Letters from Japan: “Valentines 2023”

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

By Hilary Keyes
February 10, 2023
Ask Hilary

Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Send it to askhilary@savvytokyo.com.

For Valentine’s Day 2023, rather than focusing on one subject, I took a few quick questions from people on anything and everything related to the holiday, love, romance and beauty.

If you’re interested in reading some fun and scary tales of Valentine’s past, check out this link. Got your own story to share? Email them to the address above.

Valentines Day 2023© Photo by iStock: Mila Naumova

I am pretty new to Japan and according to my Japanese coworkers, I should be making food for people for Valentine’s Day. Why? What the heck am I supposed to do? I’m not Martha Stewart.

—Not Martha Stewart

Glad you asked! Technically you don’t have to bake or do anything for Valentine’s Day if you don’t want to. You can just buy a bag of KitKats and pass those out or skip the holiday altogether.

As to why, here in Japan things are done a little differently. Rather than it being a holiday for couples to do romantic things for one another, Valentine’s Day traditionally is for women to make things for the men in their life, while White Day (March 14th) is when the men return the favor. You can read more about how Japan celebrates both holidays in the links.

If you would like to make something to celebrate with, whether that be for yourself, friends, coworkers or a special someone, you don’t have to be Martha Stewart or even have more than a gas stove or microwave.

The simplest and quickest route is to stick with the classic Japanese route and try making your own homemade chocolates. You can get most of the supplies (even the chocolate) at your nearest ¥100 shop. Or if the intended recipient(s) of your chocolates has any allergies or food sensitivities and you’d like a bit more of a challenge, you should check out this healthy valentines recipe by Luisa Heenan.

Personally, I get a little tired of chocolate at this time of year so my latest go-to recipes have either been cookies or cheesecake when I need to make things for people. Granted, having a tiny Japanese kitchen makes that a lot more difficult, but the effort is well worth it when you make something you feel proud of.

Please remember though that cooking times and temperatures vary by appliance. Keep in mind as well if you are using a recipe from overseas but in Japanese measuring cups that 1 cup in Japan is only 200 milliliters, compared to an American cup which is 240 milliliters. Have fun!

Valentines Day 2023© Photo by iStock: Rawpixel

Hey Hilary. I’m going all out for Valentine’s Day this year in the hopes of my Japanese boyfriend proposing for White Day. We’ve already seriously talked about getting married so it’s not like I’m trying to force him into it, but still. It’s about time. What should I know about getting married in Japan? 

Hopefully A Bride-to-be

Although going all out for Valentine’s doesn’t guarantee a marriage proposal, if you and your beau have had serious wedding talk already and you both seem to be on the same page when it comes to the less-than-romantic matters of marriage (where you’ll live, having children or not, care of aging parents, et cetera), then hopefully you’ll have the White Day that you’re dreaming of.

How relatively easy it is to get married in Japan largely depends on how prepared you are. Once the question has been popped, it becomes a matter of documents first, ceremony/reception second.

Check out the Savvy Tokyo Guide to Marriage for more details on how to get married in Japan. Best of luck!

Valentines Day 2023© Photo by iStock: PeopleImages

Hey. Apparently, I’m single for Valentine’s this year. This is a new development and I’m not in the mood to go anywhere or eat my feelings. I have more of a budget than I thought I would since it’s just me so I want to treat myself to something special. 


I’m sorry to hear that. Hopefully, you’ll be feeling like yourself again soon. I think self-care sounds like the way to go. You could try a chocolate or rose-themed home spa day.

When it comes to rose bath and beauty products, you can find plenty of options at your nearest drug store, Don Quijote or department store. My top recommendations when you want to be indulgent are (in no particular order) are Lush’s Valentine Bombshell bath bomb, any of their Rose Jam products, or the House of Rose La Rose collection.

For a chocolate-centric spa day, you’ll probably have the most luck shopping online. To start, you can cleanse your skin with Rosette’s Yume Miru Balm, a simple chocolate face wash/make-up remover, then hop in the shower and use Lush’s Posh Chocolate body wash and/or Botany’s Cocoa Polish.

Post shower, you could try Lush’s Glen Cocoa almond and cocoa mask or the Hanikam Chocola Tea pack, or if you prefer sheet masks the Pure Derm Choco Cocoa Collagen Mask comes highly recommended. Enjoy!

Valentines Day 2023© Photo by iStock: aluxum

I have been LDR with my Japanese boyfriend for nearly a year now (he was overseas with me before) and I’m finally coming to Japan to see him. I really want to go to a love hotel but I don’t know how they work, what I need to do to book one or where to even start really. 

Need Couples Time!

Welcome to Japan! Hope you enjoy your stay in the country and of course in the love hotel of your choosing.

Technically you don’t need to pre-book a love hotel. You can just show up and pick any of the rooms that are available and decide whether you’re staying for a rest (1-3 hours), a short stay (2-4 hours), or overnight (evening to usually 8-10 the next morning).

If you want to bring extra drinks or food instead of ordering off their room service menu that’s also allowed although some of the menus at the pricier love hotel chains are quite luxurious nowadays. Of course, most amenities are included or available from room service, but if you would prefer to bring your own condoms for example, then by all means do so as well.

Before you go to the hotel itself though, make sure you have everything you need for your stay. Unlike standard hotels, you’re not allowed to come and go as you, please. Once you’re in your room, that’s where you stay until your allotted check-out time. Be safe and have fun!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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