Not satisfied with the rather restrictive Japanese “tradition” of women giving men chocolates on February 14? (Which is more like a marketing ploy as far as cynics are concerned…). So why not make things more romantic? Here are some Tokyo Valentine’s Day ideas that are big on Cupid points but cheap and easy to put into action.
See their eyes light up
After a nice (wallet-friendly) dinner, grab some hot takeaway drinks and go for a wander, taking in the last of Tokyo’s winter illuminations together. If you missed them during the holiday season, this is a great chance to catch the impressive Tokyo Dome City Illuminations, Hibiya Illuminations, and the ever-classy Marunouchi Illuminations before they end.
Try chocolate ramen
Yes, you read it right. Chocolate ramen is not uncommon to find this time of year, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s delicious (honestly!). Menya Musashi, who have collaborated with Ghana chocolate maker Lotte, are serving a dish that combines rich dark chocolate with a pork-based broth. The dish is completed with smoked chashu, chocolate dumplings, chili oil, and mushrooms.
This year, the ramen costs ¥1,200 and is being served up at Menya Musashi Iwatora in Akihabara and Menya Musashi Gorindo in Nishi-Shinjuku. But it’s only available until the 14th and there are limited servings (20) a day, so be quick!
Luckily there are other places to get your fix. Mensho’s delicious chocolate ramen is back, and fancier than ever. This year, there’s a bit of a twist: it’s tsukemen (dipping noodles), being transformed into something much sweeter. You can find this dish at Mensho Korakuen and Mensho in Shinjuku Mylord. They may add more restraurants so check their Twitter. It is also available until February 14.
An alternative — and cheaper — plan would be to try the chocolate ramen at Kourakuen, which is a ramen chain with several branches around Tokyo. While admittedly less fancy than the above, this chocolate ramen comes in white chocolate too and is only ¥650. It’s on the menu from February 14 to March 31.
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, it’s the cheapest option at ¥520, plus skate rental). Other venues that are a bit more expensive include Yokohama Akarenga Rink and Tokyo Midtown. For more details 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 (or 100-yen store tarp), and you’re winning at this dating thing. Yushima Tenjin, Ushi Tenjin, and Hanegi Park are spectacular spots. Even Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen have some.
It’s just mid-February, so the plums may not be in full bloom, but they should be more than mere buds by now! Read more about how and where to see plum blossoms in Tokyo.
Climb 600 stairs
It might not scream sexy, but it’s novel and will certainly test your dedication to each other. Walk, trot, or 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). The stairs were opened for safer visits during the pandemic, but the activity was so popular that they kept them open year-round. Once you’ve recovered, lose your breath again as you take in the sparkling night view of the city — along with the view, you are also rewarded with a certificate. It’s not much, but hey, it’s exercise, and they say that lovers that exercise together, stay together!
Say it with chocolates
If you are set on the whole chocolate thing, we have three suggestions. First, forget you’re a Cheapo for the day and get your chocolate fix at one of the many cafes in Tokyo that are doing Valentine’s specials — like Lindt Chocolat Cafe. Second, hunt for an afternoon tea deal — some like the Park Hyatt Tokyo might be over your budget, but there are cheap alternatives (including this ¥2,000 plan).
Lastly, since chocolates will likely be discounted on the 14th, why not be a true Cheapo and pick some up on the day of, or simply push back your cocoa-filled celebrations to the 15th? You can always make your own too — read more about the chocolate-filled Japanese approach to Valentine’s Day.
But what if I hate Valentine’s Day?
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 isn’t keen on super-cute Valentine’s Day stuff, 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?