There’s no respite from “Never Forget That You’re Single Day”, not even in Japan. Last week was Valentine’s Day here, but with a few subtle twists. Firstly, on Valentine’s Day, only girls give guys presents (usually chocolates). But not so fast, cheapskate – in March is “White Day”, where guys reciprocate (or not). At first, I thought this setup was a great deal for guys, as it lets you make a romantic reconnoiter of sorts, avoiding all sorts of awkward situations. But there would have to be a catch of course – presents from guys are expected to be three times times the value of girls’ presents. Nice.
Like lots of food and gifts in Japan, the presentation is very important:
It’s more a production than a tasty snack. Yes, all of this houses four small chocolate ginger cakes (which were fantastic, by the way). So that’s a chocolate cake on a plastic tray, inside a plastic wrapper, inside a box made of glossy, high-quality cardboard, inside a bigger box holding the other boxes, inside a cardboard sleeve, wrapped in paper. But like I said, it WAS a very delicious cake, so maybe there’s something to this. Even if you buy a cheap box of chocolate from a convenience store, often every chocolate will be individually wrapped and artfully presented on a plastic tray – which are also uniformly great.
From a random sample of one person I happened to ask, it seems that the idea of the secret Valentine isn’t too big here – but I have a theory for this. Where in Western countries, Valentine’s presents are usually romantic, in Japan, there are three types of presents. Romantic gifts; gifts to your platonic friends; and what are called giri-choko, or “obligation chocolates” – something you would give to co-workers or to reciprocate a favour. So, my guess is that you’ve got an easy explanation if the object of your affection wasn’t overly thrilled to receive a gift from you. Either way, from all these different classes of chocolate, the confectionery companies do extremely well.
And how did I do from Valentine’s Day? Um, awesome, just great. I, uh, had to start giving chocolates to orphans because I felt so guilty at swimming in a well-wrapped sea of obligation-inspired popularity.
And now I’m waiting for my reciprocal orphan chocolate.