The Japanese art of seduction

IMG_6577Today is an important day for many single Japanese ladies – in particular, if a month ago, on Valentine’s Day, a Japanese lady gave specific chocolates to a male acquaintance. You see, Valentine’s Day – and equally importantly ‘White Day’ (14th March) – give a real opportunity to Japanese people to express their interest towards the opposite sex.

I didn’t think this would be possible, but I think I have found a nation of men who, when interacting with the opposite sex, are even more socially inept than Finnish men. When sober, and when interacting with a woman they fancy, Japanese men are generally as flirty and forward as a Finnish statistician would be when trying to hit on a librarian. And for the record, I am not alone with my observations about Japanese men. I’ve heard Japanese women talk about Japanese men as ‘prey’ and themselves as the ‘predator’, simply because the women in Japan (and actually also in Finland) tend to be the more outgoing and bubbly sex. Although, every glass of sake multiplies a Japanese man’s self-confidence 25 fold so it is not after that many drinks that they approach you with chat up lines like: Are you an air hostess? Or if they were trying to chat me up, possibly something like: Are you Vanessa Feltz? Boy, I’m glad I am married and do not have to fight over the drunken Japanese men out of desperation for a single date in my annual social calendar.

On Valentine’s Day, women (and women only) buy chocolates, which they give (predominantly) to men – this of course fits in with the earlier ‘woman-as-a-predator’ notion.

Importantly, there are two types of chocolates. Giri choco is ‘obligation chocolate’ which women are expected to give to their male colleagues and other significant males in their lives, like their fathers or dentists. Honmei choco is ‘the real thing’. Honmei choco’s function is to express something like: Would you like to go on a date? Or the equivalent in British English: Fancy a shag?

That is, on Valentine’s Day the woman buys or makes chocolate for someone they fancy and waits for the man’s response a month later on White Day (i.e. today). If the man is also keen, they will buy the woman for instance chocolates, perfume or a scarf and most likely ask them out on a date. If he’s not keen, he does nothing, and they will both pretend that the honmei choco that he was given (a) was a joke or (b) was actually meant as giri choco. Either way, on White Day the lady will know whether or not she has pulled.

In Europe and America the Valentine’s Day rumba works in reverse. On Valentine’s Day the men buy the chocolates and a month later, on the 14th March, it is ‘Steak and Blowjob Day’. The name of the latter day leaves very little to anyone’s imagination as to what the expectation of that day is. The only thing left to one’s imagination is the order of the two (or if they are on the menu at the same time).

Now that you know the background to the Japanese Valentine’s Day and White Day conventions, you might be interested in hearing some juicy details of our Valentine’s and White Day. Unfortunately, I am about 14 years late writing this blog post, given that my husband and I have been together for 14 years and hence, what follows is not quite like Sex and the City. It’s more like Little House on the Prairie.

On Valentines Day, I was a little worried about the significance of the different types of chocolate. Initially, I had planned to give some chocolates to my male colleagues, and also to the janitor of our building, who is a lovely elderly Japanese man with no English skills, but because I didn’t want to risk sending any misinterpreted messages I restricted my chocolate purchases to (a) my children, (b) my female colleagues and (c) our (female) au pair. I was also given some chocolates by my female acquaintances, which was disastrous given my persistent attempts to fit into Japanese women’s clothes. And so, in my mind the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ have started to sound more like ‘Fatten Thighs Day’.

See photos below of the impressive chocolates in a local department store, which dedicates a whole floor to the chocolate concessions.


IMG_6572IMG_6573I did buy some honmei choco as well – not for our lovely elderly janitor, but for my husband. They were rather luxurious and in my opinion shockingly expensive love hearts (see photo at the top of this page), and I was hoping that on White Day he would come up with something special.

When I got up this morning (today being White Day), my husband had… forgotten. This is the equivalent of your British or American husbands/boyfriends forgetting Valentine’s Day. My husband did go and buy some flowers later in the day in an effort to put steak back on the menu. Fat chance – there will be no steak on the menu today. I can tell you that for free.


6 thoughts on “The Japanese art of seduction

  1. So how can a man tell which type of chocolate he’s being given? Is honmei choco always in obvious shapes/colors/flavors? Also, do the Japanese spend all their money on giving gifts to everyone all the time? Must be good for the economy!

    • Hi Eileen,

      It is not totally clear to me how men know whether they’ve been given giri or honmei choco; that’s one reason why I decided not to give obligation chocolates to my male colleagues. But I think honmei choco is generally more expensive than giri choco and it often comes in the obvious shapes, but this is not always the case. For example, the planet shaped chocolates that I bought for my son, and the diamond shaped chocolates that I bought for my female work colleague turned out to be honmei chocolates.

      Yes, over here people give gifts all the time. The ‘rules’ of gift giving seem rather opaque to a foreigner like me, but I’m slowly learning when and what gifts are expected, and to whom one should give them.

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