Women give men chocolate as gift on Valentine’s day in Japan. It’s a tradition since the end of the WWII, when a chocolate company tried to market chocolate to Japanese people. In those days both chocolate and Valentine’s Day were something new in Japan–rarely anybody ate chocolate or observed Valentine’s day. The chocolate shops were visited mostly by Japanese women who came to try something new while men didn’t have much interest in this exotic sweet. So one of the marketing guy came up with the brilliant idea of advertising Valentine’s day as a time for women to buy chocolate for men. It worked very well and the sales jumped significantly. It worked so well that since then every woman buys chocolate for her significant other and all the men she knows.
You would think Japanese men are happy to receive chocolate as gift, but no, that’s not the case. Japanese men treat the gift as a nuisance. First of all, even women he hardly knows would give him chocolate which makes him a little uncomfortable. Second, some women would insert little notes of admiration for their favorite men, who have to find diplomatic ways to refuse such advances. Third, one month later, on “White Day”, men have to give gifts of similar or better value back to all the women who have given him chocolate. It’s a total headache.
In South Korea, in addition to Valentine’s day and “White Day”, there’s “Black Day” on April 15 when all the single people eat noodle made of buckwheat. By the way, that’s my favorite noodle and it is delicious.
However most single people do not want to admit they are single on Valentine’s day and this is a serious issue for many Asian countries where one would rather lose a limb than lose face. When this love themed holiday spread like wild fire, serious psychological and social issues emerge. But don’t worry. The business “Rent A Friend” comes to the rescue. Here you can rent a boyfriend or a girlfriend of beauty and intelligence to take with you to parade in front of your friends, to make your former lover jealous, to comfort your mother who’s desperate for grandchild.
And why stops at Valentine’s day? The business works so well that it expands to rent a parent and rent a child and rent a bridesmaid, finally resulting into a booming rent-a-family industry. Nowadays, aging is a serious issue in many places, and lonely senior citizens can rent children and grandchildren who bring holiday noise and cheer and filial piety, who shower their fake predecessors with love and attention.
In addition to the hype of Valentine’s day, several countries also celebrate the lunar calendar July 7 for lovers. And each year, in the ancient city of Luoyang, lovers would hang decorations on tree branches above the tomb of Emperor Guangwu, who lived 2000 years ago. The tomb is empty, pillaged by generations of daredevil tomb raiders. However his spirit lives forever. He’s a brilliant general, but he hates wars; he’s a born politician, but he only wants a quiet family life with the love of his life, Yin Lihua. Their love stood the trial of wars, separations, betrayal, heartbreaks, political intrigue, the practicality of worldly considerations, and the passage of time.
Each of us sings our ode to love in our own way.