Day – so you probably should not take your Valentine’s return gift for granted if you gave chocolate to someone a little bit older. Among Japanese school kids, however, White Day is essential and you’re in quite a mess if you don’t return the favor of receiving chocolate on Valentine’s.

Chocolate box of a famous inexpensive chocolate brand, Mary's chocolate

However, even though the celebration of White Day is still rather new thing here, the word “giri” is not. Giri refers to one of important values in Japan, meaning “duty” or “obligation”.  Japanese gift-giving is based on the balance of this obligation. Simply explained, it means that Japanese are obligated to give gifts in some situations and also obligated to return them, and therefore very expensive and big gifts should, in principle, be avoided. This applies to Valentine’s Day as well: women are obligated to give chocolate to even those who they have no romantic feelings for and these guys are obligated to return the favor later, in this case on White Day.

Therefore, even if there were some Japanese who would find White Day a worthless and unneeded event, they will most likely return the chocolate gift they got anyway.

By the way, White Day wasn’t originally only for returning the favors received and answering to feelings confessed on Valentine’s Day. The day was originally called Giving away candy Day (キャンディーを贈る日) and the March 14th was selected as the celebration day in order to give soldiers forbidden to marry on Valentine’s, a new chance to confess their love on 14th of March. This meaning is naturally only a historical explanation and most Japanese don’t know this meaning nowadays but as everyone likes receiving and giving gifts, White Day has become an important ceremony in Japan.

At first, most presents returned were white chocolate. However, now men can buy pretty much anything as a return gift as long as it represents their feelings. As a rule of a thumb, if you received chocolate from someone you have no romantic feelings for, you should give her white chocolate. If you like her, you should give her something else – anything from chocolate and jewelry to flowers and other gifts. Even though White Day was originally meant to be a romantic day for returning and confessing romantic feelings, it has more or less become a day of returning the social obligation.

For some examples about the presents, the surveys show that most young Japanese women aren’t looking forward to anything too expensive: about 50% of the women in their 20s and 30s often say that they are satisfied with a present costing less than 1000yen. However, it still appears that around half of the women have been disappointed in what they have received on White Day – which kind of goes against the survey results of men, as most of them say they will give presents costing at least the same amount as what they received on Valentine’s. The common rule is that White Day gift should cost three times the amount of the gift received on Valentine’s but I’m not sure how much this applies nowadays.

By the way, apparently the most popular presents are necklaces, flowers, bracelets, rings and sweets – including chocolate.

The White Day presents should also be wrapped beautifully.

I guess there’s a reason why International Women’s day is not celebrated in Japan: men have it hard enough coping with the costs of White Day presents.

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