Tuesday, February 7, 2012
In Japan, Valentine's Day is a fairly big event. Women are expected to give chocolate or home baked chocolate cakes to men they are fond of. On "White Day" (14th of March), men then return the favor, and you have to give (at least three times as much as you received) chocolate to the women that gave you chocolate. Originally, women gave chocolate to men they liked to say "I like you, let's become a couple!", and if the man returned chocolate on White Day, it meant "OK!".
The custom has evolved, and women are now also expected to give "giri choco" (giri means "duty" or something you have to do) to all the men at their work place etc. It seems like quite a lot, and most women I have talked to say it is a pain and can cost quite a lot of money.
There is also something called "gyaku choco", gyaku meaning "opposite". This is chocolate that a man gives to a woman on Valentine's Day. So even though you are a man and should just be receiving piles of chocolate, you are giving something, to a woman no less, so it is the opposite of how things should be. Today, I found "gyaku choco" being sold in one of the 12 convenience stores located within a few minutes walking distance from my home. It is so opposite that all the text on the package is mirrored! I might be able to use this for some magic trick or something, and it was cheap, so I bought four of them... Sadly, it is only the box that is mirrored. All the text on the chocolate inside is like the normal boxes.
By the way, I usually get zero pieces of chocolate on Valentine's Day. This means that no one likes me, and no friend or colleague things I am worth chocolate either. In fact, even those years that someone took pity on me and I got something, I got so little that my professor said "That is really really sad" when he heard how little chocolate I got (he is married and still gets huge amounts, apparently), and I get ridiculed by 10 year old boys that also get much more than I do! In a zoo I was asked by small boys how much chocolate I got, and said "nothing". They asked if I did not have any female friends at all?! I said, these two women sitting next to me here are friends enough that we took the bus all the way to this zoo (2 hour trip) together. The kids thought they were very cold hearted towards me, but my friends did not seem to take the hint...
This year will be my seventh Valentine in Japan (though I have only been here five and a half years). It looks like it will be one more traumatizing Valentine this year too...