What Are Japanese "obligation Chocolates"?

japanese-obligation-chocolates Credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

In Japan, February 14 is a day in which women give chocolates to the men in their lives; the chocolates that women give to the people they aren't romantically involved with, such as relatives and co-workers, are known as "giri-choko," which translates to English as "obligation chocolates." The idea behind this terminology is that the woman is giving these chocolates out of a sense of obligation rather than love. When Japanese women give chocolates to their romantic partners or interests, these candies are known as "honmei-choko," or "true love chocolates."

The chocolate hierarchy on Japanese Valentine's Day has another step below the "giri-chocko" obligation chocolates: "cho-giri-choko," or "ultra obligation chocolates." These candies are typically quite cheap and are given to men the gifting woman doesn't really like, meaning that her sense of obligation is the only thing leading her to give the gift.

Though there seems to be some gender imbalance in this Valentine's Day celebration, women get their chocolatey reciprocity the following month. White Day, a Japanese holiday, falls on March 14, and on this day men who received chocolates from women on Valentine's Day are supposed to return the favor, only with much more expensive gifts.