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.
Unlike 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.
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.
Originally 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.)
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.