For all the ladies of the world

Valentine's Day is not for you, according to Japan, but for us, the men. You must give us chocolate and dinners, especially chocolate. If we work in the same office and I've bullied you to tears on many occasions, sexually harassed you and you had rather stick a knife in my janglies than even look at me, you are required to give me chocolate on Valentine's Day, "giri choco", obligation chocolate. I'm just mentally counting the number of women who work at my company and, including the ones I've bullied and sexually harassed, I am pretty much guaranteed to be able to eat myself sick this Thursday.

That's the tradition, anyway. The video game industry has its own set of rules, and giri choco is not that important. I think of all my years in Japan I've been given it once, and that was just the usual cheap, crumbly wax that is sold at bargain basement prices in big plastic bags to those women unfortunate enough to work in larger businesses. Go to the foodshows and you'll see a lot of lovely gourmet chocolate and cakes especially for the day, but also nasty-looking chocolate offal for the office ladies.

There is no real greeting card culture here, which at least saves me the crushing disappointment of never receiving any on this special commercial day. Plus I like to tell myself Japanese girls are just too shy to declare their love and devotion to a handsome young turk like myself. It's an excuse that doesn't really sit well with the reality of the usual whipping I get from my female colleagues, whipping in a bad way obviously, but I can suspend my own disbelief just about long enough provided I get at least a small handful of sales-damaged chocolate.

I must wait again until next month for White Day, the fantastically opportunistic male-version of Valentine's Day. One day a year of forced consumerism was obviously not enough for Japan, and I'll be made to queue up in the local foodshow to buy some white chocolate or otherwise sweet, white foodstuffs. Luckily, being a male, we have no real obligations to buy chocolate for the girls in the office. Of course, if they buy me some on Thursday I am socially obliged to give them a present back, but then I can play the gaijin card and claim ignorance of such obtuse cultural etiquette.

Other than that the day has very little effect on Tokyo as a whole. The bright pink heart banners hardly stand out against the usual bright pink advertising posters and billboards, though my passage through several train stations is hampered by long, snaking queues of women waiting to buy their gifts. In just over 24 hours Japan can go back to its usual routine of ignoring that special someone in your house and trying to pick up hostesses,, for a month at least.


  1. I'm overcome by warm fuzzies and must compensate by leaving my warm apartment in search of a puppy or old woman to kick. I blame you.

  2. I don't think I'm being overly cynical to think, if there was money to be made from cards and weaponry, we'd have national "kick a canine" or "punch a pensioner" days.