Valentine’s Day Aishiteru

Ask any self-respecting Japanese woman what she has planned for Valentine’s, and she’ll tell you that it’s all been set — the chocolates, gifts, and dinner, all prepared and paid for, by her. On Barentain Dei, women take the initiative to shower their honmei or sweethearts with gifts, profess their love, and humour their male classmates and colleagues with giri-choco or obligation chocolates. For teenagers it’s a bitter-sweet initiation into romance and courtship, where girls brave a few burns to learn the art of tempering molten chocolate to create one-of-a-kind treats for the captain of the baseball team. For the more weathered, it’s about raiding Godiva for their lovers and husbands, and picking up cheaper consolation prizes for the lesser males in their lives.

The men, by the way, don’t have to do a thing for the women on Feb. 14. Not till Mar. 14,


How a lovers’ holiday in the west turned into a quasi-feminist chocolate orgy is unclear. The the first Valentine’s sale in Japan took place in 1958 and Tokyo chocolatier Mary Chocolate’s event generated 150 yen total in sales (the company sold three bars of chocolate in three days). Nevertheless, the marketing opportunity would not be lost in translation.


Men do not get an entirely free ride. In the late 1970s a number of confectionery company CEOs got together to try to figure out how to get a piece of the chocolate pie. Their equal opportunity marketing gimmick was to come up with “White Day” on March 14th, where the men are obliged to reciprocate for their Valentine’s gifts by purchasing candies and cookies. Easy enough? Well, maybe not. Expectations have grown since the 70s. According the polls, what women expect on White Day, in order of preference, are jewellery, watches, and handbags. Van cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Louis Vuitton are not complaining.


Love equals money no matter the culture.


*Aishiteru means I Love You.

One of the most popular phrases in any language is probably, “I love you”. In Japanese, “love” is, “ai (愛)”, and the verb form “to love” is, “aisuru(愛する)”. “I love you” can be literally translated as, “aishite imasu (愛しています)”. “Aishiteru (愛してる)”, “aishiteru yo (愛してるよ)” or “aishiteru wa (愛してるわ, female speech)” is normally used in conversation. However, the Japanese don’t say “I love you” as often as people in the west do, mainly because of cultural differences.  I think this may be a good thing because I would rather someone showed me they loved me than told me constantly. 


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