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Japan Can Stop Giri Choco – St. Valentine’s Challenge 2018

2018.02.09

14th February is St. Valentine’s Day.  Originally it was, and still is, a religious feast, but in some countries, it has become a day for showing affection and gratitude to loved ones. 

Japan is traditionally a gift-giving society, and the St. Valentine’s Day tradition would suit its culture, which shows appreciation to others by sending small gifts for many occasions.  But St Valentine’s Day has evolved into a day of chocolate overkill – a wide spread of “Giri -choco” giving, selling over 100 billion yen ($1 billion) every year.

St. Valentine’s 2018

Survival Guide to Office St. Valentine’s Day


Started as a marketing campaign in 1936 by a Japanese luxury confectionary company, Kobe Morozoff, chocolate giving on St. Valentine’s Day gradually spread in the 1950s as a small, intimate gifting affair from a woman to a man she cares for.  But in the 1980s and the 1990s, as the economy and disposable income grew, this custom found its way into the workplace.

“Giri-Choco” giving started as Courtesy Chocolate, Office Ladies showing gratitude to managers and customers, but it has quickly become obligatory.  There are so many chocolates going around in the offices; women have to carefully differentiate the gift according to relationships to avoid any misunderstandings. 

Firstly, they had to make sure that Obligatory Giri-Chocos are not too impressive.  They are usually in small, simple packages and everyone gets them without fail.  The market of Obligatory Giri Choco is so big that in 2013, a confectionary manufacturer re-launched their small, individually packed chocolate as “Chocolate that is Obviously Giri Choco”.

Secondly, Courtesy Giri-Chocos are bigger and more expensive, reserved for direct bosses and good customers.  This is usually done with a sincere attitude. 

Finally, there always is the genuine love chocolate, that is nothing to do with an office environment.  But to make an obvious difference to Giri-Choco, many women make their own truffle chocolates or decorate hand baked chocolate cakes.

Can you Stop the Valentine’s Burden?  A Message to the Bosses


In some offices, many women and men feel pressured on 14th February.  For women, pressure comes from the obligation, the preparation, the relationship to other women colleagues, and the cost.  For men, it is the hope, despair, and the pressure of arranging the return of gifts on 14th March, White Day (Return the Gift to the Ladies Day, which is purely commercial).

Godiva Japan’s CEO, Jerome Chouchan, felt alarmed that the chocolates on St.Valentines Day have become a symbol of burden.  So this year, he put out an eye-catching, personally signed advertisement on Nikkei Newspaper, clearly targeting the managers in the office.  It says:

“Japan Can Stop Giri-Choco”

The message encourages those in power to ease pressure in the workplace.  St. Valentine’s Day is a day to express love to people you care about, not for the adjustment of internal office relationships.

Of course, each office culture is different.  Some companies recently banned chocolate giving as a part of compliance, as it could lead to harassment or bribery.  Some might be more open to the traditional management relationships within the office.  Some may have other ideas:  One insurance company has been running No Giri-Choco campaign since 1992, collecting 500 yen (5 dollars) per head, instead of buying chocolates and return gifts.  It continues today and the accumulated 36 million yens (360,000 dollars) has been given to charity.

The manufacturer of Obviously Giri-Choco has posted their reaction on a Twitter page; to go on and enjoy giving a lot of little chocs to colleagues as a little “thanks”.  And Godiva’s PR department does not deny that Giri-Choco has its place.  And many people enjoy the ritual – givers and receivers alike.

Changing Trend of St. Valentine’s Day 2018


“Giri” means Sense of Duty.  It is a beautiful characteristic of Japanese culture that should be celebrated.  All the participants of this chocolate craze should be allowed to simply enjoy St. Valentine’s Day in their own ways.

In 2018, it is expected to see a lot of fabulous pictures of chocolates and gift wrappings on Instagram.  Friendship Chocolate, giving and sharing the handmade/hand decorated chocolate with the like-minded will lead the market this year, away from the burden at the workplace.  

The reasons for participation in the St. Valentine’s Day craze is changing, and this advertisement makes sure that its original purpose of care for each other lives on, so that the givers and receivers enjoy their time spent on the process, the occasion, and the sharing of the moment.

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