Category Archives: SOCIETY

Valentine’s Day in Japan

February 14th is Valentine’s Day! In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a chance for women to show their appreciation to the different men in their lives. Here’s what the massive $800 million Valentine’s Day industry looks like in Japan.



Valentine’s Day has been celebrated across the globe for centuries, but it didn’t begin in Japan until 1958. That year, a chocolate company in Tokyo called Mary’s began selling heart-shaped chocolates and encouraging women to give them to their romantic interests. Since then, chocolate companies across Japan have jumped on the Valentine’s Day trend, and continue to market February 14th as being the perfect chance for women to confess their true feelings.


Valentine’s Day Today

Today, confessing your feelings on Valentine’s Day is still popular, but it has also become quite common for women to hand out chocolate to a number of men in their lives to show their appreciation. The types of chocolate handed out depend upon the relationship with the recipient – the deeper the relationship, the more elaborate and expensive the chocolate tends to be.

Types of Chocolate

There are actually three different kinds of Valentine’s Day chocolates given out on February 14th in Japan.

Giri-Choco is “obligation chocolate”. The Japanese word giri (ギリ) means “obligation” so it makes sense that this chocolate is given out of obligation. Giri-choco is a simple gesture of kindness to male acquaintances and coworkers, and has no romantic undertones.

Tomo-Choco is “friend chocolate”. Tomo (友) is Japanese for “friend”. Tomo-choco is given out by Japanese women to their other female friends. It also has no romantic undertones, and is just a sweet gesture of friendship.

Honmei-choco is “true feelings chocolate”. Honmei (本命) refers to one’s true, inner feelings that are kept hidden below the surface. Honmei-choco is given as a first-time confession of feelings to …continue reading


GaijinPot Readers Share Their Japan Love Stories in 100 Words or Less

Source: Gaijin Pot

I don’t care for Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m anti-romance — I just hate capitalism.

The scourge of the controversial holiday is nauseating here in Japan. Saccharine displays take up every shop window weeks ahead of time. Questionable ad campaigns stir up controversy. Women are unfairly expected to make and give away all the chocolatey goodness to every guy they know (though men supposedly reciprocate a month later on White Day). Ugh. Even when I am getting laid, the whole spectacle just annoys me.

So, naturally, I was chosen as the contributor to compile a series of reader-submitted 100-words (or fewer) love stories for GaijinPot this Valentine’s Day.

The result? You wonderful people opened your hearts to us and shared your experiences with love in Japan. There are stories of fairytale romances, missed connections and pepper jack cheese. Topics considered too taboo to openly discuss, like queer trysts and office romance, make steamy appearances. In total, about 40 people submitted, and though we were regrettably only able to select 10, every single one contained something valuable, authentic and thoughtful.

Y’all even made this cynic feel a little something this V-Day.

Lesson Learned

Photo: Jamie Lloyd

Japan taught me how to love, and allow myself to be loved by someone, unconditionally.

The reason my eardrums are still tickled by the fluttering interludes of Debussy. The backdrop for late-night sideways smiles leaning on door frames and early morning strolls to the post office, midday musings over washoku lunches on soft grassy knolls, sharing lives under umbrellas in the plum rain.

In the crazed fruits of the balmy Kansai air, I changed. We changed. I knew what it meant to feel alive. And for two people that couldn’t imagine ever deserving love, it meant—and continues to mean—everything.

—Jamie Lloyd

In …continue reading


8 Ways for English Teachers to Save a Bad Class

Source: Gaijin Pot
Men's junior high school student falls asleep.

When you step off the plane and start your adventure teaching English in Japan, the whole thing can be rather intimidating. You might have experience teaching in your home country or none at all. Either way, adapting to teaching here is going to be a challenge. It can be hard keeping students in line and on track when they speak another language. You might not understand them or they might not understand you and miscommunication can lead to some pretty disastrous lessons.

I remember the first English class I found difficult to control in Japan. The students kept sticking their tongues out and yelling “Justice!” every time I said, “just this” (a reference that I still don’t fully understand). It was stressful at the time but after teaching for a few years I’ve figured out that classes tend to have one of two problems: they can either be too quiet or too loud. The knee-jerk reactions to a loud class would be to tell the students to be quiet and to softly encourage a quiet class to speak more but with a language barrier, these tactics don’t always work.

