How Is Valentine's Day Different in Japan and Why Women Started Boycotting It Now?

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While the majority of the Western countries are celebrating Valentine's day today, in Japan the holiday looks different. Why?

Japanese women are now rebelling against the old-established tradition called ''giri choco'', which translates as ''obligation chocolate.'' The long-standing custom dates back in the 50s.

It calls Japanese women to bring chocolates at the office to their male colleagues. In addition to that, the Japanese ladies should also buy heartfelt chocolates for their love interests. On March 14, on the so-called White Day, men will return the favor. The establishment of the White Day in the early 1980s was an idea of the local chocolatiers to boost their sales.

Jeff Kingston, an expert in Japanese culture, working at the Temple University in Tokyo, says that the way Japan celebrates Valentine's Day corresponds to its traditional patriarchy. Kingston also highlighted that typically, women end up giving more chocolates than they receive for the White Day. 

In the last couple of years things are rapidly changing in that regard, note sources familiar with the matter. For instance, the Belgian luxury chocolatier Godiva, one of the market leaders in Japan, published a full page advert in a local newspaper, urging the women not to feel obliged to buy chocolates for their male co-workers.

Godiva added that the idea behind Valentine's Day is not about doing something extra to ensure smooth relationships at work. 

Last week, the Revolutionary Alliance of Unpopular People protested in Tokyo against ''romantic capitalism.'' One of its leaders, Takeshi Akimoto, pointed out that they were against the consumerist culture linked to Valentine's Day. Akimoto also added that Valentine's Day chocolates at work could make some employees feel less respected if they receive fewer confectionaries than others. 

Some corporations in Japan already banned the ''giri choco'' tradition on Valentine's Day as they viewed it as a form of harassment against women. Also, according to some firms, ''giri choco'' had lead to some internal conflicts in the office in the past when male colleagues used to compare the prices of the received chocolate or finger-pointed their co-workers who did not receive many confectionaries.

The Japanese women also seem to abandon the tradition in the last years. A recent study by a Tokyo department store found out that 60 percent of local women were planning to buy chocolates for themselves while only 35 percent of the female respondents admitted they would follow the tradition and bring chocolates to their male co-workers.

What about you? Do you celebrate Valentine's Day today?