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February is over, and you’ve survived yet another Valentine’s Day! But hold up, you’re not out of the woods quite yet; well, at least if you’re in Japan.

For most of us in the West, Valentine’s Day ends on February 15, but in Japan it’s not quite over until March 15. March 14 – exactly one month after Valentine’s Day – is White Day in Japan.

Valentine’s Day In Japan

To really understand what White Day is all about, you have to understand what Valentine’s Day in Japan is like. Koichi did a writeup about it a while ago so I won’t go into detail here, but the basic gist of Japanese Valentine’s Day is that it’s all about the guys.

A man and woman's legsUnlike Western traditions where gift exchanges between loved ones are mutual, Japanese Valentine’s Day is all about men getting presents. Sorry ladies, but you’re out of luck on Valentine’s Day if you want to celebrate it Japanese-style. Women have to wait for White Day before they can get any gifts.

What Is White Day?

If Valentine’s Day in Japan is all about the guys, White Day is all about the ladies. White Day is a chance for all the men who received gifts on Valentine’s Day to return the favor to the ladies in their lives.

White Day and Valentine’s Day have a lot of similarities. Both aren’t necessarily romantic holidays – you can give gifts to anybody of the opposite sex, even if your relationship is strictly platonic. Friends and co-workers exchange gifts on both days.

Man giving a woman a gift

Note: ice-cold response not typical.

And on both days, chocolate is the gift of choice, but there’s a bit more nuance to it than buying a box of See’s and being done with it. You can buy different types of chocolate for the different people in your life: your friends get different chocolates than your co-workers who get different chocolates than your significant other.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, Koichi’s Valentine’s Day post explains it all.

The Origins Of White Day

Cynically enough, White Day is strictly a celebration manufactured by the candy industry (unlike true holidays rooted in years of tradition, like Pocky Day). In 1978, the National Confectionery Industry Association tried to boost sales, and decided that a new holiday was the best way to do it.

MarshmallowsOriginally it was called Marshmallow Day and was all about marshmallows, not chocolate. People liked the idea of the new holiday, but weren’t too keen on the marshmallows. The preferred candy changed from marshmallows to chocolate, but the color scheme stayed the same – hence the name “White Day,” and why white chocolate remains a popular White Day gift, even today.

White Day Outside Of Japan

White Day is definitely a uniquely Japanese invention, but it’s spread to some other Asian countries, including South Korea and China.

South Korea even has yet another Valentine’s-Day-related holiday: the aptly named day for single people, Black Day. People in Korea celebrate being single by burying their sorrows with a noodle dish with black bean sauce called jajangmyeon.

(No doubt, Black Day is just a ploy by the powerful Korean noodle industry.)

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So for those in you in Japan, I hope you’re having a happy White Day today; those of us elsewhere in the world will just have to buy our own chocolate.

[Header image source.]

  • http://howwhathelp.com QQ

    nice post ilike

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001535919021 Heather Stewart

    Can you give other kinds of candy? You said chocolate is the candy of choice, but in the US we give pretty much any kind of candy on Valentine’s Day. 

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Yeah, I think you can definitely mix it up, especially if you know another type of candy will go over better. But like I said, chocolate is overwhelmingly the gift of choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19509501 Matthew Olson

    Yeah, definitely true! I got gifts from my students for Valentine’s Day, and you wouldn’t believe the signage telling you to buy White Chocolate. Needless to say, I did, but I baked it into cookies and gave it that way. Went over really well! The nice part about it is that white chocolate isn’t very expensive.

  • Emily L.

    i have to say I’ve really enjoyed White Day since my husband and i decided to start celebrating the two holidays together. We don’t always get each other chocolate, or even candy, but we do have lots of fun with it!

  • ಠ_ರೃ

    Where I’m from, there’s a special holiday where I buy chocolate, then eat it. Since I give chocolate TO me, I call “To Day.” Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some delicious business to attend to.

  • Guest

    In all my years of receiving things on White day (I’m Japanese, and I lived in Japan for nearly two decades), everything I got was chocolate. Sometimes they were brownies or chocolate-chip cookies, but almost always they were solid chocolate pieces and chocolate truffles. In Japan, chocolate is considered separate from “candy,” and there isn’t a tradition of giving “candy” on Valentine’s Day or White Day; the tradition revolves around chocolate. :)

  • CelestialSushi

    And the funny thing is that my brother just did a presentation last week in his Japanese class on the exact same subject, hitting the exact same points (including Black Day) XD Still, great article.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    A great summary of white day and how it is celebrated :)

  • http://howwhathelp.com oQQ

    nice post i like

  • http://thoanguyen.org/ Thoa

    You should add that the guy usually has to give MORE than he received… at least that’s what my middle-aged Japanese housewife students told me. So while the girlfriend can get away with giving homemade chocolate, the guy usually has to buy some legitimate gift. Mine bought me an electric nabe and takoyaki maker!

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

     A takoyaki maker sounds like the greatest gift you can ever receive.

  • Cat

    Maybe this is just an anime thing, but don’t guys have to give girls something white that day? Like a white ribbon or something. Or at least to the girl he likes~

  • DAVIDPD

    I feel for the poor soul who had to eat those Jajang noodles. They don’t even look like the Korean version, which usually is plated akin to Japanese Curry. Where da’ cukes at?

  • shiroi

    It’s an anime thing. I know, I was sad too when I realized dating in Japan is not like a shojo manga. :(

  • shiroi

    I should tell my husband this. He bought me nothing. lol

  • shiroi

    Fortunately I think many Japanese wouldn’t be surprised to get a “weird” gift from a foreigner, so Hashi’s advice that we can mix it up still stands :)

  • クリス

    Where I’m from, guys have to buy girls things for valentines day. And white day doesn’t exist.

    T_T

  • Jay Sanders

    My wife use to work for a card store in Ohio. She said they had something called Sweetest Day. Basically the same thing, corporate created holiday to sell more cards/candy/junk.

    I do however like how White Day and the way they do Valentines day splits the responsibility.

  • Ryuryuryu

    Also, on White Day, guys have to give back 3 fold the chocolate that you had received on Valentine’s Day! (http://heart.okwave.com/culturezine/four_panel_comic_strips/53/1018/en) I guess it’s better to be a girl in Japan on Valentine’s Day after all.