And no, it’s not old men.

In Japan, women give gifts of chocolate to men for Valentine’s Day. It’s not just boyfriends, husbands, and hunky anime characters that receive sweet presents, though, but also male coworkers who don’t have anything more than a platonic relationship with the woman giving them the chocolate.

These non-romantic Valentine’s gifts, called giri choco (“obligation chocolate”) are meant as a general-purpose thank-you gift for the sort of daily help and support coworkers give to each other, and so giri choco doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Still, having to go out and shop for the candy then lug it all to the office can be both an expense and a hassle, especially since the custom is to bring giri choco for all the guys in your work team, not just the ones you’re especially good friends with.

So it’s not surprising that in a survey by Japanese marketing research group Intage, the majority of working women said they don’t really want to give out giri choco. The more unexpected result of the study is how few working men want to be on the receiving end of giri choco either, with one exception.

The poll collected responses from 363 working women, 82.8 percent of whom said they don’t want to give giri choco to their male coworkers. The desire to give giri choco was strongest among women in their 20s, where roughly one in four want to participate in the custom, dips severely among women in their 30s, rebounds in their 40s, then declines continuously from there.

Women age 20-29
Want to give giri choco: 24.6 percent
Don’t want to give giri choco: 75.4 percent
Women 30-39
Want to give: 12.8 percent
Don’t want to give: 87.2 percent
● Women 40-49
Want to give: 20.2 percent
Don’t want to give: 79.8 percent
● Women 50-59
Want to give: 16.9 percent
Don’t want to give: 83.1 percent
● Women 60-69
Want to give: 11.1 percent
Don’t want to give: 88.9 percent
● Women 70-79
Want to give: 6.7 percent
Don’t want to give: 93.3 percent

The 825 male survey participants were comparatively happier with the idea of giri choco, but still, overall, would rather go without, with 61.4 percent of men saying they aren’t happy when they receive giri choco. In only one age group, men in their 20s, did the majority of respondents say they’re happy to get it.

Men age 20-29
Happy to receive giri choco: 66.3 percent
Not happy to receive giri choco: 33.7 percent
● Men 30-39
Happy: 41.7 percent
Not happy: 58.3 percent
● Men 40-49
Happy: 28.8 percent
Not happy: 71.2 percent
● Men 50-59
Happy: 33.8 percent
Not happy: 66.2 percent
● Men 60-69
Happy: 37.4 percent
Not happy: 62.6 percent
● Men 70-79
Happy: 38.1 percent
Not happy: 61.9 percent

▼ Happy Valentine’s Day…?

But wait, how could receiving chocolate make someone unhappy? Even if you don’t want to eat it yourself, all you have to do is smile and say thanks, then pass it off to a friend or family member later, right? Well, even though that solves the problem of what to do with the giri choco, you’ve then got to worry about March 14, known as White Day in Japan.

On White Day, men are supposed to give thank-you gifts in return to the women who gave them presents for Valentine’s Day. As with Valentine’s Day, chocolates or other sweets are the standard gift, but conventional etiquette says that the White Day gift is supposed to be nicer, i.e. more expensive, than the Valentine’s Day gift. Unlike Valentine’s Day, there aren’t any confectioners leaning in to the “hey, this is just some cheap chocolate I’m giving you to be polite” angle in their marketing, so the costs can add up pretty quickly for a guy who has a large number of female coworkers, and who might not really have a big enough sweet tooth to have enjoyed eating all that Valentine’s giri choco in the first place.

All that said, there are people, both men and women, who genuinely like the giri choco custom, so it probably won’t be completely disappearing anytime soon. The survey shows that there are a lot of people who wouldn’t miss it, though, and with many working women and men having enjoyed a break from giri choco while working from home during the pandemic, it’ll be interesting to see how many return to the practice as they return to the office, and how many decide to just exchange Final Fantasy Valentine’s Day cards instead.

Source: Intage via Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he somehow managed to give his wife White Day chocolate before she ever gave him Valentine’s Day chocolate.