- Title: JAPAN: Japanese company's skips romance and embraces charity for Valentine's day.
- Date: 10th February 2012
- Summary: SHOPPERS PAYING FOR CHOCOLATES
- Embargoed: 25th February 2012 12:00
- Location: Japan, Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Quirky,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVAVFAF43UYA9DMJKG8YGB6P2KJ
- Story Text: Forget the chocolates, one Japanese company has tossed aside the uniquely Japanese Valentine's day tradition of 'obligation' chocolates to co-workers during the holiday season to give back to their fellow man through charity instead.
In Japan, women buy chocolates for their lovers and even colleagues on Valentine's Day, while men return the favour a month later on White Day.
In a culture that places a lot of value on gift giving this tradition has chocolate sales enjoying a healthy peak during the February through March months as men and women make, bake and buy sweets for their significant others and co-workers to show their affection and appreciation.
However, the chocolate giving custom brings stress and financial vexation as employees may feel forced to go too far out of pocket in order to compete in and please company culture and superiors out of obligation.
From here the phrase 'giri choco', literally 'obligatory chocolates' was born as more and more company employees felt unnecessary stress over the late-winter gift giving season that is not just limited to loved ones.
In some companies with an uneven proportion of male to female employees the can be particularly costly as a male manager with 30 female employees may end up spending half a month's paycheque just to 'return the favour' for chocolate offerings.
For one company, the Kyoei Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd. they've done away with the chocolate exchange completely for nearly two decades and replaced it with non-obligatory charity donations instead.
"For Valentine's Day in Japan, to show our sense of appreciation for our colleagues and bosses we have a tradition to give them chocolates, but for our company we decided not to do it that way and instead to use that energy towards charity instead and make monetary donations," Kyoei Fire & Marine Insurance Co. Ltd., product development employee Hiroshi Matsukawa said.
Going back twenty years, the company first stepped into the world of humanitarian assistance when it decided to donate its company uniforms to the non-governmental organization 'Motherland Academy International', a group dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in impoverished areas of West Africa.
Originally set up by Kyoei Fire insurance's female employees in 1992, nearly 7000 white and blue striped shirts were donated to refugee camps in Mali when the company changed over their uniforms to a newer design, donation was a welcome option to simply discarding the items.
When photos of children using and wearing the uniforms were sent by the Motherland charity to Kyoei employees to show thanks for their donation, the women felt that they needed to do more and set-up the 'Valentine day charity' system.
"It can be a headache to think about what the budget for chocolates should be, who to give to, who not to give to, where to buy it, and so on; so for other companies when they hear about our charity system instead of 'obligation chocolates' they really like the idea," Kyoei Fire Insurance employee, Megrim Shake said.
With nearly 3000 employees nation-wide, the annual charity raises more than 12,000 USD annually, approximately 5 USD per person every February with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Motherland charity group.
The company has set an example in the Japanese business world with many other companies frequently contacting the Kyohei Fire Insurance group for advice on how to start up a similar program at their own companies.
The company also hosts an annual clothing drive every December and this year plans to send a portion of the proceeds raised in February to its Sendai branch who will be putting the money into a Northern Japan disaster relief charity fund.
Donations will be accepted in the company until Friday (February 10) with the donations being sent via bank transfer to Motherland and Sendai by late February.
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