If you’re not satisfied with the rather restrictive Japanese “tradition” — more like a marketing ploy as far as cynics are concerned — of women giving men chocolates on February 14th, why not make things more romantic? Here are some ideas that are big on Cupid points but cheap and easy to put into action — just grab a red rose from the local flower shop and you’re good to go for Valentine’s Day in Tokyo.

See their eyes light up

After a nice (wallet-friendly) dinner, get some hot takeaway drinks and go for a wander, taking in the last of the winter illuminations together. If you missed them during the Christmas and New Year season, up until Valentine’s Day is your final chance to catch both the impressive Tokyo Dome City Illuminations and the ever-classy Marunouchi Illuminations.

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Tokyo Tower also started an extra-magnificent ‘City Light Fantasia’ illumination (ongoing until March 11th), so if you’re up for an extra-special Valentine’s Day date, this is the illumination to check out. This year’s theme looks at Tokyo’s iconic bright lights through the eras, including some good ol’ Showa-style neon. This is included in the admission fee to the main observatory (1200 yen) but you do get the added romantic advantage of the Tokyo nightscape.

Valentine's Day Tokyo
Photo by Naotake Murayama used under CC

Valentine’s day on ice

Whether you’re a veritable Asada in the rink or an absolute beginner, ice skating can be a fun date. If you’re broke, give your beloved a twirl around the Edogawa Sportsland Rink (that’s right, the cheapest option at 520 yen plus skate rental). Other venues that are a bit more expensive are the Yokohama Akarenga Rink and Tokyo Midtown. For more deets on these venues, see our ice skating guide.

Love blossoms (yes, we just took cheese to a whole new level)

A stroll through beautiful, fragrant plum blossoms during the winter — how much more romantic can you get? Add a few snacks and a blanket/100-yen store ground cover, and you’re winning at this date thing. Yushima Tenjin, Ushi Tenjin, and Hanegi Park are spectacular spots, with festivals (tasty eats, amazake—a sweet fermented rice beverage, and more) to boot. It’s just mid-February, so the plums may not yet be in full bloom in most areas, but they should be more than mere buds by now! There’s no better way to say hello to spring then with these plum blossoms, so find out where to enjoy them here.

Photo by RYU H used under CC

Climb 600 stairs

It might not scream sexy, but it’s novel, and will certainly test your dedication to each other. In past years, Valentine’s Day is one of the few times when you can walk/trot/haul your unfit body all the way up the outside stairs to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower (you usually have to take the lift). Currently the stairs are open daily, for safer visits during the pandemic. Once you’ve recovered, you can enjoy the night view of the city together, and those who make it to the top get a certificate. It’s not much, but hey, it’s exercise, and they say that lovers that exercise together, stay together, so think of this as a fitness date!

Say it with chocolates

If you are set on the chocolate thing, we have two suggestions. First, get your chocolate fix at one of the many Lindt Chocolat Cafes in Tokyo, as they’ve got some Valentine specials. Second, since chocolates will likely be discounted on the 14th, why not be a true cheapo and pick some up day of, or even simply push back your cocoa-filled celebrations to the 15th? Read about the chocolate-filled Japanese approach to Valentine’s Day here.

Valentine's Day Tokyo
Photo by Carolina Ponce used under CC

Bitter about all the lovey-dovey couples? In a relationship yourself but cynical about Valentine’s Day? Sick and tired of giving or receiving chocolate? If you find yourself hating Valentine’s Day for whatever reason, it’s a shame that anti-Valentine events haven’t really taken off in Japan. You could stick with mate-dates (they never expect anything from you if you buy them dinner and are way more likely to ask about your day). Or you could try holding your own anti-Valentine’s party: sing your heart out, wear black, or just continue life as if… well, as if it were a normal day!

If you’re single and looking, perhaps attending a gokon, or group blind date, might be the first step to a future romance. Or why don’t you hit the many bars and clubs in town? If you don’t want to deal with the language barrier, join the Meetup group that is Tokyo International Singles, as they have a number of singles’ Valentine events, but the details are only available to members.

If you’re a couple who aren’t keen on super-cute Valentine’s Day stuff or an dating someone new, here are some more normal date ideas in Tokyo. And check out some of the events we’ve mentioned: after all, plum blossoms and stair-climbing aren’t specifically tied to Valentine’s Day in the first place, are they?

This post was originally published February 14, 2014, and occasionally updated. Last update: January 2022.
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