Japanese women bitter at Valentine chocolate duty
Updated: 2006-02-15 08:53
Japanese women are fed up with a longstanding Valentine's Day custom
requiring them to give chocolates to men without getting any in return.
A salesperson displays a box of Chocolatier
Antwerpen's chocolates at a department store ahead of Valentine's Day in
Tokyo in this February 8, 2006 photo. According to an Internet survey, 70
percent of working Japanese women said they would be happy if there was no
tradition of giving 'obligatory chocolates' to their boyfriends or
According to an
Internet survey, 70 percent of working women said they would be happy if there
was no tradition of giving "obligatory chocolates" to their boyfriends or
Nearly 60 percent said they felt unhappy as Valentine's Day approached,
citing the cost and time it takes to shop for the gifts, which are finely
calculated to express just the right emotions toward a boss, a colleague or a
The custom has grown into a sweet 50 billion yen ($424.6 million) market for
Japan's chocolate makers, some of whom rake in 20 to 30 percent of annual
profits in a few short weeks.
Confectionary maker Morozoff Ltd. is widely credited with having introduced
Valentine's Day to Japan with a 1936 advertisement for chocolates, but it wasn't
until two decades later that Mary Chocolate Co. Ltd. used the day to promote
"Our then-president admired how American women could express their feelings
to men, and thought it would be good if Japanese women could do the same," said
Yoko Usami, a spokeswoman for Mary Chocolate.
A month later, on what is known as "White Day," men are supposed to return
the favor, usually by giving sweets -- a task that they too are far from happy
with, the survey found.
Fifty percent of men said shopping for a return present was bothersome, and
they don't like to be compared with others.
"Certainly things have now changed so women can freely express their
affection, so the Valentine's Day custom isn't essential," Usami said.
"But it allows people to acknowledge their own feelings, so I think it's
still nice to have."
In a reflection of the changing times, perhaps, retailers say that women are
now becoming much more likely to buy pricey chocolates costing up to $200 a box
as a special treat -- for themselves.