Why Only Men Receive Gifts on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is for lovers—chocolate lovers, that is—especially if they're men. While we’re accustomed to boyfriends, husbands and even secret admirers professing their love with gifts like flowers, candy, and maybe even a romantic dinner, women in Japan don't get anything.

That's because they're the ones doing all the gift giving. The most common gift is chocolate, but not just any kind. There are two specific types of chocolate given out: Giri-choco (courtesy or obligation chocolate) which is unromantic and meant for friends, colleagues and bosses; and Honmei-choco (chocolate of love) which is sometimes handmade and given to significant others. There’s also a third kind of Valentine’s Day chocolate, Jibun choco, which reserved women to give themselves simply because they deserve it.

On that note, their sweet gestures aren’t left unreciprocated. A month later on White Day, men give their ladies white-colored gifts including chocolate, lingerie, flowers and more.

White Day was first celebrated in Japan in 1978. It was started by the National Confectionary Industry Association as an “answer day” to Valentine’s Day for men to pay back the women who gave them gifts on Valentine’s Day. Sometimes the term sanbai gaeshi (triple the return) is used to describe the generally recited rule for men that the return gift should be two to three times the worth of the gift they received. White Day took off and is now celebrated in other parts of Asia including China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Valentine’s Day and White Day are just couple of the myriad examples of Japanese culture blending tradition with modernity—and what’s not to love about that?