Barentain Day

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.


5 thoughts on “Barentain Day

  1. How do you tell the difference between the various categories of gifts? It would be a shock if a gift received as giri-choko was actually intended to be more significant!

  2. Yes, this is the trick, I think – you can always keep an element of plausible deniability this way. But I guess it could backfire if you wanted it to be more significant. I’m guessing there must be some unwritten rules about the value of the gift and the meaning, but no-one’s told me what they are yet.

  3. Wait a minute… why were you hitting on orphans on valentines day? Dude – that is not cool. You should stick to what is legal. Such as “compensation dating”. Try that instead.

  4. Oh, did I mention that the orphans were 25 year-old bikini models? What, you thought they were kids? Now who’s not cool?

    You. You’re not cool.

  5. Pingback: Ultra-fruit « 4000 Miles North

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