纽约时报 | 日本送礼回礼文化 白色情人节还能存在多久

White Day: Japan's reverse valentine's Day 日本送礼回礼文化 白色情 […]

White Day: Japan's reverse valentine's Day
日本送礼回礼文化 白色情人节还能存在多久

For many in the West, the red-and-pink heart-filled celebrations of Valentine’s Day are already a month old.


But in Japan, shops and consumers have been gearing up for more commercialised romance, round two: a follow-up holiday called White Day.

商家和消费者为更商业化的第二轮的浪漫做准备:这是情人节的后续节日,在日本叫做白色情人节(White Day)。

It’s only been around for about 40 years, but it’s turned into a big-spending event and has even filtered into other East Asian countries like China and South Korea. Celebrated every 14 March C one month after Valentine’s C it works as a mirror image to the holiday it precedes.


On Valentine’s Day in Japan, women give chocolates to the men in their lives. A month later, on White Day, all the men who received presents must return the favour.


But these heavily marketed gender-specific holidays might be seeing a decline in popularity, amid broader changes in Japanese society.


Forced fun


Every 14 February in Japan, women give men “giri choco” C “giri” means “obligation”, “choco” means “chocolate”.


A month later, on White Day, men give their female gift-givers something white, like marshmallows, white cake or sweets, handkerchiefs or stationery, and sometimes more expensive fare like pearl-studded jewellery.

一个月后的白色情人节这天,男士会向送自己礼物的女士赠送一些白色的东西, 比如说棉花软糖、白色蛋糕或糖果、手绢或文具,有时候也会送更为昂贵的东西,甚至是镶有珍珠的珠宝。

Ishimura Manseido, a sweet-making company in Japan’s southern Fukuoka prefecture, claims to have invented the holiday around 40 years ago. In a country where giving gifts and showing thanks for those received are deeply entrenched, Ishimura capitalised on the popularity of Valentine’s Day, encouraging men to thank women with chocolate-filled marshmallow sweets.

日本福冈县南部的糖果制造公司石村万盛堂(Ishimura Manseido),声称在大约40年前创造了白色情人节。在日本,赠送礼物和回赠表达感谢的传统根深蒂固,石村万盛堂利用了情人节的人气,鼓励男士用填满巧克力的棉花软糖向女士表达感谢。

But with the two holidays, what started as something for lovers has extended to include a bevy of recipients: colleagues, bosses, family members, friends. It can get pricey, fast.


“In the late ‘80s or ‘90s in the bubble economy, I experienced getting a Hermes scarf from a friend’s father who had his own business, and this person was giving out the scarf to everyone,” says Sawako Hidaka, executive director at the global not-for-profit Asia Society’s Tokyo-based Japan Center.

日高(Sawako Hidaka)在东京的非盈利组织亚洲协会(Asia Society)日本中心担任执行理事,他表示:“在80年代末和90年代的泡沫经济时期,我曾从朋友父亲那里得到过一条爱马仕(Hermes)的围巾,朋友父亲自己开公司,给每个人都送了一条。”

“Now, this does not happen anymore, so my guess would be anything from 500 yen to 2,000 yen ($4.50-$18, £3.40-£14) would be average. But mind you, you are not giving it to just one person, so it does add up.”

“现在这种情况不会发生了。所以我猜,500日元到2000日元(4.50 美元到 18 美元,3.40 英镑到 14 英镑)这一范围内的任意数额都正常。但请注意,你不只送给一个人,因此花费是积少成多的。”

Gifts given, gifts received


Of course, arbitrary, made-up holidays exist all over the world. So-called “Hallmark holidays” in the US, for example, include “Sweetest Day”, essentially a much less popular Valentine’s Day in October on which people are encouraged to buy gifts or go out to dinner.

当然,任意编造的节日全世界都有。所谓的美国“赫曼假日”(Hallmark holidays)包括了“甜蜜日”(Sweetest Day),这个节日说到底远没有情人节那么高的人气,10月这天,人们会购买礼物或者外出就餐。

And while White Day exists for corporations to squeeze more money out of people, it’s surprisingly connected to core values of Japanese society.


As White Day approaches, Hidaka says, “each retail outlet will try to force-sell their merchandise as ‘okaeshi’, which is deeply rooted in the culture”.


Okaeshi means gifts given as thanks for receiving gifts. Presenting tokens of appreciation and love is a symbol of affection and respect the world over, but the practice takes particular importance in Japan, a country that highly values group harmony and smooth-running social and professional relationships.


Generally speaking, “Japanese gift-giving is a time-honoured tradition or long-standing cultural practice in that if you receive a gift, you are obliged to reciprocate. It’s not based on romance per se”, says Setsu Shigematsu, associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside.

一般来说,“日本人的送礼传统历史悠久,或者说这也是一种长期以来的文化习俗,因为如果你收到一份礼物,那么你就得有所回报。这本身并不是基于浪漫情感,”加州大学河滨分校媒体及文化研究副教授重松(Setsu Shigematsu)表示。

“Obviously, the misunderstandings that can occur here through such exchanges are readily apparent. People may be tired of the hassle that can come from this particular exchange of gifts, since it blurs the lines between romance and obligation.”


The near-mandatory nature of Japanese Valentine’s Day has led to gift-giving burnout in recent years. Could it take White Day down with it?


Decline in popularity?


According to the Japan Anniversary Association, an organisation that registers and studies the nation’s events and holidays, White Day spending last year fell about 10% from 2017, from 59bn yen (around $530m, £404m) to 53bn yen ($475m). It’s expected to fall to 49 billion yen this year.

