It’s White Day…

No, it’s not a holiday.

In Japan, March 14th is White Day and on this day, all the guys who received chocolates and presents from girls on Valentine’s Day are supposed to give back a present to them.  I’ve heard that this custom has also spread to South Korea and Taiwan and parts of China.

When I was in elementary school, White Day didn’t exist in the part of the Japan I lived in.  I think I remember hearing about it once I was in high school and, by the time I was in my early 20’s, it was part of the culture.

After moving down here to Kyushu, I was surprised to learn that the concept of White Day was started by the president of a confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido, which is a big company here in Fukuoka.  He started selling sets of marshmallows.

Why marshmallows?  Well, his company made sweets which were made with sugar and egg yolks.  The egg whites were originally thrown out.  The president thought that was wasteful and made a new creation using the egg whites with sweet potato paste inside.  (Marshmallows with yummy stuff inside.)

So, when he came up with the idea of White Day, his company used the egg whites and made smaller, bite-size marshmallows.  His idea first became popular in the Fukuoka area and spread across Kyushu, then to the Kanto area (where I grew up).

And, of course, when the company started making money for White Day, other companies followed suit.  One started making special white chocolate.  Another started selling cookies.  (Yes, the sweets and boxes and wrapping paper… all white.)

Nowadays, the guys will buy anything from jewelry to candies to clothing to pottery to give back.  (Pottery is unusual, but it’s what one of my friends got this year.)  And the men probably spend more money on return gifts than the women spend on Valentine’s Day presents.

Maybe that’s true in every country… 🙂

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Samantha speaks English?!!

Though I was born in the States, my missionary parents brought me back to Japan when I was just four months old.  (They had first come over in 1964 and I was what many missionary families referred to as a “furlough baby.”)

Hearing both Japanese and English all day, every day was normal growing up.  My parents and brothers spoke both languages in the house.  Media-wise, well, there was FEN (the Far East Network) which was for the military families living in the Kanto Area.  Other times, my mother listened to Japanese radio shows.  And the TV shows I watched were all in Japanese.

There were quite a few American TV shows on, too.  Let’s see, to make a short list of a few…

  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Bewitched
  • Combat
  • Columbo
  • Kojak

And all these characters on TV, (Gilligan, Jeannie, Samantha, Columbo, etc.) they ALL spoke Japanese, just like us.

Then we had to go to the States for my parent’s furlough.  (I was all of four… I remember excitedly telling my friends in the neighborhood, “You know what?  We’re going to America!!”  After all, it was a foreign country to me.)

I recall sitting in front of the TV one day… my mom being the only other person at home and she was doing something in the kitchen.  A rerun of Bewitched came on.  Samantha appeared on the TV screen and she started talking to someone… IN ENGLISH!!  I turned to my mother.

Me – “It’s wrong.  Something’s wrong.”

Mom – “What’s wrong?”

Me – “Her voice is wrong.”

Mom – “Sweetie, this is what her REAL voice sounds like.  We’re in America, so they’re all speaking English… this is the original sound.”

Me – “But it’s WRONG!”

Poor Mom… what else could she say, right?  =)

Here’s a bit of what my world was like.  If you understand Japanese, enjoy!  Even if you don’t understand Japanese, it may be a little entertaining… or hope it is anyway!  =)

I Dream of Jeannie

The quivering and quaking Earth…

The whole country seems to be gripped with worry lately.  The dreaded first anniversary of the Tohoku tsunami and earthquake is coming up in just over a month… and movements of this country (literal movements!) show no signs of stopping.

Several of the ladies in my class tonight were sharing their worries.  There are some of them who have parents, children and other relatives in the Kanto area.  (The Kanto area is a large area which encompasses a number of prefectures, including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, etc.)  They were saying that there’s talk about the “big one” happening some time this year.

Of course, this whole country sits upon so many fault lines… the thing is, not ALL parts of the country have as many earthquakes as other parts.  Take where I live, for example.  Fukuoka has had two major earthquakes in the 20 years I’ve been here.  That’s practically nothing compared to the Kanto area.  (Which is where I grew up.)  But those two were quite frightening, to be honest.  It was the very first time for me to actually hear the Earth rumble!

There have been quakes near Mt. Fuji… a volcano which is dormant.  There was a rather large quake yesterday in Oita Prefecture, one prefecture over from where I am.  Today, there was one in Okinawa, another rarity.

Of course, there’s nothing to prevent disaster from happening.  There are few words which would provide comfort to those who are concerned about their family and friends.  All we can do is be prepared if something DOES happen and be ready to lend a helping hand to those who need it.