Japan’s White Day ( ホワイトデー )

white day

Photo courtesy aringoaday.com

As we have already established, Valentine’s Day (Februaury 14th) in Japan is observed by females giving chocolates to the males in their lives (be it out of love, obligation or courtesy).

However, one month later (March 14th), the reverse occurs: the males who were fortunate to receive either honmei-choco ( chocolate of love) or giri-choco ( courtesy chocolate) on Valentine’s Day; return the girls’ gestures with gifts of their own.

Considered a a day of return; it is called “White Day ” ( ホワイトデー Howaito Dē).

Gifts and sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し)

white day cartoon

Photo courtesy: http://www.japantimes.co.jp  ( I had to share this clever strip!)

Looking for some White Day gifts to purchase but have no idea what to get? Here is a list of some of the most popular presents given on this day:

  • White Chocolate
  • Jewelry
  • Flowers
  • Marshmallows
  • Sentimental Gifts
  • White Clothing / Lingerie

These gifts are normally packaged in white boxes and may come with stylish, white bags to put them in.

To avoid any awkward situations from occuring; please do not give clothing / lingerie to anyone who:

  • is NOT your wife
  • is NOT your girlfriend
  • gave you obligation chocolate
  • gave you courtesy chocolate

This is a V E R Y personal gift. Please use caution!

But before you run out to purchase your gifts, there is a general rule of thumb that males adhere to on this day…. and it is that of sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し): the returning present should be three times the cost of the Valentine’s gift!

This is the main reason why the prices of white chocolate and other favoured items are observed to be more expensive around this date…sorry guys!

And, if as a guy you think there is a possibility of using the excuse that, “I forgot,” would suffice… think again.

Soon after Valentine’s Day, everywhere one looks, there is some sort of reminder that White Day is fast approaching. Supermarkets, department stores, train stations, television, popular bakeries and confectioneries all over Japan have advertisements, products and other reminders about White Day …. so there is no running away from it!

History of White Day

white-day-1Uniquely Japanese, it is sadly a fairly recent celebration created in 1978 by the National Confectionery Industry Association to boost sales and revenue.

Initially, it was called ‘Marshmallow Day‘ (マシュマロデー Mashumaro Dē). This was due to the marketing of marshmallows to men by the Japanese confectioner company called Ishimuramanseido.

However, marshmallows were not as well-liked, and soon the gift of choice changed to chocolate… but white chocolate to keep with the theme of “white”. This in turn, eventually led to the day being renamed as “White Day”.

Although this day is of Japanese innovation; its popularity has allowed it to spread to neighbouring East Asian countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Valentine’s Day (バレンタインデイ) in Japan

You are watching your favourite (school life) anime and you come across an episode where it is all about the dreaded yet much-anticipated ‘Valentine’s Day’.

So, what makes this day in Japan to stand out so much… especially to Westerners?

The main reason being……

O n l y       F e m a l e s       G i v e       C h o c o l a t e      ! ! ! !


Photo courtesy hako toshokan.

In the West, both men and ladies celebrate Valentine’s Day by showering upon their loved ones with extravagant gifts of flowers, jewelry, heart-shaped chocolates, expensive dinners… Some men even use this romantic opportunity to propose to their partners!

However, in Japan, Valentine’s Day is primarily an opportunity for females to express their love or interest in the males who have caught their fancy. It is the one day that a female is informally socially permitted (by herself and others) to muster the courage and declare (either openly or secretly) the affection she holds (and most likely has held) for a male by   presenting a special gift to him.

For a girl who has a special interest in a guy and is not sure about how he may feel about her;  Valentine’s Day is not only a special day but it is a day that could be anxiety driven yet very exhilarating and ‘freeing’. It is a day that stands out as a day that could change her life. One could probably argue that for some, it is a rite of passage (so to speak).


Types of Chocolates Given On Valentine’s Day


To avoid making people feel left out on Valentine’s Day (for example, at work ), there are presently four (4) different kinds of chocolates that are given by girls.

The type that is given depends largely upon two main factors:

  1.  It depends strongly upon whom the chocolates are given to and
  2. The meaning that the chocolate has from the giver to the receiver (the relationship that the giver has to the receiver).

It should be noted that since there are so many different chocolates given on Valentine’s Day; it is important to inform the person of the type of chocolate that is being presented to them. This is to avoid any confusion or awkward circumstances from occurring.

So, what are the four types of chocolate, you ask? Well, let’s get right into it . . . .


Honmei-Chocolate (本命チョコ)

Honmei-Chocolate means ‘home-made / favourite chocolate‘ or ‘chocolate of love‘.

