Do you know what March 14th is in Japan? If you are familiar with Japanese pop culture, you may have heard of this special day. March 14th is White Day in Japan! You may have been familiarized with White Day in Japan from either anime, manga or in Japanese Dramas, but if not, don’t worry! This article will guide you to understand why White Day is celebrated in Japan and how you can celebrate White Day in Japan with friends, partners and even your colleagues!
This article is a part of our series of articles on Japanese Culture.
From Beginner to Pro
Our bi-weekly emails for beginners to low intermediate students will give you the tips and motivation to self-study Japanese your way to Japanese fluency.
What is White Day?
White Day is a romantic holiday celebrated on the 14th of March, one month after Valentine’s Day. White Day in Japan is the day whereby the gifts received on Valentine’s Day are reciprocated.
In Japan, only women give gifts to men, whether it be their co-workers, friends or romantic partners on Valentine’s Day. White Day is the holiday whereby the men return the favour to women in their life whether it is platonic or romantic in the form of gifts and affection, exactly one month later. White Day is celebrated on many different levels ranging from professional, platonic and romantic.
History of White Day
White Day was created by Ishimura Manseido, a confectionery shop in 1978. When looking to increase sales after Valentine's Day, the executive of Ishimura Manseido read in a women's magazine that it is unfair that only men receive gifts on Valentine's Day. Ishimura Manseido suggested that men give marshmallows in return for Valentine’s Day chocolate. Over time the name changed from “Marshmallow Day” to “White Day” giving men to not be limited to only gifting marshmallows to now white chocolate and other white-themed gifts such as jewellery, bags and lotions. Nowadays, there are no limitations to the gifts you can give to your loved ones.
White Day was first observed in Japan, which then gradually became observed in China and Korea and other asian countries over time. Along with that, the gifts and ways of celebration for White Day have changed over the years.
How is White Day Celebrated?
White Day can be celebrated in many different ways with different people in your life. In Japan, Valentine’s Day and White Day gifts come with different intentions and purposes. There are various levels of gift giving when it comes to gift giving for both Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan.
Tomo Choco is the chocolate an individual gifts or receives from their friend. Tomo comes from the Japanese word, tomodachi, meaning “friend”. Tomo Choco is given between friends as a token of appreciation for friendship. Tomo Choco can either be store bought chocolate or any handmade sweets shared with your friends. Nowadays, Tomo Choco is given to the same gender in Japan to celebrate White Day.
Giri Choco directly translates to “chocolate given by obligation”. These are chocolates given out by women on Valentine’s Day to their male acquaintances through work, school etc. Giri Choco is gifted out of politeness. Giri Choco is also usually store bought chocolate, Black Thunder, a Japanese chocolate bar has been labelled as the “King of Giri Choco” as it is inexpensive and easily found in combini (convenient stores) and in supermarkets. Many choose to buy their giri choco in bulk for convenience and money saving purposes to hand out in their workplace or at school.
Honmei Choco is the “true love’s chocolate” that is given by women to their significant other on Valentines day. For those who are already romantically involved or want to make a confession on White Day, in Japanese society, it is expected for the gift in return for white day to be up to sanbai gaeshi meaning triple the value of the gift received, in this case, on Valentines Day. Honmei Choco are usually luxury brand chocolates as the value of chocolates is important to Japanese people as it defines your feelings towards them. Honmei Choco can also be given in the form of homemade chocolate to show the effort and time taken to impress your romantic partner.
Gift-giving Culture in Japan
In Japan, there is a gift-giving culture of Okaeshi, which means you give something in return for receiving a gift to show gratitude as well as an obligation. It is considered to be rude to not return a gift, as “give and take” rules Japanese society. If you don’t give back, you won’t get any more in the future. With that in mind, the gift being reciprocated on White Day is important, whether or not the relationship is platonic or romantic. In Japanese society, failing to partake in okaeshi can lead to a rocky relationship in the future as you may be perceived to be stingy, rude and selfish.
