What is White Day?

After all the chocolates of Valentine’s Day, you may have thought the romantic gifts were over for a year. But the fun is far from over for the Japanese, as the day men reciprocate with a gift of their own is White Day, March 14th.

History

White and pink marshmallows with white peonies | History | What is White Day?
volurol/Shutterstock.com

As previously discussed on this blog, Valentine’s Day in Japan is observed with girls giving chocolate to the boys they like, and also giving obligation chocolate to family, classmates and co-workers.

This tradition was heavily influenced by confectioners and department stores. The Japanese National Confectionary Industry Association started to advocate for a ‘reply day’ in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the first suggested gifts for men to reciprocate with were marshmallows, and it was even known as ‘Marshmallow Day’ in some places.

In the years following department stores started to put together more gifts, taking on the theme of the white marshmallows, and also as the color white is often used to signify pure love, a lot of these gifts were also white, including white chocolate. Thus ‘White Day’ was born!

Three Times as Much

Takeo gives Yamato her White Day gift box | Three Times as Much | What is White Day?
MY love STORY!!, episode 21, 2015

It is a generally taken rule that the gift given on White Day should be three times the value of the chocolate received on Valentine’s day. This is known as sanbai gasehi - triple in return.

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A gift of equal value can be seen as the man wishing to end the relationship politely. To give no return gift is an insult! Although this of course depends on context, small obligation chocolate to co-workers often requires no return gift, but a return gift is, of course, always welcome.

Obligation Gifts and Love Gifts

Tohru with tries on her White Day gift from Yuki | Obligation Gifts and Love Gifts | What is White Day?
Fruits Basket, episode 11, 2019


Any gift can be given for White Day, but white candies are often given as a return gift, especially if the chocolate given on Valentine's Day was obligation chocolate. These are often cookies, macaroons, marshmallows or white chocolate.

Milk or dark chocolate can be given too, especially if the lady’s preference for these is known.

A return gift to signify real feelings is a different matter. White jewelry or lingerie are popular choices for established couples, or organising a date is a great way to accept the feelings of your admirer. But any gift in return is fine, it needn’t be white, especially if the gift is well thought out, the lady will love it!

Black Day - April 14th

Jajangmyeon noodles often eaten on Black Day | Black Day - April 14th | What is White Day?
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The popularity of White Day has spread across Asia, Korea especially is now observing similar practices of giving return gifts on March 14th. Korea also has a Black Day, celebrated on April 14th.

On this day, those that didn’t receive chocolate or a return gift on White Day celebrate (or lament) their singleness and lack of luck in romance. Single people wear black and get together to eat Jajangmyeon, a noodle dish topped with a thick black meat sauce.

Some restaurants have started to hold Jajangmyeon eating contests or even speed dating events to celebrate the holiday.