With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to explore Japanese romance. There’s a long tradition of romance in Japan that goes from visiting the Jishu Shrine (also known as the ‘Cupid of Japan’) all the way through to modern day dating practices. We’ll be taking a look at Japanese dating past and present, and shedding some light on the most romantic places in Japan.
A Shrine to Japanese Romance
The Jishu Shrine in Kyoto has been at the foreground of romantic Japan for around 1300 years. Located at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s still an incredibly popular attraction today. The deity Ōkuninushi No Mikota (or just Ōkuninushi for short) is said to watch over the shrine, and he is said to promote love and care to all. This is why the shrine is known as the ‘Cupid of Japan’.
This includes couples and singles! Couples visit to wish upon the statues and purchase lucky charms to maintain the strength of their relationships and marriages. Singles have it a little different. They are often seen walking between two stones with their eyes closed, and if they successfully reach the far stone it is believed that they will be successful in finding love in the future.
A Unique Japanese Dating Custom
Dating in Japan has some customs that are very different from Western countries. The most notable of these is the gifting of a kokuhaku, or a love confession, which is more often than not a teenage or young adult practice. Instead of it being a profession of outright love, it’s more a way of letting someone else know that you like them and asking them out.
Valentine’s Day in Japan is especially important in this regard, and has been for decades. February 14th is a day for women to display affection to men, usually through chocolate. The bigger the chocolate, the bigger the affection! Men are expected to over-reciprocate on White Day on March 14th, with a gift in return of three times the value. Anything less signals that the relationship hasn’t got much of a future!
A Different Sort of Romantic Evening
There’s been significant press about how coupling up in Japan is on the decline, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the rise of modern love hotels. It might sound like a strange concept to Western ears, but in Japanese culture it’s not seen as taboo. With Japanese home life often crowded with extended family, sometimes couples of any age need a space just for them.
Couples book in on the night and either pay by the hour or check out again in the morning. Love hotels are very inexpensive when compared to regular hotels, with most offering room service, returning customer benefits and luxurious extras such as massage chairs and sauna baths. JapanTravel have a really useful guide on love hotels, with information on how they work and where to find them.
Japanese romance strikes a different chord to Western romance, but it’s a love life that’s built around respect, gift-giving, and a good laugh – just like any good relationship! If you’re looking to show that special someone a bit of affection, an authentic kimono or a breathtaking piece of Japanese art would be a perfect Valentine’s Day gift.