You can read more about the Gift Giving Culture in Japan in Our Guide to Japanese Omiyage.
What should I give someone on White Day?
There are a variety of gifts that can be gifted to your partner for White Day. It is important to note the intentions and values of the gifts. As different gifts carry different intentions, you should keep in mind what to give as a response to what you received on Valentine's Day.
Marshmallows for when you’re just not into them
Despite marshmallows being the original gift for White Day, the significance of marshmallows gradually changed over time. Giving and receiving marshmallows as an indicator of rejection as marshmallows tend to dissolve quickly, it is now commonly associated with rejection.
Cookies for when you like them but just as friends
Giving and receiving cookies is an indicator of friendzone. As cookies tend to be dry, gifting and receiving cookies is seen as a sign to want to just remain as friends. Homemade cookies may carry a different meaning and intention as it shows the care and effort, yet, this is something to consider as not everyone is aware of the different meanings of White Day sweets.
Hard Candies for the one you know is THE one
Giving and receiving hard candy can be interpreted as a love confession, this is because candies are able to stay in your mouth for a long time without dissolving and remain sweet, this is symbolism for a long lasting sweet relationship.
Affordable Online and Offline Morning Lessons in Tokyo
Learn Japanese with us online or offline and make your Japan Switch.
- Affordable Japanese Lessons
- Monthly Contracts
- No Entrance Fees
- No Hidden Fees
- 200+ Students
- Online or Offline Lessons
Classic Chocolates for Everyone
Another classic White Day gift is chocolate. Chocolate can be given as both giri choco or honmei choco. This is especially beneficial for those who are still in the early stages of relationships. If there are any uncertainties about the relationship, you have the ability to brush off the honmei choco as giri choco.
For those who find themselves confused by the gift given to you, the meaning and intention behind the gift, it is not something to be embarrassed about! It has been observed that Japanese men tend to go onto online forums within the time span of Valentine’s Day and White Day, asking netizens for their interpretation and understanding of the gift received to determine whether the gift they received have romantic or platonic intention. This might be something to consider if you are confused as it would prevent you from ending up in an awkward situation on White Day.
For those who want to make your intention of accepting the Valentine’s Day gift clear, it should be kept in mind that the value of your gift has to be sanbai gaeshi meaning to triple the value of what you received. In order to do so, luxury items are the way to go. These gifts can vary from high-end bath products, bags, scarves or accessories. Women expect high quality gifts as the quality and value of the gift can speak louder than words in Japanese culture.
Lastly, another White Day gift is to give homemade gifts. Japan offers the materials for making homemade chocolate for cheap at Daiso, a Japanese dollar store, as well as at any department store. Homemade chocolate can be made by using different shaped molds such as hearts, teddy bears, or any characters, followed by decorations using sprinkles, colored chocolate or nuts. Another approach to homemade chocolate is making Nama Chocolate, a DIY approach to Japanese chocolate brand, Royce. Nama Chocolate is a type of ganache, made with melted cacao, heavy cream and coated with fine cocoa powder.
In Japan, homemade sweets are wrapped in cute plastic bags and boxes which are inexpensive and affordable. Gifting homemade desserts such as chocolate, cakes, cookies will show your loved ones your effort put into showing affection and making them happy!
Here is How to Reject Someone on White Day
As previously mentioned, the value of the gift is important to women during White Day as it defines the state of any romantic relationship. Whether a man would like to reject or accept a gift from Valentine’s Day, it should be noted that men must return a gift as that is the Japanese custom for gift giving.
Indicators of rejection would be to give a gift of equal or lower value, this is because the general rule for White Day in Japan is for men to give back a gift that is up to triple the value of the present given by the woman on Valentine’s Day. With that in mind, for those who are struggling financially and have difficulty to triple the value of gift received, there are other ways to approach gift-giving and showing affection in the form of handwritten letters, homemade sweets and quality time. So do not fret if you think your gift will be taken as a sign of rejection, there are other things you can do to make your intentions clear.
