Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Why Japanese women dislike Valentine's Day

By Duncan Bartlett
BBC World Business Report

Women all over the world are hoping to receive flowers, gifts and chocolate from men today - a sign of affection to mark Valentine's Day.

A Japanese woman looks at a display of chocolate hearts
She's likely to be giving them, not getting them

But in Japan, things are different. Women are supposed to give chocolate to the men in their lives - boyfriends, co-workers but especially their bosses.

The Japanese call it Giri choco, or obligation chocolate, and it's big business.

Senior executives receive dozens of chocolate boxes from their female staff, which they often take home and feed to their families and children.

Confected tradition

The tradition is relatively new. It was started 40 years ago by Japan's leading chocolate manufacturer.

But in a culture where gifts are often used to cement good social relations, it has become entrenched in corporate life.

However, a recent survey found that 70% percent of female company workers would like the custom to end.

Not surprisingly, most males want it to stay.

Companies where there is a female boss remain rare in Japan and present a social dilemma on Valentine's Day.

One for the women

Some men solve it by presenting gifts to their boss on what's become known as White Day, which takes place in March.

That's the time when men give white sweets, like marshmallows and sugar almonds, to women - and it's another tradition conveniently invented by the confectionary firms. These days, at least for girlfriends and wives, lingerie can also be a popular gift.

But money-conscious shoppers have found a way of limiting the cost of this annual orgy of gift-giving.

They buy one box of sweets and take it to work. Then everybody gets to taste them, male and female, including the person who bought it in the first place.

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