What is White Day in Japan?

Published March 11th, 2022

Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic holidays worldwide, right? We all know what that is, but in Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with the women giving the men chocolates. To know more about Japanese traditions for Valentine’s Day, give our Valentine’s Day special episode a listen on the Nihongo Master Podcast!

But anyway, do you know what White Day is?

White Day is when the men reciprocate exactly a month later, on the 14th of March. It’s the day for repayment and basically the male counterpart to Valentine’s Day. All the pink and red decorations get replaced with white ones.

This article is the basics of what you need to know about this other Japanese romantic holiday!

History of White Day

To understand White Day, we first have to take a look at its history. So who was the genius that invented this day? We’d have to go back to the 1970s again when a small confectionary shop called Ishimura Manseido in Hakata started selling marshmallow-chocolate treats.

An executive of the company, Zeno Ishimura, read a letter where the woman writer wasn’t happy with how the men get chocolates. She wrote, “it’s not really fair that men get chocolate from women on Valentine’s Day but they don’t return the favor. Why don’t they give us something? A handkerchief, candy, even marshmallows...”

So after countless meetings and collaboration agreements, the first ever White Day celebration was on March 14th, 1978 with the help of a local department store, Iwataya. Back then, it was known as Marshmallow Day, since most of the treats were marshmallows, or marshmallow-stuffed chocolates. The store later suggested changing the name to “White Day” instead.

Fun fact: the name “White Day” is a reference to marshmallows, actually. Some would say that white represents the purity of happiness, but to each their own, I guess.

How to Celebrate White Day

Now it has become a tradition for couples to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and White Day together. For both days, most couples take the opportunity to go on a fancy, romantic date. Many opt for a nice meal at a restaurant, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. Some couples might opt for a picnic instead, or a thrilling day at the amusement park.

For singles, White Day is usually not celebrated. If a girl gives chocolates and confesses to a guy on Valentine’s Day but he rejects her, the two won’t be celebrating this romantic holiday together. He doesn’t even have to return the gift.

There’s no one way to celebrate White Day, just like how there’s no one way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The real deal is what you give to the ladies on this special day.

What to Give on White Day

While the ladies would give the men chocolates on Valentine’s Day, what would the men give to the ladies on White Day as a way to return the gift? Even though it started off with marshmallows, nowadays, it’s not only marshmallow delights. White chocolate and other similar gifts are included as acceptable gifts for okaeshi (お返し, return gift).

On top of that, the guys will have to add on gifts on top of sweet treats. It’s not a hard and fast rule but it is said that the gifts men give to women are supposed to be at least two or three times the price of what the women gave during Valentine’s Day. So, on top of marshmallows and chocolates, men would often include luxury product gifts to give on White Day.

If a guy were to give a gift on White Day that’s lower in price as what the woman gave on Valentine’s Day, it’s disdainful; if you give it equal in price, it’s a sign that you want to end the relationship. I don’t know how accurate this is, but I do know that some men and women in Japan have stopped practicing Valentine’s Day and White Day traditionally altogether due to this social pressure of gift-giving.

Traditional associations with sweets

If you’re planning in advance on what to give your girlfriend for White Day, there are different levels of tiers for gifts. Traditionally, of course. You could be traditional and give her marshmallows, but because they melt and dissolve, this can send the message of “I don’t like you”.

Cookies are a safe bet, but they scream “we’re just friends” because cookies are dry, and they’re implying that your relationship is dry.

Go for hard candy — macaroons are on the same level as this, as they are treats where you can hold in your mouth for a longer period of time, so it says “I like you”.

As I said, these are traditional understandings of gifts. If you know your partner well, you’ll get her sweets that she loves, and it wouldn’t matter if it had any association with old school meanings!

Happy White Day!

Now that you know about White Day, will you be celebrating this second romantic holiday this year? I’ve been celebrating it for years now, I don’t think I’ll ever stop celebrating this occasion! And for all the single gals, don’t get upset. Just like how there’s Galentine’s Day, I bet girls celebrate White Day with each other too…and if not, make it a thing with you and your gal pals!