Japan has the steepest population decline in the world, where a good 60% of unmarried women and 70% of unmarried men, are not in a relationship.
In a country where love and affection can be bought (or facilitated) with host/hostess bars, cuddle cafes, and 3D waifus (virtual wives), it isn’t surprising that people just aren’t falling head over heels for one another.
However, that should not be the case as Tokyo is fully-equipped with a plethora of sights and sounds to make every date the best you’ve ever had. Heart on my sleeve and sushi in my belly, here’s my take on falling in love in Tokyo, and with that, falling in love with Tokyo.
Step 1: Finding beauty
While this varies from person to person, the first step is to being the right state of mind and secondly, understand what exactly it is you’re looking for. Like any person/city, a sense of fondness and comfort has to be identified for you to come to grips with what you’re feeling.
Now, on to the real bit. I headed out to see what I could find in Tokyo. I knew that Christmas was around the corner and love was in fact, in the air. People would flock to parks and picturesque spots in the city, and rationally, beauty attracts beauty. To successfully fall in love in Tokyo, I headed to Yoyogi Park to find a suitable romantic interest.
With its scenic views and general size (its super accessible too!), it’s a no-brainer that one should frequent this park in search of their better halves. Even during winter, with the ground painted a lush yellow and orange mix, accompanied by the sounds of buskers playing traditional instruments, couples flock to Yoyogi park to be a part of the magic. I was left in awe of it’s beauty before stumbling upon something a little prettier.
A good alternative to Yoyogi Park would be the Meguro River which passes through the Meguro, Setagaya, and Shinagawa wards. Famed for the Nakameguro Sakura Festival (where the cherry blossoms are lit up in the evening), the Meguro River provides an array of colours throughout the season. Although cherry blossoms may give your ideal partner a run for their money in the appearance section, it is undeniable that the Meguro River possesses a hushed and chilled vibe.
My encounter was during winter, which evoked colour schemes and moods reminiscent of walkways along Amsterdam’s canals. The array of flower and coffee shops that line the river make this the perfect spot to seek what you may, be it a soft, scrumptious bagel, or a soft, scrumptious bae(girl). And even though autumn has left the trees barren, these two locations are the perfect environments for love to blossom.
Song/Playlist of Choice: Ta-ku’s Songs to Fall In Love To.
Step 2: Understanding Their Tastes.
Fast forward and I’m now on the verge of my first date. First dates are more of a hit-or-miss affair and one can never really prepare themselves for the unexpected. Nervous and slightly asthmatic, I was keen on coming off as smooth as James Dean, hoping this date goes as planned. The initial spark was amazing, it has to go great right? To pursue love in Tokyo, the first date should always include a visit to Tower Records in Shibuya.
Tower Records is the perfect spot to get a good gauge of your date’s personality. Music is an essential part of life and a person’s taste in music says a lot about their character (more than their Instagram follower count). Why’d you think Spotify teamed up with Tinder? Besides helping you figure out why your date listens Justin Bieber AND Led Zeppelin, Tower Records takes you back in time to when music was something tangible. CD’s and tapes that you’d hold and pop into your Sony Walkman or Discman and bop down the streets with no care in the world, reminding you of times where relationships were a whole lot simpler too. Bonding over music and discovering each other’s tastes are a surefire way of getting your date off on the right foot.
After an ear opening experience, dinner and drinks at Fred Segal Daikanyama would be a great way to start and end the evening. Flanked by a brewery and a cafe, this venue would set the perfect tone to the night, with warm lights bringing out her highlights and architecture that only accentuates her winged eyeliner. Everything in this area looks like it was torn out of a Pinterest page titled “Romantic First Date Spots”, and that will definitely work in your favour. To add more discovery to the mix, Fred Segal has a male and female clothing store in the vicinity, so one can also gauge the other’s fashion cues.
However, my experience was in the day but fortunately, everything went as planned. Fred Segal Daikanyama brought a little bit of Los Angeles to Tokyo and in turn, instilled a little bit of Los Angeles in our hearts. I believe that I’m falling, slowly but surely. Since we’re being rather universal with this article, it was safe to say I ended this date quite French. Ladies and gentlemen, I am now in the ballgame and have reached first base.
Song/Playlist of Choice: Any Oldies Playlist that includes Bob Dylan, The Temptations, Queen, The Hollies, and Frank Sinatra.
Step 3: Captivating Their Senses.
The first date was a breeze, now I’m on to bigger things. Second dates should be about experiences, ones that’ll make your date thank their lucky stars on agreeing to the first date and keep them guessing what’s in store for the third. My take on the second date would be to see something that’ll leave them in awe, which is why I chose the Mori Tower Observatory in Roppongi Hills, and Sumida Park in Asakusa.
Making your way up to the observatory is quite an experience, especially if you’re terrified of heights like me. You’d hope that your date is as, if not more, afraid of heights as you are, so you’d be able to play it cool and collected. The view from Mori Tower is breathtaking to say the least, but then again, it could be my fear of heights getting the best of me. You can choose to show off your talents of Japanese geography here but it would be best to let the Tokyo skyline do the talking. You’ll find that this observatory will facilitate physical touch and fizzle chemistry between the both of you as there’ll be lots of moments that are along the lines of, “Hey! Look over there! Isn’t it beautiful?”.
