About Giri

By Jenny Jimenez

In our Japanese class the book that we discuss is A Geek in Japan, which is a great read if you want to learn about Japanese culture in detail! One section of the book discussed Giri, which is roughly translated to an “obligation to take care about those who have given you something in life so that you are indebted to them.” Giri is a mindset in which the Japanese feel a duty to return gratitude and this is evident in relationships between teachers and students, men and women, friends, family members, business associates etc. I thought that this was an intriguing aspect because in American culture we do not have this mindset; in general, actions of kindness would simply be seen as someone being polite, whereas in Japan giri is an ideology that heavily influences Japan’s culture. Giri is something that makes the Japanese want to return favors in order to preserve harmony in relationships, which effectively creates a peaceful aura in society.

Since the ideology of giri emphasizes that there is a duty to return gratitude, gift exchanges are frequent during the year. Giri shows that the gifts that are exchanged should be no more nor less valuable than the relationship; I personally found this interesting because unlike American culture, Japan emphasizes and focuses on keeping positive relationships with your peers and this mindset is a pathway in keeping your relationships healthy.

One specific example that the book has is Valentine’s Day and how the Japanese celebrate it! Valentine’s Day is a western holiday that the Japanese adapted, in which giri also plays a factor. During this holiday, women are expected to give their male peers chocolate which can be categorized into two things: giri chocolate or true chocolate. Giri chocolate is given by women as a social duty, whereas true chocolate is given to a male that you like. Since women feel obligated to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day, giri shows that the males have an obligation to repay the favor, thus White Day was created! White Day is exactly a month later, in which the males that got chocolate on Valentine’s Day repay the favor and give women white chocolate! Personally, I think America should adapt giri, because it would create a more peaceful atmosphere in our society as well as White Day, because one can never have enough chocolate! o(≧▽≦)o

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