Valentine’s Day festivities ended on Feb 14 but that doesn’t mean the chocolate craze is over in Japan. White Day is coming up on March 14 ... and that means it is the men’s turn to give chocolates to the ladies who gave them goodies on Feb 14.
The origins of White Day are open to debate, and there are two stories. One is that the custom began in 1965, when it was introduced by a marshmallow manufacturing company to drive up sales of its sugary product. Fukui-based company Ishimura Manseido marketed chocolate-filled marshmallows to men on March 14, calling the day “Marshmallow Day.”
The second explanation is that White Day was started in 1978 by Japan’s National Confectionery Industry Association (NCIA) as an “answer day” to Valentine’s Day.
In any case, on White Day, men who received chocolates from women on Valentine’s Day, whether “honmei-choco” (for love) or obligatory “giri-choco”, are expected to return the favor. The NCIA even went as far as to create the catchphrase, “White Day is a sweet day” to make the unofficial holiday recognizable.
White chocolates are the preferred gift, although candy, flowers and even white lingerie have become popular presents. Polls asking Japanese women what they want to receive on White Day have raised the bar for men, with most women expecting jewelry, brand items and fancy dinners.
Whatever the item, the custom is known in Japanese as “sanbai-gaeshi” (triple value) because what guys give women is supposed to be three times greater in value than the chocolates the guy got on Valentine’s Day.
The White Day tradition has also been exported and is currently celebrated in South Korea, China, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries.© Japan Today