Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s day in japan’

White Day, Red Faces

March 14, 2017

Did you hear about how Japanese lingerie makers tried to persuade Japanese males to give gifts of unmentionables to their lady colleagues on a certain day each year? No, it didn’t go very well.

Back in the 1970s, Japanese confectionary makers were thinking up ways to boost sales when they heard of this thing in the west called St Valentine’s Day. They borrowed the name and reinvented the festival as an occasion for Japanese women to give chocolate to love interests, and when that worked, expanded the marketing to persuade them to give chocolate to pretty well any man they were acquainted with, again, with considerable success.

Well, you know how it is, one marketing opportunity leads to another and the same confectionary makers summoned out of thin air a reciprocal celebration when men could give presents of chocolate back to the women in their lives.

The grey eminences of Japan’s confectionary association decreed that this ‘festival’ should be on March 14, exactly one month after Valentine’s, and that it should be called White Day, because of the colour’s association with purity and innocence, and perhaps in memory of the colour your teeth used to be before being marinated in all that sugar.

Japanese custom has it that a gift received should be returned three-fold and the nation’s chocolate makers were onto an annual bonanza.

The lingerie makers looked on in envy, decided that white could go with their product, and launched their own campaign to persuade Japan’s very masculine but very reserved males to walk into shops selling girly underthings and then give these intimate items not just to their loved ones but to the gals at the office too.

This initiative didn’t catch on like the chocolate-giving did and died a swift (and merciful) death.

A few brave souls did attempt to do as the marketers bid them, and whether this was out of obedience, gaucheness, or some darker motive is not recorded. Nor is it recorded how many outraged boyfriends and husbands marched round to their beloved’s place of work with sleeves rolled up and jaw set in steely determination looking for an explanation that had better be good.

So if you happen to be touring Japan on March 14 you can reasonably expect a windfall of chocolate, but if a Japanese gentleman asks you to accept a gift that seems neither appropriate nor, well, acceptable, there is no need to be offended, it’s just a marketer’s way of being friendly.