Things get personal, and sweet, in the latest chapter of the ongoing difference of opinions about a Japanese cultural tradition.

Last year, Belgian chocolatier Godiva took out a full-age ad denouncing giri choco, also known as “obligation chocolate,” the Japanese custom of women giving gifts of chocolate to platonic male coworkers and acquaintances on Valentine’s Day. Shortly thereafter, Japanese company Yuraku Confectionery, makers of the low-cost Black Thunder brand of chocolates, sent out a message of its own, saying that for those women who genuinely want a simple (and easy) way of saying thanks to their guy pals on Valentine’s, Yuraku is happy to help.

This year, Godiva again made the first move, tweeting its theory that even Yuraku’s female employees would want to give premium Godiva chocolates to their actual husbands or boyfriends on February 14. Once again, Yuraku took no offense at what some might call a subtle dig at Black Thunder’s major selling point, and changed the name of the official Black Thunder Twitter account to “Black Thunder 【officially recognized by Godiva as obligation chocolate】.”

Not only is the Twitter account sticking with its new name, Yuraku’s president, Tatsunobu Kawai, said he was planning to send a letter to Godiva in response. So we headed over to Yuraku’s headquarters in Kodaira, west Tokyo, to see what sort of message, and quantity of snark, he was planning to mail Godiva’s way.

As soon as we arrived, we were ushered into a conference room where the surprisingly young-looking president was waiting for us.

With the preceding dialogue between the two companies already publicly displayed through Twitter, we got right to the point, asking Kawai what made him decide, in this digital age, to go to the trouble of sending a physical, paper letter to a rival company, to which he replied:

“I was deeply moved by what Godiva did!”

Wait…what? Did we hear that right?

“I was deeply moved that Godiva was kind enough to recognize our company’s product, Black Thunder, as obligation chocolate. Man, I was just so happy!”

For a moment, we thought that maybe we just weren’t picking up on his subtle sarcasm. But then our sarcasm sensors went entirely offline when Kawai started double-fisting Godiva chocolate right in front of us

…and his expression left no doubt that he thinks it’s delicious!

▼ Godiva actually sent a gift of chocolate to the Yuraku offices this year, which we’re guessing is where the treats came from.

Still, it was hard to believe that the head of a major company would be so quick to send a thank-you letter to a rival that basically called their star product a lower-level candy. So confirm, we asked one more time if Kawai really was sending a letter to Godiva because he’d been moved by their attitude and recent tweet.


As proof, he let us sit right there while he got out the letter and signed his name to it, giving us an advance look at its contents.

The letter reads:

“Dear Godiva,

Thank you for recognizing us as the best obligation chocolate.

To show our appreciation, we are sending you some obligation chocolate.”

▼ Kawaii even made several practice runs for his signature, in order to have the characters look as neat as possible on the letter itself.

▼ Yuraku’s “we like you as a friend” chocolate gift to Godiva

Some might see the inclusion of a few jumbo-sized bags of Black Thunder (including the coveted white chocolate version, which is usually only available in Hokkaido) as a passive aggressive move on Yuraku’s part, but Kawai’s friendly demeanor has us convinced that’s not the case at all. While the “giri” in “giri choco” directly translates as “obligation,” it can also carry a connotation of doing what’s morally right, or honorably returning the favor in thanks for some personal kindness.

Black Thunder has always been perfectly happy with is position in the marketplace as an unpretentious and cheap yet still very tasty snack, and Godiva’s jabs at the practice of giri choco have done a lot to keep Black Thunder in people’s minds. Whether it was the Belgian company’s original intention or not, they’ve done a nice favor for Yuraku, and while Kawai and his company may not necessarily be in love with Godiva, they’d like to say thanks, which is what giri choco is really supposed to be for.

In other words, even if it may not like the custom, Godiva is the perfect recipient for obligation chocolate, and Yuraku’s sentiments are as sweet as its star product itself.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where his craving for Black Thunder is soaring.

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