Translated by MATCHA
White Day: Japan's March Valentine's Day
Written by Inubushi Yoshiyuki
On March 14, Japan celebrates White Day, the day on which men give gifts back to women in appreciation of what they received on Valentine's Day. In this article, we explain the origin of this event and what to give on this day.
White Day in Japan
Photo by Pixta
Do you know what March 14 is in Japan?
White Day is the day when a men who received chocolates on Valentine's Day gives back a gift of sweets to the person that gave them to him.
On Valentine's Day in Japan, women usually give chocolates gifts to men. There is no exchange of presents. However, the following month, men return the favor by giving back.
In this article, we explain the origin of this holiday and introduce a few interesting facts about it.
Why is it Called 'White' Day?
In the 1960s, when Valentine's Day first came to Japan, it wasn't customary for a man who received chocolate to return the favor at all, but then the idea of giving a different gift in return began to spread. However, the name "White Day" wasn't used until much later.
The first recorded usage of the term was in 1980. A confectionery shop called Ishimura Mansei-do and the National Confectionery Industry Association starting referring to March 14 as White Day , and from there the event went country-wide.
The day is also celebrated outside of Japan, notably, in South Korea and Taiwan, and some parts of China.
There are many theories surrounding the origins of the name, but the reason appears to be that white gives a sense of purity, and the younger generations tend to use it in expressions of love.
What to Give Someone on White Day
Giving chocolate on Valentine's Day is the norm. But what should you give someone on White Day?
Most people give things like marshmallows, cookies, and candy. However, each sweet has a different connotation, and must be chosen with care. We will introduce the meanings one by one.
1. Marshmallows: Love or Hate?
Before White Day came into its own in the 1970s, marshmallows were popular. Particularly chocolate covered in marshmallow were said to stand for the girl's feelings (chocolate) returned covered in pure love (marshmallows). More recently, due to the fact that marshmallows melt and dissolve, they are being passed out with the meaning of I dislike you.
Marshmallows might be something to avoid on White Day.
2. Cookies: Let's Remain Friends
What could a cookie possibly mean? Unlike candy and marshmallows, cookies are crunchy. Apparently, this is taken to mean a "casual" or "dry" relationship. Thus, it is said to mean "you are just a friend".
3. Hard Candy: I Like You
Candy means I like you. This is because candy is something you hold in your mouth and enjoy the sweet taste of over longer periods of time. This is something that will please someone if they like you.
There are of course some exceptions to the above categories. Although macaroons tend to be classed along with cookies, as they also have a slightly high class feel to them, they are said to express that the recipient is someone special. However, all of these meanings are relative to place, person, and even generation, so it isn't uncommon at all for Japanese people to be unaware of the meanings introduced here. Ladies, there is no need to feel down if you got marshmallows on White Day.
If You're in Japan, Enjoy White Day!
While not to the same degree as Valentine's Day, White Day has its own events, with special corners in sweets shops, department stores, and supermarkets. If you happen to be in Japan, it's definitely something you will want to check out.
If you received chocolate this Valentine's Day, try giving something back on March 14!