White Day: A Unique Japanese Tradition


What is White Day?

White Day is a unique cultural event in Japan, celebrated on March 14th. It is widely known as a day when those who received chocolate on Valentine’s Day return the favor by giving gifts to the person who gave them the chocolate. Typically, men give sweets or presents to women to express their gratitude.

The Origin of White Day

The most common explanation for the origin of White Day dates back to the late 1970s and is attributed to a confectionery company called “Tsurunokohonjyo Ishimura Manseido” in Hakata, Fukuoka. In 1977, the company’s third-generation president, Zenjiro Ishimura, started a campaign called “Let’s give marshmallows.” This “Marshmallow Day” proposal became a nationwide trend, gradually evolving into what we now know as White Day.

Is White Day Celebrated Outside Japan?

White Day is primarily a Japanese event and is not widely celebrated in other countries. However, as Japanese culture spreads, some Asian countries, particularly in East Asia, such as China, Taiwan, and South Korea, have begun to adopt the custom of celebrating White Day. The tradition is not observed in Western countries.

The Relationship Between Valentine’s Day and White Day

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is known as a day when women give chocolate to men. This custom is believed to have started in the 1950s and greatly influenced the establishment of White Day. Valentine’s Day and White Day complement each other as days to express love and gratitude.

What to Give on White Day? Should You Reciprocate for “Friend Chocolate” and “Obligation Chocolate”?

Since the popularization of White Day, the types of gifts given have diversified. Initially, marshmallows and white chocolate were the main gifts, but nowadays, people also give jewelry, flowers, and expensive presents. There has also been an increase in people giving handmade gifts to show their appreciation.

As for reciprocating “friend chocolate” and “obligation chocolate,” it is generally expected to give something in return. These types of chocolate are relatively casual, so the return gift should be appropriate for the level of the gift received. The most important thing is to express gratitude.

Some popular White Day gifts include:

  • Marshmallows, candies, and chocolates: Marshmallows were originally the most common gift, but chocolates and candies are also popular.
  • Cookies and baked sweets: Both homemade and store-bought cookies and sweets are appreciated.
  • Accessories and small items: For closer relationships, such as with a romantic partner, small accessories or fashion items may be given.
Chocolate ReceivedWhite Day GiftNotes
Honmei-choco (True love chocolate)Expensive gifts, accessories, etc.Demonstrates deep gratitude and affection
Giri-choco (Obligation chocolate) or Tomo-choco (Friend chocolate)Marshmallows, candies, cookies, etc.Casual and heartfelt gifts

What is the “Triple Return” on White Day?

The “triple return” on White Day refers to the Japanese custom where men are expected to give a gift worth three times the value of the chocolate or gift they received from women on Valentine’s Day. This “triple return” rule is not strictly adhered to and is often seen as a social expectation or a joke.

For example, if a man receives chocolate worth 1,000 yen on Valentine’s Day, he is expected to give a gift worth 3,000 yen on White Day. However, in reality, this rule is not strictly followed, and most people freely choose their return gifts based on their personal relationships and circumstances, focusing on expressing gratitude.

As a personal note, I usually choose gifts worth 2-3 times the value of the chocolate I received when returning gifts to close friends or loved ones, just to be safe.