Letters from Japan: White Day Questions
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got something you’d like to ask Hilary? Send your question in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Ask Hilary" in the subject line.
Rather than a single email this month, I’ve got a collection of questions via email, Facebook posts and Instagram comments all about love and White Day in Japan.
Valentine’s Day vs. White Day in Japan
As one friend pointed out this past Valentine’s Day: “Smash the patriarchy. Screw giri choco.”
To many, Valentine’s Day is about couples showing their love to one another, so having it be a day where women traditionally fawn over men can be very off-putting. White Day, on the other hand, might ostensibly be the same kind of holiday as Valentine’s Day, but a lot of women — both Japanese and foreign alike — don’t agree with the concept.
According to several women I am in contact with (of all ages and nationalities, who have lived in Japan), White Day is:
- “…annoying…” (Japanese, 30s)
- “…a rip-off…” (American, 20s)
- …“forgettable…” (Japanese, Canadian, British, French, Chinese, American, New Zealander, 20s-40s).
To put it plainly: a lot of Japanese and foreign men alike are notorious for “forgetting” White Day even exists, which leaves many women stuck with all the emotional labor in a relationship and little to show for it. “It makes me not want to bother,” says one Japanese woman in her 30s. “If he can’t remember to romance me, why should I stick around and beg for his attention?”
While there are several options for gifts on Valentine’s Day — honmei choco (true love chocolates), giri choco (obligatory chocolates), tomo choco (friendship chocolates) and gyaku choco (chocolates from a man to a woman) — there aren’t really terms for the gifts men are meant to give back. Some give their own form of giri choco (usually as a collective “thank you” from the men of the office to female coworkers), but other than that it’s just a present.
Technically, whatever is given on White Day should be a slightly more expensive, store bought gift (because toxic masculinity says that the average man can’t bake or make sweets for his partner). Many shops offer things like handkerchiefs, stationery sets or similar practical gifts to add to a box of chocolates, while others have taken to pushing the jewelry or expensive purse angle more.
Generally speaking, there are no hard and fast rules regarding any of these commercial holidays in Japan. If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day or White day, that’s up to you and your partner — but if you don’t talk about the reciprocity required of celebrating both, you might be disappointed come March 14.
If you’d like to hear some good and bad stories from Japanese and foreign folk on both Valentine’s and White Day, here are a few from years past:
I just want some decent chocolate, is that too much to ask?
Not at all! Personally, my favorite imported brand is Leonidas, but there are scores of other shops, international and local, to choose from across Tokyo.
If you don’t have a specific brand in mind, and are looking for better quality chocolates, imported brands or just something different, your best option is a department store.
Department stores like Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi Isetan, Daimaru Matsuzakaya, Seibu Sogo and Tokyu all have their own special White Day selections, with prices ranging from about ¥500 to upwards of ¥5,000. It all depends on the size, brand and quantity you’re after. Plus, with department stores, most have online shops and delivery available up to the afternoon of White Day itself.
What makes these selections even better though, is that even after the holiday you can still order the chocolates from these department stores — sometimes at decent discounts, too (depending on stock levels).
Bored in the bedroom
This is a question I get surprisingly often — bedroom issues in general are something that every relationship encounters at one point or another. Lockdown boredom is getting to the healthiest of couples and a lot of people are looking for ways to “spice things up” with their partners.
If you and your partner are generally very vanilla but looking for a little pick me up, I would suggest ordering a box of Okamoto Rilakkuma Honey condoms (or any of the others on this ranked list). To quote the female first time user of this brand: “Highly recommended — highly recommended[…] when we got started and it warmed up, it was magical…”
If you’re more adventurous than that, then why not try watching porn together? There are a lot of options to choose from online, but if you’re looking for something that caters more to the feminine perspective, check here first.
There’s also the option to get out of the bedroom — you can try other rooms in your home, for starters. Or in the case of “been there, done that,” why not visit a love hotel? The majority of them are still in operation, albeit with even more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting processes than before. So if a change of scenery is what you need, then by all means, give one of the options on this list a try.
If spicing things up for you means trying a new kink or exploring a fetish, make sure you talk to your partner openly and honestly about it first. Kink is healthy — and if you do whatever it is right and with full consent of both parties, you can learn a lot about yourself and your partner.
— bedroom issues in general are something that every relationship encounters at one point or another.
Don’t ever let someone bully you into taking part in a kink that is dangerous to your physical or mental well-being. Everyone has their own boundaries and if someone is trying to break yours and causing you harm, get out of that relationship.
After you’ve had that discussion, and if you and your partner want to explore BDSM or the like, Hotel Alpha Inn (on the above list of love hotels in Tokyo) is a good but very direct place to start. This hotel is strictly designed for BDSM, making it possible for couples to explore their kinks in a safe, sanitary private environment.
How do I get a Japanese boyfriend/girlfriend?
This is the most common question I’m asked throughout the year, hands down. Given that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and most bars et cetera are closed from 8 p.m. onwards, your best and safest options are online.
Try a dating app or two for some options. There are many different kinds of people out there, but so long as you keep a few things in mind, you should be able to meet someone special. Don’t get too personal, too quickly — you’ll probably be dating online for a while. Remember to be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for in a relationship or potential partner.
When it’s safe to go out and socialize again, going to different social events, such as festivals are great ways to make friends and meet a potential partner.
One key piece of advice, though, if you want to make a connection: you might need to make the first move. There are language and cultural barriers that need to be overcome on both parties’ sides, so don’t just expect a serious relationship to fall into your lap.
Whatever method you choose to spice things up, remember to take it easy and talk to your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. Overall, be open-minded. And if you’re not sure how to do that in Japanese, here’s a crash course on talking about sex.