Today is the day that Japanese men have to repay the largesse they were shown by the fairer sex on Valentine’s Day; and so it’s the day that I have to repay my own massive chocolate haul. The White Day “tradition” in Japan (if you can call a wicked scheme hatched by Big Chocolate a “tradition”) is for men to give chocolates to women in repayment for the chocolates they are given on Valentine’s Day. Typically the man’s responsibilities are lesser: he doesn’t have to give chocolate to women who didn’t give to him, whereas women are expected to shower all the men in their lives (friends, lovers, family and colleagues) with chocolate. I find this imbalance in gift-giving very pleasing. Nonetheless, I’m nothing if not a stickler for tradition, so today I delivered some Godiva chocolates (specially packaged for White Day!) to the Delightful Miss E, and last night I gave a small box of truffles to a friend. I also gave chocolates to the office staff at my work today: they didn’t give me anything but nothing makes life easier than small kindnesses to one’s office staff. Who me, mercenary? I’m not giving chocolates to the one student who observed the Valentine’s Day tradition, because she baked a chocolate cake (a very delicious one!) for the entire Department, which presumably means that she’s now received a year’s supply of chocolate in return, and I refuse to repay that kind of callous profiteering.

At every significant railway station in Tokyo there is at least one stall selling White Day goods, and today when I emerged from the barriers in Kichijoji I saw a long line of harried Salarymen waiting to buy White Day chocolates at the local stalls (there were two). Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned on White Day, and so they lined up … harmony in the home, harmony in the nation and all that… but I did notice a sizable number of women in the queue too. This would probably be because lots of women have taken to buying chocolate for their female friends on Valentine’s Day, which then naturally leaves them obliged to buy repayment chocolate (okaeshi) on White Day as well. Truly, women have it tough …

Though I noticed at Ochanomizu station that the florist had a sign up on Valentine’s Day, which depicted a man giving a woman a rose, and the slogan “Let’s try a new kind of Valentine’s Day.” I hope the flower of Japan’s manhood are wise enough not to let this kind of pernicious nonsense catch on hereabouts …

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