Valentine’s Day… love it or hate it? Whether or not you have someone to celebrate with, or even care, this holiday can be daunting for some as there is pressure to at least observe it with chocolate or a well-planned date… So what to do?
In Japan, although girls typically offer chocolate to boys (a gesture which will hopefully be returned a month later on White Day), the sweetness is not exclusively for lovebirds: chocolate is given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in, just for friendship or gratitude – so don’t read too much into that box of chocolates. There’s even the expression, giri-choko, which literally means “obligation chocolate”…
Chocolate or no chocolate, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to get out of the house if you’ve been hibernating most of the winter, and to make an event out of it. We came up with interesting stuff to do around Tokyo for the occasion, so grab your date or your friends and brave the cold weather.
Explicit, sexual and grotesque – think outside the box and catch the controversial Aida Makoto exhibition, Monument for Nothing, while you still can. Provocative paintings and sculptures, a little bit of gore and lots to talk about afterwards. If you want something a little less hardcore and, we’d say probably more romantic, try Great French Paintings from the Clark where you can see the likes of Renoir, Corot, Millet, Manet, Pissarro and Monet. If you want something stylish and modern, MUJI White Shirt Exhibit is a good pit stop.
Treat yourself (and others) to a gig – as ticket prices in Japan tend to be a bit steep, it’s an actual indulgence and the perfect way to bond. Take your pick: Canadian garage rockers Japandroids, nostalgic nineties trio Ben Folds Five or the Kitsuné Club Night for those who want to dance ’til dawn.
Splash out on delightful cocktails, complete with a spectacular view: we love The Peak Lounge at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, a little more laid-back than its New York Bar counterpart. Or, hit the gorgeous Peninsula Hotel to sip on champagne and smoke cigars at Peter: The Bar. If your budget is a bit tighter yet still want cool vibes and quality drinks, Norwegian import Fuglen is the place to be.
Tokyo is thankfully never short for food options, fit to every taste and budget. Feast on a traditional and delectable tofu course at the excellent Tokyo Shiba Tofuya-Ukai, or have a relaxed (and loud) pizza nosh with copious amounts of wine at one of Tokyo’s best pizzerias, Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa.
‘Tis the season of plum blossoms, so have a romantic stroll amidst the delicate pale pink (or sometimes white) buds at Yushima Tenjin Shrine. If you fancy animals but feel too cold to amble of the city’s various zoos, stay warm at the Tokyo Sea Life Park, where an army of penguins (and tuna!) of all sizes are awaiting you.
Last but not least, as we said before, Valentine’s Day is all about the chocolate, surely. Make sure you stop by La Maison du Chocolat in Aoyama to browse their extensive chocolate collection and their scrumptious limited-edition Valentine’s selection. You can even sit upstairs and sip on sweet concoctions, or simply take out your truffles. Stay warm at Queen’s Collection in Daikanyama, a true chocolate cafe. All the fun comes with ordering the signature hot chocolate, which you make yourself, melting the chips fondue-style and mixing it up with warm milk.
Main image: CJ Isherwood on Flickr