Jack's Book Blog: Japanese/South Korean Valentine's Day

heartblack_sI was writing up blog posts for the Left Coast Writers® Valentine’s Day events and I remembered a few very interesting traditions associated with this holiday in South Korea and Japan.

When you think of Valentine’s Day you think of cards, candy, chocolate, flowers, and other various gifts given by men to women to show their affection, along with romantic evenings of one kind or another.  However, in Japan and South Korea the date aspect of it is underplayed, as well as all of the other types of gifts besides the chocolate; and the men are the ones on the receiving side.

I first noticed this at about eight or nine years old while watching a Japanese anime programme called Ranma 1/2;  In Japan women usually give out “giri” or “obligatory” chocolate to male classmates or colleagues. To their love or prospective loves, however, they give “honmei” or “favorite” chocolate. The “obligatory” chocolate is usually cheaper and store bought; the “favorite” chocolate is more expensive or handmade.  But it’s not as though they receive nothing in return. In both South Korea and Japan White Day is celebrated on March 14th.  White Day is a holiday where the men who were given chocolate on Valentine’s Day give gifts of non-chocolate candy, flowers, jewelry, or other sentimental items to the women who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day in a ratio of 3:1.

It is a rule that the return gift should be three times the value of the original chocolate given.  Also, in South Korea they celebrate a holiday called Black Day. My Korean high school friend told me about it and I later researched further. Black Day is celebrated on the 14th of April. Those who did not receive anything on either previous holiday eat black noodles to “mourn” their singleness.

Let’s hope I’m not eating black noodles.

—Jack Betterly-Kohn

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