So what to do? Here are eight ways based on my experience that can help you to save a class that feels like it’s going wrong.

If your students are too quiet…

1. Use technology to engage students

Interactive websites or apps are a great way to teach shy kids and get everyone engaged. Many ESL textbooks (such as National Geographic’s Explore Our World) have online games that test students on the book’s vocabulary and can be a really helpful teaching tool alongside regular classes. There are also many other websites that have education games such as BBC Bitesize or Games to Learn English.

To be honest, I thought a lot of these games looked …continue reading


Almost all Japanese like pork

Do you like pork? graph of japanese statistics

Let’s celebrate the Chinese New Year of the pig by a survey from @nifty looking at pigs and their meat.

In Japan the year’s animal is a wild boar rather than a pig, but as far as I am aware wild boar meat (and game in general) is not very popular at all in Japan, despite the massive pig love. In fact (although I’m not going to go back to check) I think pork is the most popular of all these “Do you like…?” questions.

Anyway, for all you bacon fans, bacon doesn’t appear explicitly on the list, in fact in my experience bacon is a rarity, although thinly-sliced fatty belly pork does feature in many dishes here.

Here’s a typical example of the pig-themed mosquito coil holder:

Research results

Q1: Do you like pork? (Sample size=2,283)

Love it 38.8%
Like it 56.2%
Dislike it 3.5%
Hate it 0.6%
Don’t eat it 1.0%

Men and women liked pork in just about equal amounts.

Q2: What pork dishes do you like? (Sample size=2,283, multiple answer)

Male Female
Tonkatsu, pork cutlets 86.3% 66.6%
Shoga yaki, fried with ginger 80.0% 71.9%
Tonjiru, pork miso soup 70.4% 67.1%
Kakuni, braised pork (usually belly) 51.3% 47.2%
Subuta, sweet and sour pork 51.5% 43.0%
Niku jaga, boiled pork and potato 48.1% 39.3%
Nikuman, Chinese steamed bun 44.6% 50.7%
Chashu, stewed pork Chinese style 44.9% 38.5%
Pork curry 45.2% 33.2%
Hoikoro, twice-cooked pork 39.2% 35.0%
Buta shabu, lightly boiled pork strips 35.8% 49.6%
Pork saute 31.9% 29.7%
Butadon, pork-topped rice 32.7% 22.8%
Pork kimchi 21.4% 22.0%
Other 1.7% 3.4%
None in particular 2.6% 3.4%

Q3: Which of the following pork brands do you know of? (Sample size=2,283, multiple answer)

Iberico pork 81.4%
Sangen pork 74.7%
Agu pork 57.2%
Kurobuta/Berkshire pork 46.0%
Kinkaton 45.2%
Yorkshire pork 33.1%
Tokyo X 27.9%
Hakkin (platinum) pork 16%
Awa pork 9%
Landrace pork 4%
Others 2%
None in particular 9%

Q4: What pork cuts do you like? (Sample size=2,283, multiple answer)

Roast 59.4%
Filet 55.1%
Belly 43.1%
Shoulder roast 39.2%
Thigh 24.6%
Shoulder 15.2%
Tontoro, fatty pork from cheek, neck or shoulder 14.1%
Liver 11.4%
Tongue 8.5%
Trotters 8.0%
Heart 7%
Tripe 6%
Ears 5%
Other 2%
None in particular 19%
Don’t eat pork 1.0%

Q5: What products with pig-based motifs do you find cute? (Sample size=2,283, multiple answer)

Male Female
Mosquito coil holder 45.8% 46.9%
Piggy bank 35.2% 39.8%
Cuddly toy 20.9% 28.6%
Room decorations (German good luck pig, etc) 8.5% 14.9%
Pillow, cushion 5.4% 4.5%
Otoshi futa, drop lid 3.5% 12.7%
Stationery (memo pad, etc) 2.3% 6.4%
Other 0.9% 0.8%
None in particular 38.5% 31.8%

The otoshi futa is a bit of …continue reading