It is a romantic chocolate – the kind of chocolate one gives to the one you want to express your love to. These chocolates tend to be of high quality, expensive or are even home-made.

The reason why a lot of honmei- chocolates are home-made is simple: the time and the effort that is undertaken in the making of the chocolates, present ladies with an opportunity to create and give a chocolate that is filled with their love and affection.


Giri-Chocolate (義理チョコ)

This means ‘obligatory / courtesy gift chocolate‘. It refers to the chocolate one has to give to people (usually male) bosses, co-workers, teammates or classmates, etc.. The chocolate is store-bought, not very expensive and there is no special meaning or feelings behind it.

Since it is an obligatory chocolate, rather than purchase a separate box of chocolates for each co-worker; it is perfectly acceptable to bring one nice box of wrapped chocolates to share with your office, class, team, etc..


Cho-Giri-Chocolate (超義理チョコ)

This is not just an obligatory chocolate … this is a ‘VERY obligatory / courtesy chocolate‘.

These chocolates tend to be very generic and are not expensive. They are normally given to  the following people:

  • Those with whom they do not know very well
  • Those with whom they are indifferent to.
  • Those with whom they do not like.
  • Those with whom they do not want to give chocolate to.


Tomo-Chocolate (友チョコ)

This type of chocolate is considered as “friend chocolate”. It is a more recent addition to the variety of Japanese Valentine’s Day chocolates.

It refers to the chocolates one gives to one’s female friends.


History And Marketing Of Valentine’s Day In Japan


In 1936, Valentine’s Day was introduced to Japan by Morozoff Ltd.( a confectionery and cake company that was founded by the Russian emigrate – Fedor Dmitrievich Morozoff ).

Understanding that only foreigners in Japan would know what Valentine’s Day was; it ran the first ever Valentine’s advertisement campaign (in Japan ) in a publication that was geared towards foreigners.

It was, however, only after World War II  did Valentine’s Day start to take a foothold in Japan.

During this period, there was an influx of foreigners and most locals wanted to learn more about Western traditions. Japanese department stores and other manufacturers realized the popularity of Valentine’s Day among foreigners and saw the sales that it garnered for the Morozoff company. They too started advertising Valentine’s Day chocolates … not only to foreigners but to Japanese nationals as well. It was only then did it truly become a phenomenon.

To this day, very prominent displays of heart-shaped chocolates in various sizes, flavours, fillings and packaging can be seen in stores all across Japan.   These displays also feature the various tools required for those who wish to make their own honmei-choco.

It should be noted at this point the impact that Valentine’s Day has on chocolate companies in Japan: it provides them with more than half of their annual sales!

But one issue has always been unresolved…

It seems that when Valentine’s Day was introduced to Japan, there was a mistake that never got amended: that only women gave chocolate to men. Although there are rumours and speculation ( that it was deliberately done by chocolate makers); how this happened is still not exactly clear.

Despite this error, the nation still actively participates in this event. One could argue that this error has allowed this special day to evolve over the years and be celebrated in a unique way that no other country in the world does it. Japan has successfully created its very own Valentine’s Day.


Foreigners’ Valentine’s Notes


Here are some useful tips for foreigners experiencing Valentine’s Day:

  •  If in a relationship with a Japanese male, remember that Japanese men are not expected to do anything on Valentine’s Day.
  • If in a relationship with a Japanese female, remember that she may not expect you to do anything on this day. She will, however, expect an expensive present one month later, on White Day (a follow-up article on this day will be posted soon ).
  • If one wishes to give your Japanese girlfriend | wife a gift for Valentine’s, ensure that the gift is small and does not cost too much. There is a rule of thumb regarding White Day gifts : the gift that is returned to the female on White Day, has to be three times the cost of the Valentine’s Day present that was given by the female. So, to avoid spending too much on both gifts, it is better to wait until White Day to get the more expensive present for the lucky lady in your life.
  • Once a foreigner is in a relationship with a Japanese national, it is advised to discuss the cultural differences regarding this event. Mention as well each other’s expectations of the day so as to avoid any awkward situations or misunderstandings that could occur on the day.
  •  A single foreigner, however, should enjoy the day by giving chocolates to both male and female friends, co-workers, etc.


One Quick Chocolate Recipe


After reading so much about Valentine’s Day and chocolates; it would be awful of me to not leave some sort of recipe that could maybe be of some help to someone who may be in a pinch.

This may not be the classic home-made chocolate, but it is quick and very versatile.


