In Japan, Valentine's Day is celebrated differently than it is here. There is Valentine's Day and White Day.

On Valentine's Day, February 14, the women buy men gifts instead of men buying women gifts. A woman will usually buy chocolates for the man of their liking and also buy chocolates for co-workers and men who aren't so close to her.

These gifts of chocolate are divided into two types: giri choco (obligatory chocolate) and homei choco (chocolate for the man that she is into). Giri choco is given by women to their superiors at work as well as to other male co-workers. It's not unusual for a woman to buy up to 20 to 30 boxes of giri choco.

Departments stores and shops look forward to Valentine's Day, and promote with zeal because of its potential for increased sales. Large displays featuring chocolate usually with heart shapes start to grace the shelves of department stores in mid-January or so. Women who wil spend several hundred yen on giri choco will spend even more on a box of honmei choco.

While all of this may seem quite one-sided, confectioners in Japan - never ones to miss an opportunity to sell more - took advantage of the Japanese feelings of obligation and created "White Day" in 1980 to help assuage the guilt feelings of those obligated males who received chocolate on Valentine's Day. On March 14th, exactly one month after Valentine's Day, men who were lucky enough to receive gifts of chocolate have the chance to return the favor by giving the women who gave them gifts of chocolate a more expensive box of chocolate or sweets (for some reason or other, these return gifts seem to be priced slightly higher than those the women purchase).The White Day presents have some meanings. If a man gives a woman handkerchief, it means "I don't love you, so dry tears with the handkerchief by yourself." If a man gives a woman a cookies, it means "Let's remain friends." If a man gives a woman marshmallows, it means "I love you." If a man gives a woman candies, it means "I have a sweetheart."

Again, the stores provide plenty of reminders of the approach of this day so that even the most forgetful man cannot say that it slipped his mind. The gifts of chocolate that men buy are in white boxes (after all, it is "White Day") and come with separate shopping bags to put them in.