Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy White Day!

During my first week in Japan, as we newly-hired actors were being dragged all over Osaka to take care of some essentials - Alien Registration, opening bank accounts, locating the McDonald's - it was hard not to notice all of the signs advertising something called "White Day". I joked that it was about time we white people finally had our own day.

The reality was that, in Japan, Valentine's Day had somehow become a holiday where only the women give gifts to men.

Totally sweet, I know.

But there's a catch. In an effort to be fair and balanced (and incredibly opportunistic), the Japanese exploited their own, deeply-ingrained sense of obligation and established "White Day", a March 14th holiday where men had to buy gifts - usually much more expensive - for the women who bought them gifts the month before.

I asked around and heard several theories as to why it was called "White Day" (sadly, none of which involved the celebration of Caucasians).

First theory: Originally, men could only buy white chocolate for women. This was done to prevent them from just reusing some chocolates they'd received the month before.

Second theory: Originally, men could only buy chocolates in white boxes which were only sold just before White Day. This was done to prevent them from just reusing some chocolates they'd received the month before.

Third theory: Originally, men could only buy marshmallows for women. This was done to, well... you know. (I'm sensing a theme here.)

The reality seems to be a mix of the above. According to the always-correct Wikipedia...

White Day was first celebrated in 1978 in Japan. It was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association (全国飴菓子工業協同組合) as an "answer day" to Valentine's Day on the grounds that men should pay back the women who gave them chocolate and other gifts on Valentine's Day. In 1977 a Fukuoka-shi confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido (石村萬盛堂), had marketed marshmallows to men on March 14, calling it Marshmallow Day (マシュマロデー).[3]

Soon thereafter, confectionery companies began marketing white chocolate. Now, men give both white and dark chocolate, as well as other edible and non-edible gifts, such as jewelry or objects of sentimental value, or white clothing like lingerie, to women from whom they received chocolate on Valentine's Day one month earlier. If the chocolate given to her was giri choco, the man as well may not be expressing actual romantic interest, but rather a social obligation.

And Japanese confectioners go to sleep in beds of money.

In somewhat unrelated news, five years ago today, I did my very first Doc Brown show.

Wow, has it really been that long?

(Special thanks to Melissa for the picture and to DJ for the smile.)