Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, and Japan, like many other countries, celebrated this lovers’ festivity. Here, though, the celebration comes with a twist (or we would better say two?): in Japan, only the women give chocolate as a present, and they don’t just give it to the loved one, but to all the men in their lives, especially male co-workers. It’s the so-called giri choco, literally “obligation chocolate”, a practice with very few equivalents in other countries.
But do Japanese women really enjoy the giri choco tradition? According to a recent poll made by the Mainichi Shinbun, they don’t, at least not anymore: 83% of interviewed women said that they don’t want to give chocolate to male colleagues this year. Not even men seem to enjoy the gift: 61.4% answered that they are actually not looking forward to it.
This is not the first year showing a shift in Japan’s giri choco tradition. In 2019 Black Thunder, one of Japan’s most loved chocolate makers started running a giri choco-suspension ad campaign. Since then, many Japanese companies are supporting this change, with more and more offices banning giri choco. The practice was putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on female employees and is seen by more than 40% of male and female workers as a form of power harassment.
The pandemic was a good opportunity for people to reconsider how they relate to other people, and this year’s Valentine’s Day might be very different from the past. The results of the polls and the shift of major brands in their marketing strategies are clear indicators of the fact that there is a strong desire for change in Japanese society. And giri choco might soon change into honki (authentic) choco.