White Day: The Women’s Valentine’s Day in Japan

ImageJust as the States borrowed the hamburger, Christmas trees, and burritos from other countries, Japan has the same tendency. With Valentine’s Day, it’s no exception. But Japan did more than adopt Valentine’s Day into its social holidays; it made White Day (March 14) a secondary Valentine’s Day where only men give chocolates to women. The custom is if a male receives a gift on Valentine’s Day (where only women give gifts to men), the male must return a gift with three times the value of their Valentine’s Day gift. 

Last year, most of female teachers at my schools complained about how the male teachers only bought them White Day gifts while they actually gathered together and made Valentine’s Day gifts. This year, the sports club teachers actually made a poor man’s tiramisu (an Italian dessert) consisting of vanilla pudding, graham crackers, and cocoa powder. No complaints from the female teachers. Everyone, including all of the male teachers who didn’t participate in the tiramisu-making, was impressed. On top of the tiramisu, I received a dainty tin can with chocolates from the English department and a small box of Belgium chocolate from the basketball coach. All of the gifts were delicious, so I’m really happy I didn’t take a day off!


Papa’s Kitchen in Okinawa

I was invited to a women’s luncheon at a school I worked for and the restaurant turned out to be an Italian restaurant. I love Italian food!

First, they served salad (sarada) with an egg soup, light cheese-tofu square, and a bit of meatloaf with a dallop of mustard. It tasted very well, though the taste was more towards the Japanese tastebuds than the Italian ones.

Pasta promptly followed the salad. It came a big, funnel-like bowl and looked like it wouldn’t completely satisfy my Italian-loving tastebuds. I was wrong; the pasta was absolutely delicious. The sauce wasn’t too heavy and the pasta wasn’t over or undercooked. It definitely beat out the jar of Prego my husband and I bought from San-A (a chain grocery store similar to Vons or Albertsons).

Handmade bread came to our tables in baskets, fresh from the oven. Having no oven, I had forgotten what it was like to eat handmade fresh bread. The outside was slightly crunchy while the inside was soft and fluffy. It reminded me of the bread served at the Cheesecake Factory, except this bread didn’t have that cardboard-paper taste. There were two kinds, wheat and white. The wheat was slightly sweeter than the white, and knowing that it was healthier as well, I took more than one slice of the warm bread.

Once the bread was nearly gone, the main course arrived, piping hot and beautifully arranged. A single piece of potato, broccoli, daikon (Japanese radish with a slight pungent flavor), and some purple mush I couldn’t identify surrounded a slice of saucy chicken. The chicken was so plump and moist, the vegetables flanking it was almost forgotten. The sauce was slightly sweetened and complemented the chicken and the various vegetables. As everyone ate their entree, I could hear the purrings of approval from the other women. Some even dipped the handmade bread into the sauce.

Lastly, the dessert came. Served with a thinly-sliced piece of sponge cake were arranged fruits and an ice cream cake. The fruits, which turned out to be sliced bananas, baked apples, and strawberries, tasted fresh but not overly sweet. The ice cream cake was chilly with its vanilla ice cream and cranberry cake mingling together for a wonderful, soft flavor. After the dessert, coffee or tea was brought to everyone, and it needed little sugar to sweeten the end of an amazing meal.