Tuesday 14 March 2017

White Day: Homemade or Honmei Chocolate?

A photo of White Day chocolates on sale in the the local conveniene store
White Day selection in the local convenience store
Today (March 14th) is White Day in Japan and convenience and department stores are doing a roaring trade in high-end chocolates and cookies. Whereas on Valentine's Day - an event started in Japan by a confectionery firm in the late 1950s - females give gifts to males, the more recent White Day sees the favour returned (preferably double in value - and possibly, but not necessarily, something in white such as marshmallows or even lingerie). There are three kinds of Valentine gifts: (1) tomo (friend) choco typically exchanged by schoolgirls and often handmade,  (2) giri (obligation) choco usually given to co-workers in an office or perhaps to a teacher as a sign of thanks - or just because everyone else is doing it - and the much rarer (3) honmei (true feeling) choco given with romantic intent. A recent ad by mobile phone company au plays shows the humorous result of mis-hearing "homemade" as honmei . The predominance of giri choco, often given without much feeling and as a matter of course, reflects the importance of giri (social obligation or duty) in Japanese society, something which was written about in detail by Ruth Benedict in her famous The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (see Chapter 7: The Repayment 'Hardest to Bear').