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Pink coloured kitkat with decorative box. A new addition to Japanese tradition.

Valentine’s Day and White Day: Japanese Traditions

Did you forget to buy your lovely lady some flowers last Valentine’s Day? Shizuka Ryokan forgives you; you were probably just following Japanese tradition.

In Japan men don’t have to worry about shopping for jewelry or flowers in February because Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently there; for the Japanese, Valentine’s is a day when women shower men with chocolate.

There are two types of chocolates. Giri-choco (義理チョコ, ‘courtesy chocolate’) is intended for friends, colleagues, bosses, and close male friends. ‘Giri’ translates as obligation and has no romantic connotation. On the other hand, honmei-choco (本命チョコ, ‘chocolate of love’) is given to a boyfriend, lover, or husband. Japanese women often hand make the honmei-choco in the belief that shop-bought chocolate doesn’t cut it when it comes to true love.

White Day (ホワイトデー) is celebrated one month later on March 14. On White Day the men who received chocolates on February 14 are expected to return the favour threefold  (sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し, ‘triple the return’) by giving gifts. Traditional White Day gifts include cookies, jewelry, white chocolate, white lingerie, and… marshmallows!

How did this White Day tradition happen? Well, in 1977, a candy company in Fukuoka declared March 14 Marshmallow Day (マシュマロデー Mashumaro Dē). This evolved into White Day in 1978 when the National Confectionary Industry Association (全国飴菓子工業協同組合) came up with a genius marketing ploy: an ‘answer day’ to Valentine’s. The slogan was: ‘Answer her love on White Day.’

White Day spread to South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and China. (Interestingly in South Korea Chupa Chup lollypops are the most popular White Day candy). These days, men give both white and dark chocolate, as well as cookies, jewelry, white lingerie, flowers and marshmallows.

Last week Nestlé Japan Ltd. launched the ‘Sublime Ruby Kitkat, a naturally pink chocolate, created by pâtissier Yasumasa Takagi. The Sublime Ruby Kitkat arose after Swiss cacao processor Barry Callebaut invented ‘ruby’ chocolate late last year. Ruby chocolate is the first new natural colour (following dark, milk, and white) for chocolate since white chocolate was invented in the 1930s. The new ruby chocolate is being marketed as the ideal romantic gift in the run up to Valentine’s Day.

[You might be asking: What about gay relationships? It seems that some couples have a tradition where one person gives chocolates on Valentine’s Day and the other returns the favour on White Day. And if you are single don’t fret: In South Korea there is a day for that. Black Day on April 14 is a day where people who didn’t receive any marshmallows can eat a steaming bowl of jjajyangmyeon, or ‘black noodles’]


Shizuka Ryokan serves a traditional banquet dinner every Saturday, Monday and Thursday. This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday so we are opening the kitchen on February 14 to celebrate. Visit here to book your stay.

SAORI weaving on a loom.

SAORI at Shizuka

Shizuka Ryokan will be rife with creativity and sustainability this October during a three day SAORI Japanese weaving workshop.

The philosophy of SAORI is an interesting one. In Japanese the word SAORI comes from ‘sai’ meaning individuality, and ‘ori’ meaning weaving. SAORI is markedly different from other forms of hand weaving because the weaver is encouraged to make mistakes. In traditional hand weaving regularity is the law, and an irregular thread is considered a mistake. In SAORI things are very different.

SAORI weavers follow four slogans:
1) Consider the differences between a machine and a human being
2) Be bold and adventurous
3) Let’s look out through eyes that shine
4) Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

Japan is renowned for the wabi-sabi philosophy, which can be loosely defined as a world view centered on the acceptance of imperfection. The wabi sabi aesthetic is in evidence at Shizuka Ryokan. For example, upon arrival guests receive green tea in an irregularly shaped Japanese cup. The style of the Japanese pottery is called hagi ware; the cup is rustic and simple looking, with unrefined textures and is beautiful because it is flawed. The philosophy of SAORI weaving is the same. SAORI weavers celebrate accidents, unexpected colours and textures.

Misao Jo invented SAORI in the late sixties. She was weaving an obi, a Japanese belt, and found that one of the threads was missing. Looking at the belt she realised that the mistake was pleasing to behold. She showed it to a person running a weaving factory who dismissed it as flawed and worthless but this did not deter Misao who had an inherent sense of the value of the handmade object. She deliberately made a belt with many flaws and showed it to the owner on an obi shop in Osaka who thought it was wonderful.

Misao thought that the aesthetic quality of the flawed obi must be the result of something hidden within herself. She realised that the obi’s beauty was a result of escaping conventional thinking in order to express herself. The philosophy of SAORI was born.

The SAORI workshop at Shizuka will be taught by Prue Simmons, founder of the Dyeing To Weave SAORI Studio. Prue is one of only three SAORI teachers in Australia. She learned traditional Japanese weaving and natural dye techniques from Toyomi Harada in the mountains of Honshu, Japan. Prue is interested in sustainability, natural dyes, upcycling and environmentally friendly textiles. Prue and her partner run White Stone Farm in Central Victoria. On the farm Prue raises llamas and uses their fleece to weave beautiful pieces.

The workshop runs October 2018. Dates to be announced.