As Valentine’s Day swiftly approaches, it’s the perfect moment to contemplate how to make this year’s mid-February an extraordinary time for you and your partner.
From intimate home-based dates to outdoor adventures, we’ve curated a list of 10 date ideas tailored for wherever you reside in Japan. To enrich your experience, we’ve woven in some insights into the unique dating culture in Japan and the significance of Valentine’s Day in the local context.
Also, in the spirit of cultural exchange, we included a few ideas that spotlight local and global cultures for our readers who originate from every corner of the globe.
Introduce Your Culture Through Food
If your partner is Japanese, they’ll likely be very interested in your culture and home. Being in a relationship involves sharing aspects of yourself, and what better way to do so than through the universal language of food? With Valentine’s Day emphasizing the significance of culinary delights (think chocolate gifts and restaurant dates!), consider bringing the flavors of your home culture to your dinner table.
Whether making spring rolls, baking apple pie or preparing eggs over easy with a dash of black pepper, keep it simple—let it reflect you! Enhance the experience by incorporating other cultural elements like music and a good movie, and you’re all set for a memorable evening.
- Summary: Share your cultural identity through a personalized, home-cooked meal.
- Recommended for: Couples in the early stages of getting to know each other.
Visit a New Cafe
The coffee date is the quintessential choice for new dates. It’s casual, inexpensive and offers just enough time to decide whether another date should happen. Still, the same old Starbucks gets pretty boring.
Try a local cafe or something unique instead. Besides offering a quiet place to chat, you can show off your neighborhood knowledge or impress your date by putting thought into the perfect spot. If no ideas come to mind, check out this list of five coffee shops every coffee lover should visit in Tokyo. Or, consider going beyond your area to one of these fun-themed cafes for a memorable experience.
- Summary: Visit a local or unique coffee shop to stand out.
- Recommended for: First dates or anyone bored of Starbucks and other chains
Coffee or Tea Workshop
Japan, a paradise for caffeine lovers, presents a fantastic opportunity for an unforgettable date—coffee and tea workshops. With numerous specialty coffee roasters and brewers spread across the country, you can delve into tasting classes or coffee brewing workshops. Learn the art of the perfect pour-over, or try your hand at siphon coffee. You can also experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and learn how to whisk an impeccable matcha together.
- Summary: Share your love of coffee or tea and try a workshop together.
- Recommended for: Couples who are coffee or tea lovers.
Art workshops are popular with couples in Japan. Thankfully, you don’t even need to have experience. Art classes can be a playful experience where getting your hands dirty and making something (anything really) feels like a success when it comes with its fair share of laughs. Art workshops are usually guided and come with drinks. You’ll even have something to take home as a keepsake afterward. If you want to keep your art close to Japanese culture, try a kintsugi (restoring broken pottery) date
- Summary: Make something fun and creative together at an art workshop.
- Recommended for: Couples who can laugh through the artistic process.
Smell The Flowers
During Japan’s chilly months, savor the enchantment of winter flowers. While hanami (flower viewing) usually conjures images of cherry blossoms in March and April, opt for a romantic outdoor date amidst the February blooms with strolls through Japan’s flower parks. While you might catch early sakura in some parts of Japan, the five-petaled plum blossom graces local parks and mountainside orchards, symbolizing the onset of spring. Keep an eye out for other winter wonders, such as daffodils blooming brightly in January.
- Summary: Celebrate your blossoming relationship with seasonal flower parks
- Recommended for: Couples who love romantic strolls amidst the flowers.
Take a Cooking Class
Sign up for a cooking class as a couple for those who aren’t confident in the kitchen (or just love cooking). From learning the basics of cooking to washoku (Japanese cuisine), there are English-friendly cooking lessons for all levels. Learn the art of making a bento (boxed lunch) with your partner that’s both tasty and eye-catching, or follow a teacher as they guide you through Japanese cooking techniques. Instead of exchanging chocolates this year, how about giving the gift of handmade wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets)?
- Summary: Take a fun cooking class together and learn how to make Japanese cuisine.
- Recommended for: Couples who love to cook together.
Just like chocolates, flowers are one of the essential symbols of romance and expressing love. In addition to giving a bouquet to your loved one, consider taking an ikebana class together, the traditional art of flower arrangement. Originating in the Heian period, this art form seeks to create harmony between flora and the negative space in between to evoke an emotional response from the viewer. Starting with nothing but paper, flowers and vases, work with your partner to mindfully choose and set stems and petals in an arrangement you can call your own.
- Summary: Make flower arrangements together.
- Recommended for: Creative couples who love flowers and Japanese culture.
Try a Sake Tasting
Nihonshu, or Japanese rice wine, is woven into Japanese culture and history. This traditional alcoholic drink, brewed from rice and pure water, boasts diverse types and flavor profiles throughout the country. Dive deeper into the world of nihonshu by visiting a local sake brewery with your partner. After becoming more knowledgeable about sake, follow up with a sake tasting or tour, or have a well-deserved drink at a nearby sake bar for a chance to rekindle romance.
- Summary: Visit a sake brewery and try a sake tasting.
- Recommended for: Couples who enjoy drinking and sampling.
Visit a Love Shrine
Japanese shrines often focus on specific themes, including love and relationships. At these love shrines, you and your partner can strengthen your bond by creating an enmusubi (tying a knot) or improving your romantic fortunes with an omamori (good luck charm). The popular activity, however, is picking up an omikuji (paper fortune) that assigns you a level of luck. If the prediction isn’t your liking, don’t fret—simply tie it up to dispel any misfortune.
- Summary: Strengthen your relationship at a love shrine.
- Recommended for: Long-term couples who can find fun in good or bad fortune
Nature can be therapy. Leave the city behind for the day and hike on a trail or (if you’re both adventurous) up a mountain. Surrounding yourselves in nature sets the stage for connecting without the distractions of the modern world. If possible, try to stake out a lookout or pleasant spot for a picnic break and bring a homemade treat or two. For an especially memorable experience, choose a locale with an onsen (hot spring) nearby for a relaxing soak to soothe tired muscles. You don’t even need to go far for a nice stroll if you’re in Tokyo. Mount Takao is just 40 minutes from Shinjuku station.
- Summary: A date in the great outdoors.
- Recommended for: Couples who love nature and being outdoors.
What are your Valentine’s Day plans, past and present? We would love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!