White Day in the Workplace - Is it okay?
Valentine’s Day and White Day have been banned by some companies in Japan in the past few years for multiple reasons. As giri choco given by women in the workplace can be costly, in recent years, the major players of the chocolate industry in Japan have vocalized their concern for the giri choco tradition in the workplace.
Belgian luxury chocolate brand, Godiva, had communicated to Japanese women through a full-page newspaper advertisement in 2018, demanding Japanese women to stop the practice of giri choco. This led to debates online as the chocolate industry in Japan can make up to $500 million US dollars with Valentine’s Day, anywhere between $300 to $400 US dollars per individual, due to the giri choco, obligatory chocolate given by women to their male acquaintances. This was controversial as Godiva had pushed Japanese women to purchase giri choco as well as men to purchase honmei choco for their loved ones during White Day by collaborating with Sanrio to push sales.
This costly tradition also led Black Thunder, a Japanese chocolate bar sold by the Yuraku Confectionery Company to speak up. Black Thunder is an inexpensive chocolate bar found in any conbini (convenience store) and supermarket. Due to the promotion and affordability of Black Thunder chocolate, it has been crowned as the “King of Giri Choco”. In 2019, Black Thunder began handing out leaflets asking to stop the giri choco tradition on Valentine’s Day. This came to a surprise to Japanese people as Black Thunder opens a pop-up store every year from February 8th to 14th in the underground mall of Tokyo Station for women to buy value packs of 100 pieces of Black Thunder for only 1,200 yen. Their opposition to giri choco had stirred debate online, one year later, the Black Thunder pop-up store had returned to offer convenience for women to buy giri choco to share in the office.
Despite the actions taken from key players of the chocolate industry, the giri choco tradition continues.
Additionally, it can be observed that there is an underlying problem to this. Therefore, some companies have asked to stop the giri choco tradition within their workplace as giri choco can be seen as power harassment. Survey reveals that 40% of male and female office workers see the obligation chocolate, giri choco, to be an abuse of power and harassment. The practice has shown to have given stress to office working women as they would worry about the amount spent as well as where they drew the line for giving giri choco. This change is not nationwide, so it should be confirmed with your workplace if such practice exists. This is something to consider as the pressure of okaeshi and abuse of power exists in the workplace which takes away the main intent of White Day and Valentine’s Day which is to show appreciation and love.
Learn Japanese for Free
Our newsletter for beginner to low intermediate Japanese students will get you on the right track to learning Japanese and saving money.
White Day for the LGBTQ+ Community in Japan
As Japan is still highly conservative, the societal norms in Japan are that relationships are meant to be cisgender and heterosexual. With that being said, both Valentine’s Day and White Day are both created with the intention of male and female relationships, with little to no room for flexibility of any other sexual orientation and gender when it comes to romantic relationships.
The case differs when it is the case of giri choco which is an obligation in Japanese society, which is given out as an act of respect despite your gender and sexual orientation. Aside from giri choco, any honmei choco is normalized to be between male and female who are romantically involved with one another. This is where things can become complicated for those who identify themselves as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
On that note, it is also important to consider that both Valentine’s Day and White Day are social constructs created by society which do not determine the value of a relationship. Those who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can decide to celebrate and exchange gifts on either Valentine’s Day or White Day. Alternatively, those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community can choose to celebrate and exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day much like the rest of the world.
Your Japanese leaving people in the dark?
Let our newsletter for beginner to low intermediate learners guide your way.
What to Do on White Day in Japan
There are a plethora of date activities in Japan, more specifically in Tokyo. Tokyo is a popular tourist destination for couples as it offers a wide range of romantic and lavish places to visit. Many celebrate White Day with their romantic partners by going on trips around Japan, visiting parks, museums and going on a dinner date. Here are some suggestions:
Going on a White Day Date
Other than gifting chocolates and fancy gifts to your partner on White Day, another way Japanese people celebrate White Day is by going on dates. Many couples will travel around Tokyo, plan a staycation or just go out for drinks and dinner to celebrate White Day!
