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Should there be giri chocolates at work? graph of japanese opinionRecently, Macromill Inc. published the results of a survey into Saint Valentine’s Day. They interviewed 515 female company employees aged between 20 and 39 from their internet monitor group over two days towards the end of January this year. In the sample 57 women or 11.1% were aged between 20 and 24, 169 or 32.8% between 25 and 30, 182 or 35.3% between 30 and 34, and 107 or 20.8% between 35 and 39.

In Japan, Saint Valentine’s Day actually incorporates two different celebrations. Before I mention them, note that this day is just for women to give stuff to men; we get our chance next month, on White Day, the 14th of March. One celebration is, of course, the one we all know in the west, giving a present to your object of affection. The second is “male appreciation day”, where 義理チョコ, giri chocolates, are given to men, usually work colleagues, in theory given freely as an expression of thanks, but the word “giri” can be translated as “obligatory”, indicating that most female employees have to pay for chocolates for all the men in the office. Mari Kanazawa covers this issue today in her own inimitable style, as does Shari at My So-Called Japanese Life.

At work there’s quite a fair haul of goodies – there is the standard chocolates (Royce, from our company shop), then some Zunda beans Pretz (I think they are a Valentine gift anyway!), and a huge selection of hand-made cakes by one of my colleague’s wife, whose hobby is making cakes for us. I had a lovely cherry sponge, done to the quality (including the obligatory double-wrapping) of commercial cakes.

Q1: Do you plan to buy chocolates for Valentine’s Day this year? (Sample size=515)

Yes 77.9%
No (to Q7) 13.4%
Don’t know (to Q7) 8.7%

Looking at the breakdown by age, there was little significant difference to be noted.

Q2: For whom do you plan to buy chocolates? (Sample size=401, multiple answer)

Husband or boyfriend 70.6%
Prospective boyfriend 12.7%
Family 44.1%
Boss 48.1%
Colleagues or subordinates 36.9%
Male friend 18.0%
Female friend 11.0%
Other 2.0%
Myself 16.0%

Note the first two answers will be classified as “true”, and the next six as “obligatory” in the next graph, to differentiate between the feelings put into (and the expense gone to) the purchasing decisions. Buying chocolates for oneself is not covered here!

Q3: Where do you plan to buy these chocolates? (Sample size=310 and 313, multiple answer)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Famous brand shop 32.6% 12.8%
Famous patisserie shop 20.6% 7.0%
Department store 51.0% 66.1%
Supermarket, convenience store 9.7% 24.6%
Internet shopping 15.8% 17.3%
Hand-made 23.9% 6.4%
Other 1.3% 1.0%

The two big age trends were first that the older one gets the more likely one is to buy one’s chocolates from department stores; 41.9% of the 20 to 24 age group were planning to shop there, but 55.0% of the 35 to 39 group were. Second, hand-made sweets were massively popular for the 20 to 24 year old group, with 45.2% planning on getting busy in the kitchen, whereas just 8.3% of those over 35 thought they would.

Q4: How much are you budgeting for one box of chocolates? (Sample size=310 and 313)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Total 2,148 yen 799 yen
20 to 24 years old
N=31 and 34
1,966 yen 773 yen
25 to 29 years old
N=102 and 107
2,188 yen 742 yen
30 to 34 years old
N=117 and 112
2,125 yen 881 yen
35 to 39 years old
N=60 and 60
2,218 yen 762 yen

Q5: Which maker’s chocolates do you plan to buy? (Sample size=273, 303 and 64, free and multiple answer)

Rank True chocolate
Percentage Obligatory chocolate
Percentage My cholocate
1 Godiva 33.3% Morozoff 14.5% Godiva 25.0%
2 Royce 13.2% Royce 13.2% Pierre Marcolini 17.2%
3 Pierre Marcolini 7.3% Godiva 12.9% Royce 15.6%
4 Demel 6.6% Mary’s Chocolate 12.2% Jean-Paul Hevin 12.5%
5 Morozoff 6.6% Meiji, Morinaga 5.9% each Demel, Morozoff 7.8% each

Q6: Do you expect to get anything in return for your chocolates? (Sample size=310 and 313)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Expect to (to SQ) 21.9% 9.3%
Perhaps expect to (to SQ) 40.3% 31.0%
Don’t really expect to 24.8% 32.3%
No expectations at all 9.4% 20.8%
Don’t want anything 3.4% 6.7%

Q6SQ: What would you like to get in return for your chocolates? (Sample size=193 and 126)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Cake 24.9% 36.5%
Cookies 18.1% 57.1%
Chocolate 14.0% 49.2%
Candies 3.6% 22.2%
Other sweeties 1.0% 6.3%
Accessories 45.6% 4.8%
Bag 17.6% 3.2%
Clothes 12.4% 3.2%
Shoes 9.3% 1.6%
Flowers 16.6% 5.6%
Meal 40.9% 11.9%
Other 6.7% 5.6%

Q7: Do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should be carried out? (Sample size=515)

Should be (to SQ1) 3.1%
Perhaps should be (to SQ1) 23.1%
Perhaps shouldn’t be (to SQ2) 38.6%
Should not be (to SQ2) 35.1%

There is a very definite trend with age, with 43.9% of those between 20 and 24 being in favour to some extent, versus just 17.8% of those between 35 and 39.

Q7SQ1: Why do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should be carried out? (Sample size=135, multiple answer)

Because it’s a good opportunity to deepen communication 72.6%
Because it’s a good opportunity to express feelings of gratitute 68.9%
Because it’s an enjoyable yearly event 31.9%
Because I can expect something at White Day 11.1%
Because I feel I will get a higher evaluation at work 1.5%
Other 2.2%

The most interesting trend was for expecting a gift in return on White Day; almost a quarter of the youngest group hoped for something back then, whilst none of the oldest group did!

Q7SQ2: Why do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should not be carried out? (Sample size=380, multiple answer)

Because it’s bothersome 73.4%
Because it’s quite an expense 62.1%
Because I must give them to people I don’t want to 46.3%
Because it’s a terrible custom 29.2%
Because I don’t have time to go and choose what to buy 26.1%
Other 4.5%

The hatred of the custom increases with age: 18.8% of those between 20 and 24 express a dislike, but this doubles to 37.5% of those between 35 and 39.

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