First, it’s important to note that Valentine’s Day is split into two parts in Japan – Valentine’s Day on February 14 and White Day on March 14.
In Japan, only girls are supposed to give gifts to guys* on Valentine’s Day. The kind of gift – size, cost, etc – you give depends on who the guy is in relation to you. For example, you can give inexpensive 義理チョコ (ぎりちょこ “obligation chocolate”/”appreciation candy”) to your co-workers and friends, but expensive or handmade chocolate is reserved only for that special someone. Or, your dad. Or brother. But definitely not your teacher.
Sound complicated? Like a lot of social interactions in Japanese society, there are a few “rules”** that have to be kept in mind when buying or returning gifts for your loved ones. As if the stress of giving a gift to your crush on Valentine’s Day wasn’t already bad enough!
So what is White Day?
White Day is celebrated one month after Valentine’s Day, on March 14. On this day, men are supposed to return gifts to the women who gave them gifts on Valentine’s Day.
The same gift “rules” apply for the men – “appreciation chocolate” for co-workers or friends, expensive candy (or jewellery, flowers, etc) for that special someone. Guys are technically only supposed to return gifts to girls they received gifts from – and we know all the girls reading this are shouting “that’s not fair!” right now, but bear in mind that the guys are also supposed to return a gift 3 times the monetary value of what they were given. This is called 3倍返し (さんばいがえし – sanbai-gaeshi).
(Relatedly, here is some interesting Japanese: the practice of 3倍返し is often said to be similar to “海老で鯛を釣る” (“えびでたいをつる” – ebi de tai wo tsuru). Literally meaning “to throw in a shrimp and pull out a whale”, the idiom of a small gift bringing a great reward has never been more accurate…)
Good luck to everyone trying to find a gift for White Day… We won’t be giving any advice on what exactly to give as we think it best you give a gift from the heart. And that’s all for today’s blog post of entirely unuseful information by people who are not helpful at all!
*We’re not sure how the “rules”** work where people who identify outside of the heteronormative binary are concerned. We assume they can receive gifts on both days… Lucky!!
**The term “rules” is used only loosely here. First and foremost, it’s the thought that counts – any gift you want to give is sure to be appreciated a lot by whomever you give it to! As a famous pirate once said… “They’re more like ‘guidelines’ anyway!”