Friday, February 15, 2013

Ken-Bun-Ki "St. Valentine's Day"

Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996-97. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from February 6, 1997. 
Next week is Valentine's Day. The men will enjoy thinking about how much chocolate they are going to get, and the women are going to think about who they have to give chocolate to, along with the one person they want to give it to.
In the West, Valentine's Day is for friends and lovers. It is not just that girls give to boys and boys don't give anything back to girls. In Elementary School class-mates and friends give each other valentines. Everyone gets one. I like comics, so I always gave away Batman (Super Friends) cards. In the classroom there is usually a mini-party. In Junior High School, students only give cards or chocolates to their friends, mostly on the low-down. There aren't any class parties in Junior High School. Then in High School and College it is all about couples. For those with crushes, the notes usually say, "From a person who loves you." For couples they usually go out for a romantic dinner. Men don't buy chocolates; they buy flowers. This is a very romantic time, so a lot of people stage their marriage proposals around this date. That is why there are so many June Brides.
In the West there is no such thing a White Day. I think it is only Japan. I have heard that it was only created to help sell chocolate. Every year (in Japan) I would make hand-made chocolate chip cookies and hand them out to my women friends on Valentine's Day. Of course, there is no such thing as "required chocolate." Men, screw up your courage and give the person you love some chocolate. I guarantee the person will be touched by the gesture.
Hope you have a fun Valentine's Day!

So this is another article that needs something of an explanation.
In Japan, Valentine's Day is just for women to give chocolate to men. I don't know how it started, but the women buy all the chocolate and the men don't have to do anything. Not only do the women buy chocolate for the boy(s) she likes, she is expected to buy chocolate for *all* the men she knows. So in offices, for example, she has to buy chocolates for all her co-workers. It's pretty stupid, really. And if she has a man she actually has her eye on, she has to somehow get the point to him that she likes him while hiding in plain sight.
Then, in theory, the men are supposed to reciprocate on March 14, one month later, in what Japan calls "White Day." Of course, most men don't play along. So the women end up with nothing, haha.
And *that* is why I wrote that I make cookies and give them out on Feb 14. I didn't do anything to celebrate White Day, ever. Oh, except at home, because March 14 just happens to be my wife's birthday. :-) 

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