So you’re an expat living in the Kansai area and you’ve finally met that special someone. They’re smart, funny, intelligent, and attractive. They know all about your terrible foot secret and they’re totally cool with it. Obviously, you want to – nay, need to – give them an unforgettable Valentine’s Day, but you’re clueless as to where one goes for romance around here. Don’t panic! KS is here to help.
Amanohashidate Spa (Kyoto)
After a five-minute walk north from Amanohashidate Station on the Kita Kinki Tango Railway you’ll find the Amanohashidate Miyazu Royal Hotel. Your date may balk at the suggestion of spending your Valentine’s Day date at a hotel, but you can allay their fears by pointing out that it’s not really the hotel so much as the Hot Springs Spa within. Spend the day in the park enjoying the sweeping white sand beach topped with pine trees, the evening in the open air baths, and the night in one of Miyazu Royal Hotel’s luxurious rooms.
Italian Quatro (Kyoto)
Kyoto Station has a number of options when it comes to restaurants with an atmosphere well-suited for a date. But you can’t take your special someone to a restaurant in a train station on Valentine’s Day, no matter how nice the station or the restaurant. Luckily, just north of the station, between a Lawson’s and the Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto, is Italian Quatro, a hip yet homey Italian restaurant with a moderately priced menu and great wine selection. Unlike many Italian restaurants in Japan, this one really knows its Italian reds and the food is amazing.
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto)
This shrine is open 24 hours and the taxi ride is under ¥1,500 from Italian Quatro. It’s true that the splendor of the shrine and its bazillion torii gates are most visible by daylight, but if you’re looking for romance, a moonlit stroll through the eerie yet beautiful shrine is hard to beat. The view of Kyoto lit by a million lights, seen only from the mountain upon which the shrine is located, is breathtaking. So is the climb to reach it, although in a rather more literal sense. Smokers and those wearing fancy but uncomfortable shoes should stick to the lower levels, which provide several dimly lit pathways under the gaze of a hundred fox statues. Access: Fushim-Inari Sta. Keihan Line
La Baie (Osaka)
The only type of cuisine more romantic than Italian is, naturally, French cuisine. Especially if that French cuisine is consumed in a fine dining atmosphere with select wines chosen specifically for you by a true Sommelier. Make no mistake, there are few places more suited for romance than La Baie at the Ritz Carlton. Naturally, you’ll spend an arm and a leg for that experience – a standard dinner course will run you over ¥15,000 – but if your special someone is truly that special, you’ll bite the bullet. The Ritz can be found just south west of Osaka station. Be sure to wear a nice jacket. www.ritzcarlton.com
Mount Rokko (Kobe)
All aboard the nostalgic open-air cable car to Mount Rokko! This sweet – and steep – ten-minute journey is just the beginning of this area’s romantic charms. Catch a bus to Rokko Garden Terrace to see one of Japan’s three best night views – the pretty twinkling lights of Kobe and Osaka. Then treat your sweetheart to a meal at one of three different restaurants with a scenic view. Rokko View Place has a relaxed casual feel, Granite Café features seasonal treats, and Genghis Khan Palace offers mutton barbecue straight from the nearby Rokko pastures. www.rokkosan.com/en