Also situated in the building is the Mori Arts Centre and Art Museum, where your inner Dali can be set free. During my date, I was lucky enough to witness an exhibition of The Universe and Art, which sparked deep conversations about space, the arts, and Star Wars (which was perfect!). The Mori Tower is the spot, for you to showcase how enlightened and cultured you are as a person (especially if you’re not).
Follow that up with a stroll along the Sumida River Terrace in Sumida Park and you will find your date in a swoon. This walkway screams River Thames and if you’re as lucky as I was, you’d find yourself with an elderly gentleman going ham on his saxophone. If you’re a hopeless romantic like me, this is your chance to bust into a Bollywood sway while time slows down and the tides carry on through (Don’t forget to tip the saxophonist!). This spot is as scenic as it gets along the river, with a view of the Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Beer Tower in the skyline. In conclusion, the second date propelled me in the Department of Feels and due to my successful slow dancing along the river, I eventually made it to second base.
Song/Playlist of Choice: BadBadNotGood’s Album titled IV, Takk… by Sigur Rós, and The OST to Sleeping With Other People.
Step 4: Karting to the Finish Line.
The third date is when things become more of a physical experience, and no, we haven’t made it to fourth base just yet. My take on a third date to fall in love in Tokyo would be to take on a physical activity (sort of), so we headed to Fuji Q Highlands to kick things off.
It took us two hours to get there by bus, but the mountains and Japanese countryside made it worthwhile. Upon arrival, we were graced with a chilly breeze and roller coasters zooming past at dizzying speeds. Theme parks are perfect for dates for various reasons, but mainly because they replicate the adrenaline rush you feel when you fall in love. Butterflies in your stomach, slight sweating, and a racing heart are all symptoms of you falling hard. Our goal for the day was to get on everything fun (to us), and to leave once the sun sets. From the Eejanaika to the Red Tower, we tried it all.
The roller coasters left us with smiles on our faces and as the golden hour came by, we managed to get on the Shining Flower ferris wheel and catch a glimpse of Ol’ Fuji San during the sunset, which was spellbinding to say the least. Guards down and excitement in the air, we even took a stroll on the Merry-Go-Round for old times’ sake. Fuji Q Highland also transforms into something rather Parisian as the sun sets. Warm lights and chilly weather complement each other perfectly, with accordions serenading us as we bought ice cream, reminding me a little of Bella Notte from Lady and The Tramp (although that was rather Italian).
Satisfied with the all-encompassing experience at Fuji Q, we headed back to the city for something that evoked our inner children, Go-Karting in costumes around Tokyo. Driving has always been therapeutic for me, but driving on the buzzing streets of Tokyo in a kart, was something else. Naturally, we got dressed in absurd costumes and made our way through the streets, often racing in the alleyways and even stopping to catch a quick snack at a convenience store.
Nothing can really prepare you for the countless photographs (and stares) you’d get while driving a neon-lit kart on the streets, but having someone special to do it with makes it all worthwhile. Needless to say, the drive got our pulse racing and we went to town (literally and figuratively) soon after it was over. Step aside fellas, I’ve now shifted into third gear.
Song/Playlist of Choice: Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1. and Bella Notte from Disney’s Lady & The Tramp.
Step 5: You Have Arrived at Your Destination.
4 dates in and you’re on the verge of a home run, we know this feeling all too well. But this time, I tried something a little different. Instead of putting pedal to the metal, I decided to slow things down. So instead of making a reservation at Park Hyatt Tokyo (aka Lost in Translation), lighting vanilla scented candles, and putting a Marvin Gaye record on, I decided that we visit places that were timeless. Being the old soul that I am, we set out to visit the Meiji Shrine. I mean, nothing says love like a Japanese equivalent of the Taj Mahal, right?
And lovely she was (I’m talking about the Meiji Shrine here). The shrine is situated in an evergreen forest and the walk was rather long, but who doesn’t love long walks? There, we witnessed a wedding ceremony and spent some time indulging in this (almost) century old shrine. There were also Emas, votive tablets for special personal prayers and gratitude towards the deities enshrined in the Meiji Shrine. It was heartwarming to see the prayers and wishes of people fulfilled, almost allowing a tear to escape my eye.
An alternative to this would be the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Another scenic spot on this guide, the East Gardens offers you hours of walking as there’s plenty to check out in the grounds. If there was a Disney movie about falling in love in Tokyo, the East Gardens would definitely be featured. Providing you everything you’ll need for the perfect Instagram couple shot, the park is usually patronised by older love birds.
These places are bound to induce positive thoughts to the person you’re dating. It shows that you’re not just in it for the short term or the good-bits of physical attraction. It shows that you’re a mature being who understands their feelings, and approaches it with care. Needless to say, you’ll eventually get your home run, but there’s no point rushing it. As cliche as it sounds, it isn’t the destination, but the journey that matters most.
Song/Playlist of Choice: John Mayer’s Continuum, Mikhael Paskalev’s Come On, and LANY’s ILYSB (Stripped).
Through this step by step guide, I’ve realised that I’ve slowly fallen in love with Tokyo. In this tale, there wasn’t a female protagonist to begin with, but I’m sure all of these steps would’ve worked on an actual person too, rather than a city. However, that’s for you to find out. It’s unfathomable that the youth in Tokyo and Japan generally aren’t exploiting what their land offers in their quest for love. The parks, skyline, food, quirks, weather, culture, and people are an abundance of opportunities waiting to happen. But I guess that leaves room for people like us to come in and use it to its extent. And kids, that’s how I fell in love with Tokyo.