My frugal Valentine: Romance in a recession
Ugh. Valentine's Day in one of the most commercialized holidays of the year in one of the most expensive cities in the world in the middle of a global recession?
Relax. These ideas should turn up the romance factor while leaving your wallet relatively unscathed.
1. Illuminate your evening
If you can stand the chilly night air, you and your beloved can take advantage of the dim lighting at Enoshima's Valentine's events.
A mere ¥200 will get you into the Samuel Cocking Garden, where a large art installation has been set up featuring different colored lights, candles and hundreds of mirror balls.
There will also be a special light show at the Enoshima Lighthouse between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
To really impress your date, go online and prepare a note to be posted on the lover's message board in the lobby.
2. Skates on
If you mention ice skating and romance, the first image that comes to mind may be Rockefeller Center in New York City. But Yokohama's Akarenga district is making its own bid to be the world's most romantic skating spot.
With the glittering surface all lit up at night and a special candle-lighting event on Valentine's Day, love is sure to be in the air.
Just ¥500 gets you onto the ice. Shy daters can use the slippery surface as the perfect excuse to grab their partner's hand.
3. Movie night
Valentine's Day is also "Toho Cinemas Day." Each month on the 14th, you can take advantage of discounted tickets at the cinema chain for a traditional "dinner and movie" date.
Rather than the usual ¥1,800 a person, you can snag seats for just ¥1,000 each.
Whether you see a romance to melt hearts or a horror flick to encourage huddling close, the dark of the theater and the conveniently liftable armrests make romance easy.
4. Give your partner the stars
Star gazing is always nice, but at this time of year, you're likely to be thinking more about the temperature than the view.
You'll also have trouble seeing anything through Tokyo's notorious light pollution.
At the Katsushika City Museum Planetarium, though, you can see the stars up close without risking hypothermia.
Tickets cost ¥350 a person and you won't be lying when you tell your partner you'll give them the stars.
5. Whip up some sweets
Nothing builds intimacy like spending time in the kitchen together, we're told, although we can think of a few alternative methods. Anyway, if you don't know a pancetta from a petit four, you and your squeeze can take a lesson together at ABC Cooking School.
One-day courses start from ¥500 and part of the proceeds go to the UNHCR.
ABC even offers classes in English at the Tokyo Midtown location, so don't let Nihongo nervousness keep you out of the kitchen.
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6. Bring the oyster bar home
Hitting the oyster bar could crush your budget, but if you plan ahead and don't mind shucking your own, you can save a bundle by having your aphrodisiacs at home.
Several excellent oyster varieties, including Kumamotos and Fanny Bays, can be purchased from Yamaso Oysters in the Ota Fishmarket -- you can sample them before you buy -- and prices are as low as you'll find in Tokyo.
7. Go on an old-school picnic
February may be a little early for picnic weather, but a crisp, late winter day can still be an ideal time for a romantic stroll through one of Tokyo's atmospheric landscape gardens.
Just be sure to pack lots of layers and hot drinks -- a cuddly quilt wouldn't hurt either.
Kita-ku's Kyu-Furukawa Teien makes a nice backdrop for a date. Its picturesque grounds and residence designed by the British architect Josiah Condor look like something out of a romance novel.
Entrance costs a mere ¥150 and the pond is even said to be shaped like the Japanese character for “heart.”
8. Take in a romantic opera
Opera doesn't have a reputation for affordability, but seats for Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" at the New National Theater start at just ¥1,500.
The plot hinges on passion, the music is beautiful and you can spend the rest of the evening swearing to your partner that you'll never need to slip them a Mickey like our peasant hero.
9. Check out native lingerie
For art buffs or the craft-minded, an ideal Valentine's date might be to check out "LOVE! handmade" at Akasaka's Amuse Museum.
The exhibit features tattsuke, wtraditional handmade hemp underwear for working women in Aomori.
Although they were designed for practicality of movement and warmth in Tohoku's cold weather, the undies were also crafted with an eye for beauty in tough circumstances. Just think how easily you could segue from discussions of historical underpants to more modern incarnations ...
10. Get a chocolate fix
If there's one thing you can't do without on Valentine's, it's chocolate.
But if going to Tokyo's premier chocolatier cafés, such as Jean-Paul Hevin and Maison du Chocolat, is a little out of your budget, Meiji offers another option.
Meiji's 100 percent Chocolate Café in Kyobashi offers a range of chocolate goodies for your sweetie's sweet tooth, from chocolate mousse to chocolate waffles. Most of the menu items are well under ¥500.
Plus, every drink order comes with a bonus piece of chocolate, with a different flavor for each day of the year.
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