While Valentine’s Day (February 14) is celebrated in Japan, contrary to the practice in many other countries, Japanese women are the primary gift givers, presenting chocolates to men. There is no reciprocal exchange of gifts.
However, the following month, on White Day (March 14), men who received chocolates on Valentine’s Day are expected to give back a gift of sweets to the women that gave them to him.
While some westerners may see gender bias, White Day should be seen as neither an attempt to correct gender discrimination nor just another quirky cultural difference. The Japanese celebrate Valentine’s Day as other countries do, except split into two separate days.
Apparently begun as an effort by Japan’s confectionary industry to drive sales, White Day has become an unofficial, modern-day Japanese holiday of love reflecting a significant change in social attitudes and gender relationships. Today, Japanese men buy sweets and other tokens of affection for the women in their lives, including their loved ones, friends and co-workers.
I visited our favorite Tokyo la patisserie, La Vie Un Reve, to purchase a wonderful selection of macaroons, la madeleines and assorted other authentic French pastries to fulfill my White Day obligation.
For myself, I like the experience. Since sharing is a common and expected Japanese practice, I get to enjoy my Valentine Day chocolates and the awesome White Day French pastry sweets!