February 13, 2010
Valentine’s Day, like everything else, has been warped by Japan’s cultural filters like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. Here’s what I had to say about it a couple of years ago.
It is traditional for Japanese women to give chocolates to the men they love on Valentine’s Day. Ladies, if you want to make more of an impression this year, why not present your loved one with some of the seasonal chocolate beer I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? Or, even better, with this heart-shaped Domino’s pizza?
Pizza and beer are surefire shortcuts to a man’s heart.
Anyway, I’m about to lapse into a diabetic coma from all the chocolate I’ve been eating, so here, for your listening pleasure, is a tacky 80s song called “Valentine’s Kiss”, sung by women in swimsuits.
And here are some amusingly dated chocolate commercials starring Japanese pop stars.
February 14, 2008
Today is Valentine’s day. In Japan this means men are lovingly showered with gourmet chocolates and gifts, and women get absolutely nothing at all. Yes, the roles are entirely reversed, like in some weird parallel universe! At home I’d be lucky to get anything more than a card on February the 14th, but that’s not the case here. When I was working for a conversational English school, Japanese housewives and schoolgirls would indulge me with boxes of expensive chocolates and home-made cakes. While this is brilliant news for me, it’s an utterly crap day for Japanese women.
The concept has been freakishly warped en route to Japan. March the 14th is “White Day,” which is when men, in turn, are expected to buy presents for the women who gave them chocolates. By then, of course, there’s no risk involved! A guy can give a gift to a girl, safe in the knowledge that she is keen. There’s no embarrassment, rejection or hurt pride (unless, of course, you’re a Japanese girl.)
So, in a curious twist on traditional romantic roles, the men take on the timid, submissive role, while all the boldness, risk-taking and chivalry is done by the ladies. Gotta love this country!
And they wonder why so many Japanese girls run off with foreign men.
What am I doing tonight? Well, my boss has decided to have a leaving party for a co-worker, and I have to go. On Valentines day of all days! Clearly he has all the romantic instincts of a nine year old misogynist. If I had called my ex-girlfriend in England on Valentine’s Day and said “Sorry, let’s cancel dinner tonight, I’m going out drinking with the boss!” I would have arrived home to find my clothes and belongings strewn all over the front lawn, shortly before having my balls ripped off with a pair of pliers. Evidently, Japanese wives are endlessly patient. And at least, if hubby spends the most romantic day of the year out boozing with his pals, it means the wife doesn’t have to spend all day slaving in a hot kitchen, baking chocolate cakes.
Ah, Tokyo, city of romance.