11/11, November 11th, is Pocky Day here in Japan. It’s pretty low-key; you won’t really find it unless you really look for it. The consumer-based holiday isn’t really all that old or revered, but it did come about from a bitter rivalry with a certain country across the Sea of Japan, or the East Sea, depending on which side you ask.
When I lived in Korea so many years ago, there was a Pocky-like snack called Pepero. It was the exact same concept: biscuit-like cookie stick dipped in chocolate leaving a small handle without chocolate on the bottom for you to hold onto. They also had an equivalent for the savory Pretz, whose name I cannot recall at the moment.
What I do recall is the fervor with which my middle school students hyped Pepero Day, November 11th. The students went all-out: They would give Pepero to their friends, use it to confess love, and to show appreciation to their only native English-speaking teacher! The amount and variety was staggering: fruity Pepero, nutty Pepero, white chocolate, small box, big boxes, and my favorite, the big Pepero, which was close to a foot long, if memory serves correct.
It was a big deal, but by comparison, Pocky Day seems downright tepid. Then I read this article by Tofugu, one of the best Japanese resources out there, and things started to become clear.
A Brief History of Pocky Day
It turns out that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, as Lotte, the Korean makers of Pepero, saw the tasty treat from Glico, the Japanese makers of Pocky, and decided to cash in on their own variation. But it was Pepero who came up with their holiday first, picking November 11th because the 11/11 looks like four sweet, delicious Pepero sticks ready for the snacking. Seeing the success of Pepero Day, Glico tried to get Pocky Day going in Japan. The results have been… mixed.
Around all the stores I’ve been in, I saw one Pocky Day display. Just one. The rest of the supermarkets and convenience stores have nothing. I haven’t seen any special marketing, special flavors, or anything like that. I am at a bit of a disadvantage, as I do not have Japanese television to guide my holiday knowledge. I ask students about the holiday, but none are really into it or have really even heard of it. It seems like it might be more popular abroad with the Japanophiles lurking abroad. Looks like Glico has a bit more marketing to do to really make it spread domestically!
Either way, I plan on eating lots of sweet, delicious Pocky to celebrate. Be on the lookout for a special video reviewing those tasty sticks!