日本纪念日协会(Japan Anniversary Association)是一家注册机构,研究该国重大事件及节假日。该协会认为,白色情人节的消费由 2017 年的 590 亿日元(约合5.3 亿美元,4.04 亿英镑)下跌至去年的530 亿日元(4.75 亿美元),降幅约为 10%。今年这一数字可能下跌至 490 亿日元。

There’s a simple reason for the decline, the association says: Valentine’s Day spending in Japan is down, too. If there aren’t as many women giving out chocolates, there will be fewer men spending cash to thank them a month later.


The same organisation estimates that Valentine’s Day spending in Japan dropped 3% last year. Still, that’s over $1bn, and not small business.

该协会还估计,去年日本情人节的消费额下降了 3%。但还是超过了10亿美元,这可不是一笔小生意。

“For us, the biggest impact event in business is Christmas C in Japan, a lot of people eat Christmas cake C followed by Valentine’s Day. White Day should be the third most important,” says Mayumi Nagase, a product manager for Puratos, a Tokyo-based chocolate and pastry company. “We sell a lot of chocolate and other ingredients to patisseries for making fresh cakes.”

L|(Mayumi Nagase)是位于东京的巧克力及糕点公司――焙乐道(Puratos)的产品经理。她表示,“对我们来说,对商界最有影响力的节日是圣诞,在日本,很多人都吃圣诞蛋糕,然后是情人节。白色情人节应该是第三重要的。我们可以看到很多巧克力和其他原料被送到糕点店来做新鲜蛋糕。”

But as the BBC reported last month, as robust as Japan’s chocolate sector is, the blowback against Valentine’s (and subsequently White Day) is apparent. Chocolatier Godiva took out an advert in 2018 that read: “Valentine's Day is supposed to be a day when you tell someone your pure feelings. It's not a day on which you're supposed to do something extra for the sake of smooth relations at work.”

正如 BBC 2月的报道,尽管日本的巧克力市场很强劲,情人节(以及随后的白色情人节)遭受的冲击还是很明显的。歌帝梵巧克力在 2018 年撤回的一则广告这样说:“情人节应是向某人坦露心声的日子,而不应是为了工作中的顺畅关系做其他事情。”

Might we be able to infer something about modern Japanese culture from all this?


Gender roles and societal expectations


Some people in Japan are sick of the burden and strange power dynamics at play with Valentine’s Day, especially in a context like the office. That includes men, too.


Mou Soejima is a chef and food coordinator based in Japan. He says he doesn’t see any extra business or clients on White Day, as it’s less about going out to eat, and more about giving and receiving okaeshi.

副u(Mou Soejima)是一位厨师兼宴会规划师。他表示,白色情人节这天没有任何额外的生意或者客户,因为这天人们并没有外出就餐,而是互送礼物。

“Return gifts that are more expensive than chocolate [received from women on Valentine’s Day] are expected, so it is a troublesome day for males as they have to decide what to give back,” he says. “White Day is incomprehensible C have you ever seen marshmallows more expensive than chocolate?”


“Clearly those holidays assign specific gender roles and sexual orientation,” says Tomomi Yamaguchi, professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Montana. “Heterosexuality is obviously the premise of the promotion of those holidays.”

“很显然,这些节假日构建了固定的性别角色和性取向,”蒙大拿大学社会学及人类学教授山口(Tomomi Yamaguchi)表示,“推广这些节假日的前提显然是异性恋。”

She points out that there are plenty of same-sex partners giving gifts on these holidays, or people giving gifts to platonic friends or even treats to themselves. But Japan’s twist on Valentine’s Day was, originally, entirely about women giving gifts to men.


“In those days, it was not common that women declare their love to men, but Valentine’s Day was the day of being allowed to do so,” says Mayumi Nagase.


Hidaka says that it was designed to give women the chance to show their feelings. “In a macho, male-dominated era, I guess that made sense,” she says. Like White Day, the origin story behind Japanese Valentine’s Day is a bit fuzzy, but around 1970, department stores started encouraging girls to buy chocolates for boys, so they could show their interest without using words.

日高表示,这是要给女性表达情感的机会。“在一个大男子主义的、男性主导的时代,我认为这是说得通的,”她说。就像白色情人节一样,情人节在日本的起源故事也有些模糊不清,但在 1970 年左右,百货公司开始鼓励女孩为男孩买巧克力,这样她们就可以无声地表达对男孩的爱慕。

Shigematsu thinks that people having less discretionary income has more to do with the holidays’ decline. After all, some estimates say that the average disposable income for a Japanese worker is the lowest it’s been in 30 years.


“Gender roles and gender identity are shifting in Japanese society, as elsewhere. The invented tradition of females giving gifts on Valentine’s Day, followed by a month later by males reciprocating them on White Day, is just not holding in terms of sales figures, given the other economic and social shifts happening.”


Yamaguchi, meanwhile, thinks that the exotic, Western allure of Valentine’s Day is running dry for modern Japanese at this point, being replaced by more recent imported celebrations like Halloween.


Puratos’s Nagase says that both Valentine’s and White Day are becoming more casual and less rigidly defined by romance: “Chocolate lovers, not only women but men, spend a lot of money to buy premium chocolates for themselves.”


So can White Day survive if Japan’s Valentine’s Day continues its identity crisis? Perhaps both could be rebranded for younger generations C a holiday where you treat yourself, rather than getting trapped in an expensive cycle of gift-giving.


“With the gift-giving-back culture, it does add up,” Hidaka says. “People have started to rethink.”


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