Both day trips and overnight trips are ways you can spend White Day in Japan, taking your loved one to any of these places to explore. With the convenience of the transportation system in Japan, day trips are easy to arrange and follow through with. Some places that are popular for day trips within the Tokyo area are:
Kamakura is a popular day trip destination for Japanese people as it is located in the South of Tokyo, below Yokohama, offering historical scenery and Zen buddhist temples, and the Great Buddha, contrasting to the busy city life of Tokyo. Travelling from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station to Kamakura takes one hour and only ¥920 ($8.40 USD). In addition to that, Mount Fuji is viewable from some beaches in Kamakura.
Only a 23 minute drive from Kamakura, Enoshima is a small island on the shore off the Shōnan coast in the South of Tokyo. Enoshima is a famous day-trip destination for Tokyo travellers as the island presents beaches, tidal pools, hot springs, shrines and a love bell (Bell of Ryuren) for couples to ring the bell and write a message on a padlock, facing the sea. Enoshima has various resorts for you and your loved one to spend the night and enjoy your vacation for White Day.
Nikko is another popular destination for overnight trips as it takes 2.5 hours from Tokyo and costs ¥2,590 ($23.59 USD) by the JR Rapid train, other options would be to take a shuttle bus from Tokyo. Nikko offers Kyoto-like scenery, historical shrines, mountains, waterfalls, hot springs and hiking trails.
Staycation for White Day
Another way you can celebrate White Day is a staycation in Tokyo, with the luxury hotels all around Tokyo, you can experience the Japanese hospitality on White Day with your loved one. With views ranging from skyscrapers to Mount Fuji, traditional ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) to sleek modern interiors, some of the notable luxury hotels in Tokyo. With that in mind, here are some options for you and your White Day date to enjoy your staycation to escape reality.
Aman Tokyo is a five-star luxury hotel with a combination of modern and traditional Japanese interior. Aman Tokyo also offers traditional Japanese Kampo herbal healing, a traditional Shinto purification ritual and other spa and wellness services. Dining in Aman Tokyo also ranges from European to Japanese foods.
Hotel New Otani Tokyo Executive House Zen
Another five-star hotel that offers the traditional Japanese experience is the Hotel New Otani Executive House Zen. Traditional Japanese Gardens within the hotel with the combination of modern aesthetics, Hotel New Otani can give you and your partner a relaxing White Day.
Aside from modern ryokan staycation hotels, classic five-star luxury hotels in Tokyo with special Staycation packages include:
As promotions are seasonal and/or in light of the social circumstances, offers may change over time. Be sure to check the promotions at the appropriate time for you.
Day Time Activities in Tokyo
For those who are on more of a tight schedule or budget, there are other activities you and your partner can do in Tokyo, as there are plenty of date spots for couples in Tokyo providing various activities for you and your partner to enjoy.
Odaiba is an artificial island created in Tokyo Bay, accessed by the Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba has lived up to its name the “entertainment paradise of Tokyo”. Odaiba is a trendy hotspot as it offers shopping malls, galleries, a giant ferris wheel, indoor VR amusement parks and more.
One of the most popular attractions in Odaiba is the TeamLab Borderless exhibition. This exhibition showcases projections, the room is 10,000 sqm allowing for viewers to interact with the projected art without any boundaries. Popular amongst young people as the museum is “Instagrammable”. Tickets are only available for purchase online on their website prior to visiting TeamLab Borderless.
Location: Palette Town Odaiba
Address: 〒135-0064 Tokyo, Koto City, Aomi, 1-chōme−3−8 お台場パレットタウン
Tuesday - Friday: 10:00 - 17:00
Weekend: 9:00 - 19:00
Another popular attraction in Odaiba is the Giant Ferris Wheel, Daikanransha. Daikanransha is the largest ferris wheel in Japan with a height of 115 meters. Daikanransha offers striking views of Odaiba, the rainbow bridge, airplanes landing and taking off from the Haneda airport and Tokyo Tower and Skytree. The ferris wheel ride lasts around 15 minutes and costs ¥900 ($8 USD).
