Giri choco

Giri choco (義理チョコ, lit. “obligation chocolate”) is chocolate given by women to men on Valentine’s Day in Japan as a customary gift. Unlike honmei choco, which is given to romantic partners, giri choco is a type of chocolate that women give to male co-workers, bosses, and acquaintances out of appreciation and politeness. Men generally reciprocate by giving women gifts on White Day, which is celebrated on March 14.

Giri choco

A bag of giri choco
Type Chocolate
Place of origin Japan
Main ingredients Chocolate

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On Valentine’s Day in Japan, giri choco is inexpensive chocolate that women give to male co-workers and friends to show appreciation and respect as opposed to honmei choco, chocolate that is given to romantic partners.[1] While Japan has a strong gift-giving culture,[1] the origins of giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day is unclear.[2] One popular explanation is that the trend was started by junior high school girls, who would give handmade chocolate to boys to see if they returned their affections,[3] and it later became commercialized in the mid-1950s,[4] with the first Valentine’s sale taking place in 1958 at Mary Chocolate.[2]

Harumichi Yamada from Tokyo Keizai University stated that the practice of giving chocolate occurred because women expressing their love to men was considered disgraceful, and confectioneries capitalized on chocolate as a way for them to profess their love; however, as the social status of women improved, Valentine’s Day was later considered a day where women give chocolate to men, through which the giri choco custom emerged.[5] Sachiko Horiguchi from Temple University, Japan Campus suggested that the giri choco custom first occurred in the 1980s where working women were obligated to give chocolate to their co-workers and bosses, as both of the Japanese corporate and gift-giving cultures made it appropriate for this exchange to take place.[6]

Japanese chocolate confectioneries make 70% of their business through Valentine’s Day annually.[1] The Chocolate & Cocoa Association of Japan reported that, in 2005, approximately US$400,000,000 (equivalent to $530,039,189 in 2020) was spent on Valentine’s Day chocolates.[2] The average woman spent US$36 (equivalent to $44.93 in 2020) on giri choco in 2007,[2] while it dropped to ¥1,033 in 2019.[7]

In the 1980s, White Day began as a tradition where men would reciprocate giri choco gifts in order to boost sales.[4] White Day gift sales are heavily influenced by sales from Valentine’s Day.[8][9]

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