White Day in Japan falls on March 14th and it’s a day when men receive sweets. Candy, cookies, marshmallows, macarons, and white chocolate are common sweets given on White Day.
What is White Day in Japan?
It’s customary in Japan to give a gift in return for a gift received. It doesn’t have to be immediate, nor is it compulsory. It’s just one of the many unwritten rules that are just passed down from one generation to the next and is now an integral part of Japanese culture.
So, what is White Day? Well, White Day is the day women give a gift to men as a thank you for their Valentine’s Day gift. Usually in the form of some type of white colored confectionary or chocolate.
The type of gift given also has meaning. It gives the man a clear indication of what direction the woman feels the relationship is headed. We’ll get into that at the end of this article though.
What’s the Origin of White Day?
White Day originated in Japan, although it is also celebrated in South Korea, Taiwan, and China to a lesser degree. Most western countries, like the United States, don’t know about the holiday, or celebrate it.
The holiday was officially named White Day in Japan in 1978. Before this, it was known as Cookie Day, Marshmallow Day, Poppy Day, and Flower Day.
Three Theories on the Origin of White Day
The exact origin of White Day is unknown, but here are the three main theories that have been passed around.
Theory One – Zen-Amekyo Theory
In the 1960s, confectionery companies began advertising sweets as gifts on Valentine’s Day. After that, each of these companies set a gift reciprocation date. An unspecified date the Valentine recipients could give sweets in return.
Then, somewhere around 1980, the National Candy Confectionery Cooperative Association, known in Japan as Zen-Amekyo, set March 14 as the official day to give back.
Then, in 1982, events and campaigns started rolling out along with the cooperation of department stores and advertising companies, and White Day became established.
Theory Two – the Manseido Ishimura Theory
Ishimura Manseido, a long-established confectionery store in Fukuoka, is known for its marshmallow treat called Tsurunoko. It’s believed that they established a day to give marshmallows in return for Valentine’s Day.
A Manseido Ishimura Tsurunoko Marshmallow
Thoery Three – Fujiya and Eiwa Theory
Fujiya, a cake and confectionary store based out of Yokohama, also began advertising and selling Valentine’s Day return sweets under the name of Return Valentine. Then, in 1973, they collaborated with candy maker Eiwa, to launch the Merci Valentine Campaign, promoting the gift of candies and marshmallows in return for Valentine’s Day.
I think it’s pretty clear that the premise for starting White Day in Japan was to sell more candy. So, it seems to me that all three of these theories hold some merit.
What’s the Meaning Behind these Sweets?
White Day is the day women thank the men that gave them sweets on Valentine’s Day. Since Japan is the land of subtlety, the type of sweets given on White Day have meaning for the man. It’s a way for the women to express themselves without ever saying a word.
These are the sweets that truly mean I like you! The reason for this is that candy is a hard, long lasting treat. It conveys the idea that the love for the other person is strong and will continue for a long time.
Gifting a cookie says let’s just be friends. Cookies are crispy treats that break easily and there are tons of different types. Friendships end, begin, and fade often. Because of these characteristics, the cookie implies that the relationship is like one of many and it’s not special.
Be careful giving marshmallows on White Day! The marshmallow actually means I do not like you in that way. The reason is because Japanese marshmallow treats melt quickly. So, this conveys the message that the relationship won’t last and will be forgotten easily.
Macarons express the message You are special. This is because macarons are delicate, take time to make, and are more expensive than other sweets. They tend to convey the message that this is a special relationship and a special person.
Giving chocolate back on White Day is probably the most common gift. It’s a subtle way of saying that there is no particular meaning to our relationship. Chocolate is the most common gift given between co-workers and it gives the idea that we’re just friends or acquaintances. It’s neither spirit crushing nor leading.
Naturally, the associations with the type of sweets given are not written in stone or 100% factual. I’ve received all of these from friends, coworkers and students. I don’t think any of them were making any implications about our relationships, at least not that I know of…hmm.