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Give and You Shall Receive

Men's Chocolate

In honor of Valentine’s Day I wanted to share an interesting story I read about how gifts are done in Japan. On February 14th women are supposed to give men dark chocolate. Exactly one month later, on March 14th, men are supposed to return the favor by giving women white chocolate. This day has become known as “White Day” in Japan. I don’t know how women got stuck with white, but I like the idea of dedicating another day of the year to chocolate gift-giving. I must begin the search for a good white chocolate recipe now…

Here is the original article as published in the A Taste of Culture newsletter:

Valentine’s Day, a relatively new phenomenon here, has become a truly Japanese occasion. Here, women give gifts of dark chocolate to men on February 14. Like other culinary customs adapted from non-native sources (eating elaborately decorated cakes on Christmas eve immediately comes to mind…), the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day combines some of the original, foreign practices with distinctively Japanese ones — in particular, reciprocity in gift giving. Recipients on February 14th are then expected to give an okaeshi, or “return gift,” of white chocolate a month later. In Japan, March 14 has been designated as “White Day” (though in America that name would be more likely to indicate a bargain sale on sheets and towels).

Occasionally in Japan, the presentation of chocolate to a gentleman does indicate romantic interest on the part of the woman, but most often it does not. Since love can be fickle, or go unrequited, declaring one’s affection is risky, causing a loss of face when feelings are not matched. To avoid bruised egos, the Japanese retail community came up with an innovation solution: giri choco. Giri is a guilt-laden word used to describe obligations (and, relatives acquired through marriage!); choco is the affectionate abbreviation for chocolate.

Enormous pressure is brought to bear upon OL (“office ladies” who serve tea and file correspondence for male executives) to present chocolate to their bosses and other men at the workplace. At school, girls are urged to give chocolate to their male teachers. And in the home setting, fathers, uncles and grandfathers receive chocolate trinkets from daughters, nieces and granddaughters.

Example gifts include:

This photo has the caption: giri choco demo ureshii (Even if its obligatory, it still makes me happy!)

(scroll down to see hand-made chocolates for daddy…)

Most gifts of chocolate are store-bought. This year’s top ranking item is a Car Mania Set (chocolate wrenches, bolts, and other mechanics’ paraphernalia).

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Tania says on February 14th, 2006 at 9:59 pm:

Interesting custom! I love white chocolate, so personally, I wouldn’t mind if we followed the example of the Japanese. Yum!

mooncici says on February 15th, 2006 at 11:56 pm:

I love visiting your site, I admire for being able to give up that computer 9 to 5 job and pursue your dream. I hope I could do THE SAME thing ONE DAY!! Your blog is LOVELY!!!! And wut a great chocolate story!!!

Mona says on February 22nd, 2006 at 9:04 am:

That is pretty neat. I love your idea of squeezing in another chocolate holiday:) Though I’m already seeing Cadbury Eggs in the pharmacies..mmmmm!
Something else interesting about the Japanese, Christmas Eve has turned into a sort of Valentine’s Day over there. We covered it in the news this year, it’s all about romantic dinners and gifts on Xmas Eve. Guys are expected to do up the romance bigtime that night:)

Wendi says on February 22nd, 2006 at 1:35 pm:


I just love your blog…I stumbled across it today. As an aspiring pastry chef, leaving for culinary school in about a month (who is currently also in the corporate world)…it is so nice to see someone with so much passion on the subject!

Thank you! And best of luck with your own business!


sailaja says on February 22nd, 2006 at 3:14 pm:

First time commenting here.Excellent site and I will keep coming back.

Kelli says on February 22nd, 2006 at 10:40 pm:

Thank you everyone! Good luck pursuing your own dreams!

Wendi– keep us posted on how culinary school goes. I never made it myself, I just jumped right in to the business :)

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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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