The Folks Who Protest Valentine’s Day In Japan

The Folks Who Protest Valentine’s Day In Japan

On Valentine’s Day in Japan, women traditionally give men chocolate. Each year, a group of protesters gathers to march, carrying signs that read “Pulverise Valentine’s Day” and “Making out in public is terrorism”.

On Valentine’s Day in Japan, there is also a practice of “giri” (obligation) chocolate, with women feeling compelled to gift their male co-workers. Some offices have banned this practice because it might be stressful for the women and the men don’t necessarily even want the chocolate. Increasingly, giri-chocolate has become inexpensive chocolate bars instead of pricey sweets.

A month later, men are supposed to give women sweets on White Day, which is on March 14, making both days one-sided.

The year, like every year since, Kakumeiteki Himote Doumei (or, loosely, “The Revolutionary League of Lonely Souls”) gets together for Valentine’s Day protests. This is not a large group, as evident in the photos, and not all the members are men. This year, women participated in the march, so the group is no longer just “unpopular” men.

Protest slogans include, “Resist romance capitalism!” and “Don’t discriminate others on the number of times they have had sex!” as well as “Resist the opposition to otaku culture that can be enjoyed even if you don’t have dates!”

“There is nothing sexist, misogynistic or offensive in the slogans per se, and the group’s publicity warns participants against dabbling in provocations or discriminatory speech,” writes William Andrews on the excellent blog Throw Out Your Books. “This is partly a policy of practical self-protection, and a common caution by protest organisers in Japan, since doing so can lead to legal troubles and result in a permit to march being denied the next time round.”

As Throw Out Your Books also points out, it’s hard to tell if this is serious or just a gag. But it’s been going on since 2006, so the group’s leaders must either be dedicated jokesters who enjoy the attention or truly want to pulverise Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

The group’s official website has a listing still up for its most recent Valentine’s Day protest, which was held this past Sunday in Shibuya. Why Sunday and not on the 14th? Probably because the revolutionaries have jobs and need to work. The protest was open to anyone who wanted to join, and before the march begins, organisers set aside some time for media interviews, which further underscores the notion that this is a gag or a stunt.

The group doesn’t only protest Valentine’s Day, but also White Day and Christmas, the last of which is, for many Japanese, a day for couples to go on dates. So, the group isn’t protesting Christmas for religious reasons, but rather, dating ones.

The Folks Who Protest Valentine’s Day In Japan(Image: kakuhidou)

[Image: kakuhidou]

This post was originally published 14/2/18.


  • Of course V-day will still continue. It’s too much of a commercial force to be stopped, the corporations won’t allow it. Same as Christmas.

      • That’s kind of my point… More money for the corporations. They want people to think that Christmas still has religious significance, when really it’s just there to drive sales at this point.

        • …it does have religious significance. That was my point. Now if you want to say there’s millions of non-Christians who still get the day off and buy either stuff; sure, I get that.

        • Now if you want to talk about really commercialized, look at Hanukkah instead. The idea of the kids getting 7 days of gifts is a newer phenomenon, as parents didn’t want their kids feeling left out when the Catholic kids got gifts on Christmas.

          *Queue X-files music*

  • The other day I was discussing with a friend a concept that I kept getting caught on where the more people there are around you, the lonelier humans tend to feel. I live in Alice Springs (population of roughly 30k) and yet a lot of the people I talk to from our town seem content with their social circles, yet when I talk to a lot of my old school friends (and family) that live in cities, they seem sort of disconnected.

    It is like there is a certain point where the number of people around you go from being a positive social element to a mechanism through which you experience maybe not loneliness, but less satisfaction in social engagement.

    This would likely be even more true in countries with high populations like Japan (who also experience high suicide rates).

    • Your comment reminds me of something I read once that said the older you get the less friends you need/want I think over 30 is like 5-7.

      • After looking into it more it seems to be called urban isolation, it is a feeling that seems to come on sporadically and I can’t seem to find if anyone has locked down the major causes of it.

        • I think it occurs due to the fact that if you see a lot more people, you tend to ignore them and their faces blur together. If you work in a country town store, with 50 regular customers, you will see the same customers every day for a long time. You’ll also probably see them in the community, frequently. And if you see fewer people, you are more likely to pay attention to each one individually. If you see two groups of people – one with 3 members and one with 30, you may make an effort to remember the faces of the group with 3 members, but your brain probably won’t even bother with the group of 30 – it’ll just lump all 30 members together as a mass and you won’t even think about each individual.

