Why Do Japanese Businessmen Love Valentine’s Day?

  • Valentine’s Day is one of the most polarizing holidays out there for those who care. While it’s true that many people don’t pay attention to the February holiday of romance, some people do. For many couples, Valentine’s Day is the day to step up their game and plan something romantic. In Japan, much like in the United States, restaurants tend to be full to the brim around Valentine’s Day, though many couples are a bit more flexible, choosing to celebrate Valentine’s the weekend closest to the day due to convenience.

    by Martin Danker

    However, for single people who put a lot of value on Valentine’s Day, the holiday adds a lot of pressure since they feel that it’s necessary to be with someone. Valentine’s Day is not the only holiday in Japan that is tailored to couples. White Day and Christmas are among the holidays that couples are supposed to spend together, making winter the official season of romance.

    However, in Japan, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day for businessmen. Why is that?

    Unlike other countries whose conventional wisdom and social norms dictate that men have to buy chocolate gifts for their partners, in Japan, women are the ones who buy chocolates and make arrangements on Valentine’s Day. Men are supposed to reciprocate on White Day, but traditionally they didn’t give gifts that were as great as the ones they got (more on that later).

    Since men are the ones who receive chocolates, it’s not uncommon to find women at the many chocolate fairs held in Japan buying expensive gifts. One of the most popular chocolate fairs is Salon du Chocolat, which takes place at Isetan, Japan’s most profitable department store. Salon du Chocolat brings chocolates from all over the world, showcasing some of the world’s most famous chocolatiers and talented newcomers, being a great platform for chocolatiers. If you were to go there, you would likely find a floor full of women buying multiple chocolate boxes. That’s not to say that you won’t find men there. However, the percentage of customers is overwhelmingly female, and many of them are not buying chocolates for themselves but for someone they like or love.

    Sadly, the same is not always the case during White Day since there are no amazing chocolate fairs in March. White Day takes place on March 14. The holiday started in Japan in 1978 before expanding to other Asian countries. The tradition began after a company in Fukuoka decided to target the day as a special time to buy marshmallows for women. The holiday has proven popular and it continues to be celebrated in Japan, though it’s changing. Traditionally, gifts had to be white (after all, it all started with marshmallows), meaning that women would get marshmallows, hard candy, and white chocolate, which to many is not really the equivalent of a nice box of expensive chocolate bonbons.

    Thankfully for women, now, many stores also sell chocolates during this time, and men buy chocolate gifts and have romantic lunches and dinners with their partners. It also became common for men to buy things that were more expensive than the gifts they had received, again reinforcing social norms and stereotypes that put emphasis on the wage gap between men and women.

    Since Valentine’s Day is a holiday for couples, how do businessmen enter the equation? You see, Japan has a very interesting social norm that sees female employees buying chocolates for their male peers. This tradition is highly outdated, and women hate it for very good reason (not to mention that, while their male coworkers are also supposed to reciprocate on White Day, many don’t). For male employees, though, Valentine’s Day can be a very exciting day since they can go into the break room to find some chocolate gifts. As such, even if a man is single, he will at least get some chocolates at work.

    Is this custom at Japanese workplaces sexist? Most definitely, which is why it is slowly disappearing on many office floors. These days, more and more women are refusing to spend their hard-earned money on chocolates for their male peers because, simply speaking, it’s a waste of their money and time.

    *Featured Image by recruit___official on Instagram
    : recruit___official/