So you’ve finally summoned up all your courage and asked out that cute coworker, you know, the shy one that is always smiling. And for some reason, they actually said “yes!” Now what?
It’s time to plan your first date(s) together. Don’t worry, despite what you might hear, Tokyo is full of affordable, decent date spots. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Rent Electric Bikes Together and Explore Tokyo
Transportation in Japan is expensive. Even if you do find a couple of budget places you want to take that ‘special someone’ on your first date, the train and bus tickets can easily bleed your wallet dry before you even get there. Thankfully, there is a fun alternative: rent an electric bike!
Renting an electric bike for the day is a neat Cheapo hack for getting the most out of an afternoon. The bikes come with a special pedal-assist function, so that when you just press down on the pedal, the bike automatically lurches forward. They can hold a charge for six to eight hours (depending on how strong your “pedal assist” is set) and can be rented for between 500yen and 1,000yen for the day.
With an electric bike, you can easily hop from station to station along the Yamanote line, checking off all those “touristy” things you’ve been dying to do, but haven’t felt like shelling out the train/bus fare for.
2. Swan boats and Zoo at Inokashira Park
Inokashira Park is one of the greatest underappreciated parks in Tokyo. With a gorgeous red temple, a small zoo, and the “cursed swan boats,” it is an excellent cheap date spot.
The Inokashira Zoo is a two-for-one deal – you can get into both of the zoos for only 400yen. It is much smaller than the Zoo in Ueno, but it is also much less crowded! It specializes in the indigenous species of Japan, which can be interesting for foreigners. For more information about the Inokashira Zoo, click here.
The lake in Inokashira Park has three different boats – a rowboat, a paddleboat, and a swan-themed paddleboat. They can be rented by the hour or half-hour, for 600yen or 700yen (depending on the boat and rental length).
3. Mori Art Museum and a Romantic View of the City
The Mori Art Museum is a gorgeous contemporary art museum on the 53rd floor of Roppongi Hills complex. It does not have a permanent collection – instead it is full of temporary exhibits. The 1500yen ticket (1000yen for students) might seem a bit steep, but the museum truly offers an incredible selection of art.
Plus, the ticket includes admission to the Sky Deck (on clear days) and the Tokyo City View area, offering a view comparable to Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Sky Tree. For more information on the Mori Art Museum, check out their English website here.
4. Romantic BYOB Picnic in the Park
Conversation seems to flow the smoothest over a cup of coffee, a full-on meal, or a couple of drinks at an Izakaya … which would be nice, if those options were a bit cheaper and let you sit around chatting for a bit longer.
If you want the good conversation and “date-like” atmosphere for more than the acceptable hour and a half at a restaurant, just skip the restaurant altogether. Instead, take a picnic and a bottle of wine to any of the parks in Tokyo. The city is full of all sorts of parks where it is perfectly acceptable to spread out on a blanket under a tree or toss back a bottle of wine on a bench near the water features. Drinking in public here is perfectly legal, no need to worry about getting kicked out of the park during your date.
Some of the best parks in Tokyo for a romantic picnic date are:
This park has an admission fee of 200yen. Nonetheless, it is an absolutely gorgeous, exclusive park that is only a 10 minute walk from the East Exit at Shinjuku Station. Note that booze is technically prohibited here, so you might need to be a little sneaky.
This park is free to enter and is probably the best spot in Tokyo for some after-lunch snuggling on a blanket under the trees. It is very open and sort of plain, in a good way. On weekends, it is filled with street performances, dance groups, artists, and other interesting people practicing or just hanging out. Yoyogi Park is a 5 min walk from the South Exit (Omotesando Exit) at Harajuku Station.
This park is more out-of-the-way than Yoyogi Park or Shinjuku Gyoen. It is famous for the lake in the center of the park, where, as I mentioned earlier, you can rent a swan boat. It also has plenty of shaded benches and street performances on weekends, if you are looking for “dinner and a show.” Inokashira Park is a 10 min walk from the Park Exit at Kichijoji Station.
5. Climb Mt. Takao
Everyone seems to want to climb up Mt. Fuji, without realizing it is crowded beyond belief, expensive, and only open during a couple of months in the summer.
So why not skip the crowds and go to the less populated, easier and more user friendly Mt. Takao?
Located about an hour west of Tokyo, the mountain is free and open to the public. It takes about an hour and a half to climb any of the trails, and the paths are full of tranquil shrines. Compared to Mt. Fuji, it is a much easier hike with plenty of shade and ample bathrooms, food stalls, and resting opportunities. Mt. Takao is especially popular among families, young adults, and groups of elderly men.
If climbing is not your “thing,” for a 900yen round-trip, you can take a scenic ropeway up to the halfway point. You still get a unique date with a great view of the city, without sweating through all your clothes.
Near the summit of Mt. Takao there is an enormous shrine and a monkey park. Don’t forget to try the local Mt. Takao specialties, especially the soba noodles with tororo Japanese yam sauce.
You might also be interested in this popular cheapo dating tips post.