          The more people you meet, the less you can afford to remember them, pay attention to them – so the population of large cities almost starts to resemble a great inhuman flow of bodies with blurry, indistinct faces that just pass you by. I recently went to the city – do you know how many of the faces of passersby I remember? None. That’s right – NONE. I passed by hundreds, if not thousands of people, and they just all merged into one big blob of “people” that surrounded me.

          In a country town, that doesn’t happen.

    • There’s a thing called a ‘Dunbar number,’ based on studies by an anthropologist and psychologist into the point at which groups start to lose their social cohesion. The gist is that a group roughly 150 is the upper limit of meaningful relationships. Some fascinating evidence that these were the typical sizes of many social units through history, from villages, military units, to specialist academic faculites.

      It’s pretty intuitive: if you stretch your contacts, your interaction with each is likely to be less meaningful – relationships require maintenance, after all. (‘Social grooming’ when discussing primates.)

      I’m sure there’s either studies done or in progress to evaluate the dilutory effect of interactions with – or even the mere presence of – hundreds if not thousands of people external to that ideal ‘village’ unit.

  • I wonder if this protest group could be convinced to also protest other things that make people happy but that some people don’t care for and get annoyed that other people are rubbing in our faces… like esports?

    • OMG esports amirite? (I rolled my eyes at ‘esports’, incase you didn’t see)
      But this is different. While I think esports are sad and dumb (wheras regular sports are just dumb, unless you’re playing it) I can easily ignore the whole sad, dumb thing.
      But valentines in Japan means the obligation for people to buy/give/receive chocolates. I would hate that. That obligation should not exist. I think they’re protesting the traditions AROUND valentines day, rather than the day itself.
      Though some of the slogans like “Making out in public is terrorism” and “Don’t discriminate others on the number of times they have had sex!” also tells me that people have joined the protest for a variety of reasons after all.

  • That is interesting, given that in Western country’s, its more of an exchange of gifts between partners… Also, why do they need to give them to there male co-workers? That’s… odd… But then, its kind of like schools making sure every kid in the class gets a valentine card.

    • From my exposure to this custom through anime, my understanding is that girls give really nice chocolates to the boys they like, and pretty average ‘pity’ chocolates to everyone else just so they don’t feel left out, and White Day the next months is the time when guys who received chocolates reciprocate with chocolates of their own, but also other (nicer) things. It’s apparently expected that the return gift is meant to be greater in value, especially if romantic feelings are reciprocated.

      …I guess that’s one way to avoid actually talking openly about feelings and attraction like adults.

  • There’s a protest for every holiday, I myself can’t wait to protest… *googles calendar* …Shrove Tuesday??? For the reason of… *Googles Shrove Tuesday* …offensive pancakes, pancakes are symbol of… *Spins bottle* …unsolicited fribbits

    Anyway I hope you all attend the Anti Shrove Tuesday protest, I’ll be blocking traffic as per usual

  • Have to agree that making out in public is f****** disgusting, keep it to a quick peck you zero self-awareness nutjobs.

    I find this strange, because of course here in Australia valentines day is not one-sided, anyone can gift or do something for anyone else. As it should be with these kinds of things, such as proposals, my husband and I both proposed to the other, why should only one person be proposed to? It’s illogical and sexist.

  • I feel sad for them. I get it. Seeing affection when you have none is hard. But the world isn’t about you. Even if you are hurting, don’t make that an issue for another couple.

    I have never had a partner, and given my age, I very, VERY strongly doubt I’ll ever have one. Does seeing two happy people kiss make me feel a bit sad? Yes. But I’m also happy for them. It’s nice to see someone else being happy, it’s nice to know that love exists, even if it is increasingly unlikely that I’ll ever have that sort of love.

    I don’t mind Valentine’s day. It’s not for me, it’ll probably never be for me. But my parents enjoy it. My friends enjoy it. My colleagues enjoy it. Many of my fellow citizens enjoy it.

    The parable of the sour grapes needs to be taught to more people, because it drives so much of our behaviour. How many of those lonely protesting souls would be there, protesting, if they had a partner? How many of them would switch from hating valentine’s day to enjoying it? I can’t say for sure, but I suspect many of them would.

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