Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day is here (and gone... burp!)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hmmm? I'm a day late? Look, do you want this candy or not?!

Anyways, Valentine's in Japan is a whole 'nother barrel of monkeys. It reminds you just how male-oriented this society can be at times. It's not a romantic holiday, but rather one of obligation. Sounds like quite a few marriages you know? Well....

OK, history lesson: Valentine's Day came to Japan in 1936, introduced by the Morozoff confectionary company in hopes of boosting chocolate sales. That's it, lesson over!

To start with, the ladies give the men chocolate, the men don't reciprocate (always wanted to stick that word in). And they don't just give it to the guy they want to jump. They give it to pretty much all the men in their life. Their boss gets a big one. Their male coworkers, even some of their neighbors. A woman will give out anywhere from 10-30 sets of chocolate on that day, with probably all but 2 or 3 (if she plays around....) "giri (obligation) choco".

School-aged girls give "friend" chocolate to all their friends and fellow club members, "tomo (friend) choco", and woe betide the girl who forgets to give to even one of the club upperclassmen. They also give to their home-room teacher, if male, or any other male teacher they may like (no, no, this isn't Lolita!... usually... I hope!).

And men have pressure of their own on this day. It's like when we were kids and used to count our Valentine's Day cards. Well, some men even go so far as to buy their own "giri choco", and place it on their desk (unfortunately this transparent ploy rarely works, it just ends up looking pathetic - no, really, that's what I've heard!).

I love Valentine's Day! Not only do I get the occasional "giri choco" from students and the wife, but I look like a true romantic that my lady students judge their husbands against when I tell them that I always buy chocolates for my wife. Talk about a 'Win-win' situation.

Then there's "White Day", March 14th, which is when men return the obligation by giving back white chocolates to all the women who gave them chocolates on Valentine's. And if you forget, things will be frosty in the office...

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