Source: © Pakutaso

Japan’s Giri-choco and Rental Girlfriends

Christmas is intended for lovers in Japan, and New Year’s is meant to be spent with family. How about Valentine’s Day? Of course, it’s intended for lovers and even children, but Cupid’s special day is a bit different in Japan.

Valentine’s Day in Japan

Valentine’s Day goes way back in Europe and the U.S.A, but how about in Japan? An ingenious plot cooked up by a Kobe confectioner called Morozoff first advertised the holiday in a 1936 publication aimed at foreigners. And in 1958, Isetan department store launched a “Valentine’s Day sale.” The trend took off from there in the 1960s.

Unlike in many other countries where both men and women exchange cards and chocolates, Japan is unique for women bearing the burden of gift-giving. Supposedly this difference resulted from a chocolate company’s translation error. In the coming years, candy companies took advantage of this mistake and introduced what is now called “White Day,” when men are encouraged to return the gesture, usually with marshmallows, white chocolate, or other small gifts.

Japanese Valentine’s Day Chocolates

I’ve always thought chocolate was just chocolate. But in Japan, when someone gives you a box of chocolates, it’s a bit more complicated. If you get 本命チョコ Honmei-choco, the woman means to say, “I really like you.” Another type called 友チョコ “Tomo-choco” (tomodachi chocolate) is given among friends.

The third and most interesting is called 義理チョコ Giri-choco. Giri-choco isn’t given to friends or crushes. It’s usually presented to co-workers. 義理 giri literally means ‘duty’ or ‘sense of obligation’ so these chocolates aren’t made with love.

Japan has lots of implicit manners and rules which nobody forces upon you, but which everyone expects you to follow. If you don’t, people around you can be passive-aggressive. This giri-choco trend is one of them. Some women buy quite fancy chocolates for their male co-workers, including their boss, even if they don’t particularly like them. A poll by Livedoor News last year found that 35.6% of women said they considered being asked for Valentine’s Day chocolates to be harassment.

A survey performed by Shufoo! last year found that about 59% of women were against giving giri-choco and about 29% of women thought the tradition should continue. However, when asked who they planned on giving Valentine’s Day gifts to in 2019, only 12.7% of women planned on buying a gift for their co-workers.

  • 85.8% - significant other
  • 45% - children
  • 27% - parents and relatives
  • 23.5% - oneself
  • 12.7% - work-related
  • 9% - friends and acquaintances
  • 3.6% - other

If you do get chocolates from someone, how can you tell which one it is? They all taste the same (unless you can taste the love and good intentions). If she doesn’t confess her love and you want to clarify to avoid any misunderstandings, you could always ask. But it might be a bit awkward if it’s not honmei-choco. Even if you have a girlfriend, can you safely assume it’s not giri-choco?

Rent-a-Girlfriend in Japan

So you didn’t even get any giri-choco and you don’t have a girlfriend. Well, while it’s certainly true that Valentine’s Day can make some single folks feel a bit lonely, it’s not the end of the world. We might even have found a solution for you.

It might sound a bit strange, but you can rent a girlfriend. Recently it's getting more popular in Japan. They act like your partner and they might even meet your parents if you ask. Though that could be awkward.

In the following video, Max from Asian Boss shows us what it’s like to rent a girlfriend in Japan:

We Rented a Girlfriend in Japan

Max’s “girlfriend” Shihomi states that people use the service for various reasons. Some have little dating experience, whereas others are too busy for a girlfriend and find renting a girlfriend convenient.

As we see with Max, aka Bae, and Shihomi, you can hold hands and feel like you really have a girlfriend. In Shihomi’s case, she says she tries to just be herself and have a good time.

However, there are certain rules that apply to the relationship. It depends on the company, but usually you aren't allowed to hug, kiss, or initiate anything sexual. Moreover, you can't meet them in a private room, get in a car, or exchange contact information.

The average price is about 6,000 yen per hour and requires a 2-hour minimum. Additionally, you need to pay for all food, drinks, and transportation fees. So it will cost over 20,000 yen for a two-hour date.

Shihomi seemed to speak a bit of English, but most of the sites don’t offer English support. Here is the link to the agency which Max used in the above video.

If you find yourself alone this year on Valentine's Day, why not rent a girlfriend or boyfriend? Just be careful you don’t fall in love.

By - Mujo.