Friday, February 12, 2010

Obligation Chocolate

In American Fuji, I mentioned the ongoing "invisible obligation game" that Americans find baffling. To oversimplify, you owe every person who does you a favor or gives you a present. But paying back your social debt can be nerve-wrecking as it's nearly impossible to match an action or gift with the one you received. To be safe, you usually overdo it, which then puts the burden on the recipient to come back with another favor or gift, and the obligation ledger goes back and forth, adding and subtracting perceived value for a lifetime. Valentine's Day is an obligation day in Japan which requires women to give chocolate (giri-choco) to their male co-workers and acquaintances. They may also choose to give honmei-choco to their sweethearts. Most Japanese women I knew resented the holiday because buying small boxes of chocolate for 30-40 men put a dent in their budgets. Perhaps these days there is less pressure to conform to this tradition. Mieji, a popular Japanese chocolatier, makes many ingenious chocolates, such as this Tetris puzzle chocolate bar.

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