What’s the most romantic day of the year? For most of us, it’s Valentine’s Day on February 14th. From the story of St Valentine to the romantic music and the gift-buying mayhem, you either get swept away in the chaos or swept aside. It depends on your relationship status at the moment.
If you're curious about Valentine’s Day celebrations in Japan, we’ve got you covered! Are you looking to impress your partner? Or are you single and ready to mingle? Read on for some uniquely Japanese ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day in Japan
In Japan, love is celebrated a lot differently. Christmas Eve is the day most associated with love and romance in Japan. So, how does Japan celebrate Valentine’s Day?
The origins of Valentine’s Day in Japan are dubious. Some believe that Valentine’s Day is meant to encourage women to declare their love for a romantic interest. It then developed into a day where they are expected to also show appreciation, using chocolate, for the other men in their lives, their coworkers, and even their friends. It’s chocolate-giving, Oprah-styled!
Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, we break down the kinds of Valentine’s Day chocolates and the meanings behind each one in our blog about Valentine's Day in Japan. You can pay us back in chocolate.
Is it all just one big marketing strategy by chocolate companies? Sales of chocolate soared during this period as women are now expected to present tokens to all of their colleagues and friends. Many think this has robbed the day of meaning and promotes capitalism. Recently, women have been vocal about the high costs associated with this tradition. Not to mention, the potential for misunderstanding and inappropriate conduct with male colleagues.
Whatever the origins, fact or fiction, you can decide whether to celebrate this day. Maybe just treat yourself! Explore the world of chocolate giving with a comprehensive guide to making and buying chocolates for Valentine’s Day.
Here is our list of things to do in Japan for Valentine’s Day as a couple. We’ve also included some ideas if you are single but hopeful. These ideas make great general date ideas but will feel so much more special when enjoyed on or around Valentine’s Day.
What to do for Valentine’s Day in Japan as a couple
- Book a ryokan with a private bath
- Enjoy premium dining at an amazing restaurant
- Feel the love under the winter illuminations
- Show off your culinary skills with a cooking class
- Make memories with a themed photoshoot
Book a ryokan with a private bath
February is just at the tail end of winter and what’s better than a warm bath in the cold months? A warm bath with a loved one, of course. Some ryokans come equipped with private outdoor baths attached to guest rooms. Some of the more noteworthy ones are located in Asakusa which is the perfect location for sightseeing and a romantic night cruise. Congrats, you just nailed it.
Enjoy premium dining at an amazing restaurant
Japan is a food lover’s paradise so make this Valentine’s Day one to remember with premium dining experiences. With options ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to avant-garde culinary creations and inventive food and alcohol pairing, you’re spoilt for choice.
Feel the love under the winter illuminations
Want to bring a sparkle to your partner’s eyes? That’s easy! Just position her under one of the thousands of lights at a winter illumination. We’re kidding. Well, not really. Winter illuminations inspire feelings of awe and happiness. Why not share that with someone special? An intimate stroll under the lights, a few selfies to capture the moment, and a well-timed declaration of affection. It’s a Netflix rom-com waiting to happen.
Many of these illuminations are on public streets making them free to visit. It helps you save some money to spend on a noteworthy gift or box of chocolate. That’s what we call a win-win.
Show off your culinary skills with a cooking class
Some wise man once said that the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach. Nothing is more impressive than an adult with above-average cooking skills. Level up even more with a cooking class and show off your culinary skills to your partner. Better yet, bring them along so that they can learn with you. Experiences make the best memories after all.
We have a huge list of cooking classes that can be sorted by location and even language. Hint: choose a food that is fun and forgiving, leaving lots of room for mistakes, laughter, and maybe a few casual touches that look accidental but aren’t. You know exactly what we’re talking about.
Make memories with a themed photoshoot
Sure, you have pictures together but do you have pictures together in kimono? Hire a photographer so that they can worry about the autofocus while you focus on your partner. A picture is worth one thousand words but don’t let that hold you back. Whisper a cheesy one-liner to your partner and you’ll get the best reactions for the camera. Plus it’ll help make the moment more authentic and less awkward. The LOVE sculpture in Shinjuku is a great place to start your photoshoot, FYI. You’re welcome.
What to do for Valentine’s Day in Japan if you’re single
- Impress someone with handmade chocolates
- Find love online
- Visit a host(ess) bar
- Enjoy a Galentine's event
Impress someone with handmade chocolates
There is only one thing to do in Japan for Valentine’s Day if you’re single but hopeful. Let your crush know how you feel by presenting them with a gift of handmade or specialty chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate, founded in San Francisco in 2010, offers chocolate-making workshops at their factory in Kuramae. Or get your chocolate-making kit from stores like LOFT, Daiso, and others. If you’re not into DIY, try visiting the KitKat Chocolatory in Ginza where staff members will write a message and add a decorative pattern of your choice for a fee. It still counts as handmade, even if they aren’t your hands hehe.
Find new friends or even lovers
If you’re lacking in dates or crushes, there is still time to find one. Sign up for international meet-ups which draw both locals and foreigners alike. Try Meet-Up, which is exactly what it says on the pack. Don't knock dating apps til you try them either. Tinder and Bumble are popular options here. There are even localized ones like Pairs, Match Alarm, and YYC where you can enjoy a higher quality of participants.
Visit a host(ess) bar
Don't sleep on this one! Host and hostess bars are legit places to be fawned over. For a fee, you can enjoy the company of well-dressed and well-spoken staff members who will make you feel special. This isn’t for everyone but it can be a good experience if you’re feeling especially lonely. It’s also a uniquely Japanese experience. When in Rome, am I right?
If a host or hostess bar is too intimidating, join a bar-hoping tour to meet new people!
Enjoy a Galentine's event
Interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day with your gal pals, instead? Known as Galentine’s Day, ladies can enjoy events such as Sip and Paint where they drink wine, talk, and paint while steadily getting inebriated. Sign me up! If you prefer sake to wine, Tokyo has lots of sake-tasting and sake-pairing experiences. Platonic love deserves to be celebrated too!
For those who prefer not to drink alcohol, Tokyo is home to some really wonderful afternoon teas! Enjoy sampling a variety of tea and sweets at a fashionable cafe or a posh hotel.
However you decide to spend the day, we hope it is memorable and pleasant. Let this list be your guide to a day well spent. With a partner or without, take this chance to appreciate your loved ones. Don’t forget to include yourself on that list! Have a love-filled Valentine’s Day.