Ingredients / Utensils

  • Chocolate of your choice
  • A microwave (or stove top)
  • A chocolate/ice mold
  • A microwave safe bowl (or pot, if you are using the stove top)
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking Sheet pan
  • Whole strawberries – with leaves and stem, washed and dried
  • Toppings of your choice – nuts, sprinkles, cocoa powder, cake decorations, shredded coconut, dried fruit, etc.



  • To melt the chocolate, put it in a microwave bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir the chocolate for about a minute.
  • Return to the microwave and repeat this process two more times ( 30 seconds, remove and stir for one minute ).
  • As soon as the chocolate is completely melted, start pouring most of the chocolate into the molds – reserving some chocolate for the strawberries.
  • Once the chocolate is in the mold, toppings can be added. But it is perfectly normal to not add toppings.
  • Place the chocolate in the refrigerator for at least twenty minutes  or until the chocolate hardens.When ready to distribute, simply pop the chocolate from the molds, place in pretty cupcake paper or wrap with coloured foil
  • With the strawberries, place parchment paper over a sheet pan.
  • While holding the top of the strawberry by its stem / leaves, gently dip it into the melted chocolate. Remove and hold above chocolate mixture to let the excess drain into the bowl.
  • Place on parchment paper and gently push the strawberry forward to prevent any excess chocolate from collecting around the strawberry. Repeat until chocolate and strawberries are finished.
  • Toppings could also be added to this point, but it could also be left plain.
  • Place sheet pan in the refrigerator for at least twenty minutes to set. Strawberries should be kept in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve chilled to guests within 24 hours of making it.


Thank you for reading this article and I hope that it was informative, enjoyable and fun !

A bit of Akihabara in Sapporo


Having fun at the Pokemon Centre in Esta Plaza, Sapporo.

Mandarake, Sapporo


Although Hokkaido is a long way from Akihabara – the Electric Town that is heaven to many lovers of anime, manga and cosplay – it does not mean that you cannot get that Pokemon fix you most desperately need.

Surprisingly, Sapporo is home to a number of stores that are dedicated to all things for the anime / manga / cosplay otaku.

Look no further from the Sapporo train station to the Esta Plaza . One of the floors of this giant multi-tiered mall is dedicated to all things anime – from Naruto and One Piece to Pokemon. Even the games that they have for young children are adorable – especially the huge sand box that would simulate the feel of a beach and fulfill the desire to build a sandcastle in the middle of winter.


Another store to look out for is ‘Mandarake‘.

It is a popular chain of anime stores all across Japan – and luckily there is one in Sapporo! This store has everything for every type of otaku!

One day is definitely not enough to see all that this store could offer: original sketches from some of your animes, limited edition figurines and art, cosplay outfits as well as long lost forgotten treasures that only past generations could truly appreciate.

Need help to find a particular item in this vast store? No problem! Just ask one of the many assistants who are FULLY dressed with makeup as popular characters from anime and manga.


Another popular chain of stores is ‘The Village Vanguard’.

Sure, it may not be the typical anime otaku store, but you are guaranteed to find at least one thing there that appeals to the collector in you.

It is actually a quirky store that offers a lot of novelty items that are considered ‘retro’. Little toys like ‘Smurfs’ circa the 1980’s are still available here at an affordable price! This was also one store where I could find Coca Cola memorabilia as well as some funky items that you could not find anywhere else.


There are also some hidden stores that could be found in the underground mall of the station (which extends quite a few blocks from the station underground) that have all of those figurines, DVDs, manga and cosplay that you so desire. You just have to be patient, wear sneakers and be sure to visit a few times to be able to really see where it is. Or, you could ask some of the local persons of where to find such stores.

Usually, these stores are smaller . . .  but do not be deceived! They still offer a good variety of stuff at very good prices!


And on another note . . .  DO NOT DISCOUNT your local convenience store and toy store!

You would be surprised to see some of the latest anime figurines that are available for a limited time only.


But, if you do decide to undertake this trek in Sapporo, BE WARNED!

For a person who is not familiar with massive crowds, huge multi-tiered malls and an intricate network of closely woven malls, stores and roads with gigantic lit signs – the experience could result in sensory overload and disorientation.

Be sure to research the places that you would like to visit before going. Get maps and be sure to keep your mobile (with an installed map app) with you at all times.

Read signs! Most of the signage in Sapporo are in English.

If you do become lost, enter a nearby store, police box or reception area of the mall and ask questions. If you are still unsure, ask them to draw you a map with landmarks.

But the best way to venture out at first would be with a group or with a couple of persons who know the area. This would give you the chance to familiarize yourself with the area,the stores and offer guidance with directions to the places of your pleasing. It will also provide a support system and security if the group becomes lost.


So, rest assured that you could indeed find some semblance of Akihabara in Sapporo!