Do you think there should be exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work? graph of japanese statisticsIt’s coming up to that time of the year in Japan where the women may express their love and have to express their gratitute, so Macromill Inc looked at women and Valentine’s Day.


Over the 21st and 22nd of January 2009 515 female members of the Macromill monitor group aged between twenty and thirty-nine completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 54 were aged between 20 and 24, 155 between 25 and 29, 174 between 30 and 34, and 132 between 35 and 39.

In Japan there are two different types of chocolate that women must buy for Valentine’s Day. The first kind is “true” (本命, honmei) chocolates, the other “obligatory” (義理, giri); the first goes to your true love (or object of infatuation, etc), the second male colleagues at work. As you may guess, the amount of effort and expense gone to for each type varies greatly!

Note that “traditionally” it is the women who give men presents on Valentine’s Day, and they hope for something in return on White Day, the 14th of March. However, from this year some of the chocolate makers have been promoting 逆チョコ, gyaku choko, reverse chocolates, which come in a mirror imaged box.

Two years ago I translated a similar Macromill Valentine survey that you may want to cross-reference.

Research results

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

Yes 77.5%
No (to Q8) 14.2%
Don’t know (to Q8) 8.3%

Looking at the breakdown by age, there was little significant difference to be noted except for the 20 to 24 year olds; perhaps too many of them are busy with univeristy and college to worry about love?

Q2: For whom do you plan to buy chocolates? (Sample size=399, multiple answer)

True chocolate

Husband or boyfriend 70.2%
Object of infatuation 11.5%

Obligatory chocolate

Boss 52.1%
Family 46.6%
Colleagues or subordinates 40.6%
Male friend 18.5%
Female friend 11.8%
Other 2.5%

My chocolate

Myself 16.5%

Q3: Where do you plan to buy these chocolates? (Sample size=311, 324, and 66, multiple answer)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
My chocolate
Famous brand shop 19.6% 9.0% 34.8%
Famous patisserie shop 14.1% 5.2% 47.0%
Department store 52.1% 63.6% 68.2%
Supermarket, convenience store 11.3% 25.9% 6.1%
Internet shopping 13.8% 15.1% 25.8%
Hand-made 31.8% 9.0% 4.5%
Other 2.9% 3.4% 3.0%

Q4: How much are you budgeting for one box of chocolates? (Sample size=311, 324, and 66)

True chocolate
2,201 yen
Obligatory chocolate
826 yen
My chocolate
2,034 yen

Q5: Which maker’s chocolates do you plan to buy? (Sample size=249, 307 and 66, free and multiple answer, top five answers)

Rank True chocolate
Percentage Obligatory chocolate
Percentage My chocolate
1 Godiva 31.7% Morozoff 14.7% Pierre Marcolini 24.2%
2 Pierre Marcolini 12.4% Godiva 12.4% Jean-Paul Hevin 19.7%
3 Jean-Paul Hevin 11.2% Royce 10.1% Royce 18.2%
4 Royce 10.4% Mary’s Chocolate 9.4% Godiva 16.7%
5 Demel 8.8% Meiji, Morinaga, Lotte 7.8% each Demel 12.1%
Don’t know yet 44.2% Don’t know yet 55.7% Don’t know yet 39.4%

Q6: Do you plan to give anything along with the true chocolates? (Sample size=311)

Yes (to SQ) 37.6%
No 27.3%
Don’t know 35.0%

Q6SQ: What do you plan to give along with the true chocolates? (Sample size=117, free and multiple answer)

Rank   Percentage
1 Clothes 20.5%
2 Necktie 17.1%
3 Scarf 12.8%
4 Handkerchief 11.1%
5 Gloves 10.3%
6 CD, DVD 7.7%
7= Wallet 6.8%
7= Wristwatch 6.8%
7= Interior item 6.8%
7= Alcohol 6.8%

Q7: Do you expect to get anything in return for your chocolates? (Sample size=311 and 324)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Expect to (to SQ) 23.8% 15.4%
Perhaps expect to (to SQ) 33.1% 29.3%
Don’t really expect to 26.7% 28.7%
No expectations at all 10.9% 17.9%
Don’t want anything 5.5% 8.6%

Q7SQ: What would you like to get in return for your chocolates? (Sample size=177 and 145)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
Cake 30.5% 34.5%
Cookies 24.9% 53.1%
Chocolate 22.6% 50.3%
Marshmallows 6.8% 8.3%
Candies 4.0% 15.2%
Caramel 1.7% 11.0%
Other sweeties 1.7% 4.8%
Accessories 34.5% 4.1%
Bag 20.9% 1.4%
Clothes 14.7% 1.4%
Shoes 8.5% 2.8%
Handkerchief, hand towel 4.0% 17.2%
Meal 43.5% 13.8%
Flowers 13.0% 1.4%
Other 7.3% 5.5%

Q8: Do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should be carried out? (Sample size=515)

Should be (to SQ1) 3.9%
Perhaps should be (to SQ1) 25.2%
Perhaps shouldn’t be (to SQ2) 38.6%
Should not be (to SQ2) 32.2%

There is a very definite trend with age, with 37.0% of those between 20 and 24 being in favour to some extent, versus just 17.4% of those between 35 and 39.

Q8SQ1: Why do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should be carried out? (Sample size=150, multiple answer)

Because it’s a good opportunity to deepen communication 75.3%
Because it’s a good opportunity to express feelings of gratitute 64.0%
Because it’s an enjoyable yearly event 28.7%
Because I can expect something at White Day 14.0%
Because I feel I will get a higher evaluation at work 4.0%
Other 2.7%

15% of those between 20 and 24 thought they’d get a better evaluation at work from giving chocolates.

Q8SQ2: Why do you think that the exchanging of obligatory chocolates at work should not be carried out? (Sample size=365, multiple answer)

Because it’s bothersome 73.2%
Because it’s quite an expense 64.1%
Because I must give them to people I don’t want to 50.7%
Because it’s a terrible custom 43.6%
Because I don’t have time to go and choose what to buy 25.8%
Other 3.0%

Q9: Compared with last year, how has your budget for presents changed? (Sample size=311, 324, and 66)

  True chocolate
Obligatory chocolate
My chocolate
Increased 15.1% 4.0% 24.2%
Not changed 81.7% 84.0% 72.7%
Decreased 3.2% 12.0% 3.0%


Janne · February 6, 2009 at 23:52

I heard “tomo-choko” for the first time today, as a term for chokolates given by a female to a female friend. See if that idea catches on. If it does, will we be required to give stuff to our male friends on White Day?

Dave Faulkmore · February 7, 2009 at 11:00

Girls like to shop. But do guys?! It makes sense this girls might target other girls who will actually give something back in a month.

From the survey it seems girls are using this to gain favor with their coworkers. So maybe this year with everyone worried about losing their jobs that the trend might increase this year, even though people are cutting down on other expenses like going out to restaurants.

Rule #1 Protect your own ess

Ian · June 13, 2011 at 06:02

@Dave yeah so totally on there.
i learned rule, well probly the 1st thing i did ever learn. chuckle.
Obligatory chocolate are kinda double edge $$ sword. in my opinion.

Mini Roll Butter Towel ? for Valentines Day « Shibuya246 · February 7, 2009 at 01:44

[…] Here is a very good look at what women are thinking around this Valentine Day period from […]

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