It’ s almost Valentines’ Day. In Japan, the holiday (if you can call it that) has a strict definition. Girls give chocolate to the boys. It’s used as an occasion to tell the guy that you like about your feelings and ask him to go out with you. Literally. Which has always struck me as a little unnatural, but whatever.
Anyway, what all of this means is payday for the retailers. Big displays everywhere. Loft, which targets the Crate and Barrel kind of consumer, has a particular impressive one. Half a store floor was covered with make-your-own chocolate kits, thousands of kinds of chocolates and a whole section dedicated to wrapping. There was even a “hotel chocolate” section,which sells hotel-branded chocolate.
You see, the marketers have got it all figured out. Girls will obviously spend money on chocolate for the guy they love. But they want to squeeze every last yen out of the girls, so they’ve also successfully introduced a second type of chocolate called “Giri” chocolate, or obligatory chocolate. Girls get several cheaper chocolates to hand out to guy friends, colleagues and male bosses.
If you’re wondering when guys get to give (or when girls get to receive), never fear. Japan has got that figured out too. There’s White Day on March 14 when guys reciprocate. This, of course, means that as soon as Valentines’ Day is over, the retailers bring out all the White Day displays. Technically, guys give back candy (like hard candy) for White Day, but these days retailers will try to get them to buy more, especially jewlery.
Since we came to Japan over a year ago, PMK, who never wanted to celebrate Valentines’ Day in the U.S., insists that he receive something. Last year, I got him a big heart-shaped rice cracker. I’m looking for something to top that as we speak.