In his 1977 classic one hit wonder, John Paul Young sang the immortal lines “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around”. There is a good chance that he wasn’t looking around Nagoya, as while it is an amazing city with so much to offer, thanks to its industrial past, calling it a romantic city in the vein of Venice or Paris, is a stretch of the imagination. But, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you may be want to find that perfect place to cozy up to your loved one and not sure where to go. Fear not, because there are actually quite a few romantic spots in this fair city.
While this isn’t strictly in Nagoya (in fact it’s over in Mie prefecture), it’s still pretty close, and it has so much going on that I think it is fair to include it on this list. Nabana no Sato is part to the Nagashima onsen complex and though it holds one of Japan’s largest flower festivals in the summer, it really comes alive in the colder months with a breathtaking illuminations display. Highlights include a light tunnel and a stunning representation of Mount Fuji that reflects the passing of the year on the great symbol of Japan. Wrap up warm and head to the observation deck for the best views of the park. There are also a few restaurants dotted about the park, though reservations are strongly recommended. But it’s not just the illuminations that make this a great spot. There is also a large shopping complex, an onsen and an amusement park, which means that it is the ideal location for an all day date.
Another lovely place for a nice romantic stroll on a Valentine’s Day is the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The zoo itself has had something of a renovation in recent years, and is vastly improved, and then there is the undeniable sex appeal of the world’s most handsome gorilla, Shabani, that is guaranteed to get the romantic juices flowing! However while many of you may balk at the animals in captivity aspect of the zoo, the Botanical Gardens are still lovely, and the greenhouses are a perfect location to get, if not hot and heavy, at least warm and romantic.
I’m really not sure I should be telling you about this place, and if my girlfriend finds out that I have, I may be in big trouble. You see Conca, a delightful little Italian restaurant not for from Nagoya Station, is where we go on big, romantic occasions, and it’s not difficult to see why. The restaurant itself is softly lit and tiny (there are only about four tables), the absolute epitome of ‘intimate’. But it is the food that makes this place so exquisite. On our most recent visit we had a whole wood pigeon, deep fried foie gras and anago, and spaghetti in a creamy sea urchin sauce, and all were totally divine, particularly with the great wine list, something of which the owners are only too happy to help you match to your meal.
And once you have finished your meal, if you want to go for a quiet drink together, Pub Arco, the absolute best bar in all of the city* (in fact it’s my favorite in Japan) is just next door. Yoshi san, the landlord, makes a mean cocktail and he has a huge list of whiskey to choose from.
There is no doubting the simple, romantic quality of the sea. It could be the relaxing qualities of the undulating water, or the majestic gracefulness of the sea creatures, but the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium makes a great place for a date. Wandering around the exhibits holding hands, chuckling at the stranger creatures, laughing together as you get splashed at the dolphin show, one of you looking fidgety as the other mentions that it’s a little known fact that most penguins mate for life. At the weekend the Aquarium can get pretty busy, but with Valentine’s Day coming on a Tuesday this year, you are likely to avoid the crowds of kids.
*Note, this is the personal view of the writer, and is not to be seen as an endorsement by Japan Info Swap.
By Mark Guthrie
Image by Mark Guthrie (Own work)