Location: Palette Town Odaiba
Address: 1-3-15 Aomi, Kouto-ku, Tokyo
Weekdays: 10:00 - 22:00
Friday, Saturday & days before Public Holidays: 10:00 - 22:40
Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Skytree is an observation and broadcasting tower in Tokyo, up to 634 meters tall. Popular amongst tourists as Skytree had been recorded as the Worlds’ Tallest Building in the Guiness Record in 2012. With an admission fee of up to ¥3400 ($30 USD), Tokyo Skytree has cafes, restaurants and shops for you and your loved one to enjoy on White Day.
Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are both popular destinations for Japanese people on both White Day and Valentine’s Day. Located in Urayasu, Chiba prefecture of Japan, both Disneyland and DisneySea are costly options but with the consideration of the White Day custom of tripling the value of gift received, it may be considerable as these leisure activities can bring you closer to your partner.
You can read more about Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in Our Guide to Amusement Parks in Tokyo.
Take Online Lessons at Japan Switch
For those who live on a tighter schedule, a simple romantic dinner may be the only option your schedule can offer. Here are a few of the most popular romantic restaurants and bars in Tokyo.
Park Hyatt Tokyo New York Bar
Overlooking the Tokyo city view, the New York Bar is a famous bar in Tokyo as it has been featured in the film “Lost in Translation”. This bar is located in the Shinjuku luxury hotel, on the 52nd floor. You can enjoy drinks accompanied with live jazz music for your special date on White Day.
Address: 3-7-1-2, Nishishinjuku, Tokyo 163-1055, Japan
Floor: PARK HYATT TOKYO 52nd floor
Hours: 17:00 - 20:00 (close)
Phone: +81 3-5322-1234
Fish Bank TOKYO
Fish Bank TOKYO is a seafood restaurant located in the Shiodome City Center building in Shinsaibashi, Minato-ku on the 41st floor, with a view of Tokyo Tower. Fish Bank serves various seafoods using both western and Asian culinary techniques.
Address: 1-5-2 Higashi Shinbashi Shiodome City Center 41F, Minato 105-7141 Tokyo Prefecture
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 - 15:00 (Last Order: 13:30)
Dinner: 17:30 - 22:30 (Last Order: 20:30)
Phone: +81 3-3569-7171
Peter at the Peninsula
Peter at The Peninsula Tokyo is located in Ginza offering steak and grill for those who are looking to dine at a luxury restaurant on White Day. Peter at the Peninsula overlooks both the buildings of Tokyo as well as the greenery surrounding the buildings during the day time. At night, you can enjoy the night view of Tokyo along with the beautiful interior design of the Peter.
Address: 1 Chome-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-0006, Japan
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday and Public Holidays.
Lunch: 11:30 - 14:30 (Last Order: 14:00)
Afternoon Tea: 14:00 - 18:00 (Last Order: 17:00)
Dinner: 17:00 - 20:00 (Last Order: 19:30)
Alternatively, you can choose to enjoy a more laid back lunch or dinner with your White Day date, as there are an abundance of restaurants and cafes all around Tokyo.
Locations like Omotesando in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Nakameguro, Daikanyama are attractive as there are endless amounts of activities to do other than dining! It would be recommended to book reservations for wherever you choose to go as White Day is a major celebration in Japan, especially for couples.
There are many various circumstances, people and preparations you need to consider to celebrate White Day.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that White Day is what you reciprocate for what you received on Valentine’s Day. Whether it be acceptance or rejection to any romantic gestures, an okaeshi to your acquaintances, White Day should be noted as it is the day Japanese people anticipate as it is a follow-up for Valentine’s Day!
There is still room for improvements in Japanese society as the gift giving tradition can be burdensome to women in the workplace as well as those who are not in a cishet relationship.It should be kept in mind that both White Day and Valentine’s Day were intended to celebrate the love surrounding you.