President of Japan’s obligation chocolate king sends personal letter giri choco-hater Godiva

Things get personal, and sweet, in the latest chapter of the ongoing difference of opinions about a Japanese cultural tradition.

Last year, Belgian chocolatier Godiva took out a full-age ad denouncing giri choco, also known as “obligation chocolate,” the Japanese custom of women giving gifts of chocolate to platonic male coworkers and acquaintances on Valentine’s Day. Shortly thereafter, Japanese company Yuraku Confectionery, makers of the low-cost Black Thunder brand of chocolates, sent out a message of its own, saying that for those women who genuinely want a simple (and easy) way of saying thanks to their guy pals on Valentine’s, Yuraku is happy to help.

This year, Godiva again made the first move, tweeting its theory that even Yuraku’s female employees would want to give premium Godiva chocolates to their actual husbands or boyfriends on February 14. Once again, Yuraku took no offense at what some might call a subtle dig at Black Thunder’s major selling point, and changed the name of the official Black Thunder Twitter account to “Black Thunder 【officially recognized by Godiva as obligation chocolate】.”

Not only is the Twitter account sticking with its new name, Yuraku’s president, Tatsunobu Kawai, said he was planning to send a letter to Godiva in response. So we headed over to Yuraku’s headquarters in Kodaira, west Tokyo, to see what sort of message, and quantity of snark, he was planning to mail Godiva’s way.

As soon as we arrived, we were ushered into a conference room where the surprisingly young-looking president was waiting for us.

With the preceding dialogue between the two companies already publicly displayed through Twitter, we got right to the point, asking Kawai what made him decide, in this digital age, to go to the trouble of sending a physical, paper letter to a rival company, to which he replied:

“I was deeply moved by what Godiva did!”

Wait…what? Did we hear that right?



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