久しぶり (hisashiburi; “long time no see”). I’ve been plotting ways to make this blog more aesthetically pleasing and better organized so I hadn’t planned on making a post until that was done. However, Valentine’s Day is nearing, and it’s like an institution in Japan. Plus my friend posted a link to this article about the lack of romance in Japanese marriages, which I wanted to share as well.
The guys (and girls) who complain that Valentine’s Day is a holiday concocted by chocolate industries may be onto something… at least in Japan. Valentine’s Day hit Japan in the 1950s as chocolatiers promoted events to boost sales. The corresponding White Day (which is on March 14) was also a marketing ploy.
In February, plain chocolate becomes ridiculously cheap since they’re the vital ingredient to making chocolates. There are even free recipes available in the stores.
On the other hand, there are also fancy chocolates that go up to hundreds of dollars per package. Shopping centers and supermarkets have Valentine’s Day sections featuring every type of chocolate in every sort of packaging available. I also saw ties, cologne, and even elephant face boxers (you know, the ones with a strategically placed trunk) being sold in the special Valentine’s Day section in my city’s shopping center.
When I did my Valentine’s Day presentation, my students could not believe that guys were the ones giving presents. In Japan, the girls give guys chocolates, and it’s not just to the one they like. 本命チョコ (honmei-choko) is for your significant other or romantic interest. I’ve seen “honmei” get translated as “favorite”, “true”, or even “dead certain”. It’s the one that carries the true sentiment of romance. 義理チョコ (giri-choko; “obligation chocolate”) are those you give to bosses, co-workers, and male friends. Recently there has been chocolates made specifically for female bosses to give to subordinates. There’s also 友チョコ (tomo-choko; “friend chocolate”) for your female friends.
The guys don’t get off that easily though. On March 14, there’s White Day, when the lucky guys who got Valentine chocolates have reciprocate the gifts with more expensive chocolate or other gifts like jewelry and perfume. White Day was also a market ploy by the confectionary industry. It appeared in the 1980s, and white chocolates were used because the color represented pure love. If you didn’t get chocolate, I suppose you don’t have to get anything even if there is someone you are interested in. I didn’t see a full-blown White Day section in the shopping center, but there are plenty of reminders.
Since Valentine’s Day was over the weekend, I unfortunately did not get to witness much. I saw a couple teachers with gift bags on Friday, and I brought chocolate to karaoke. My students did ask me about it when I had a chance to do a Valentine’s Day lesson. The 1st graders were baffled by the lack of White Day, as were my 3rd year junior high schoolers. A couple of my 3rd year boys asked me who was the first person I had ever given chocolates to. I said “No one”, which surprised them. Then I said that I once gave a boy I liked a card but didn’t get anything back. I probably lost a lot of cool points there. The elective class had to make Valentine cards. While the girls had cutesy designs and anime drawings, the boys drew weird stuff like poop and caricatures with huge lips. I suppose the differences between boys and girls are the same everywhere.
Listening to: “Mata Kimi ni Koishiteru” by Fuyumi Sakamoto (the most popular love song to sing at karaoke, according to Barks)