This beautiful, heartfelt piece was written for us by Edward Grinewich-Yonashiro, Ted to us, in January 2012. Ted was our Japan Correspondent for a couple of years, until he moved to Los Angeles. To know more about this wonderful writer-teacher and his life today, visit his website.

Ted Grinewich-Yonashiro

Ted Grinewich-Yonashiro

So the year was 2012; Valentine’s day was round the corner, and we were curious to know how a couple would celebrate it in Japan. Here’s what Ted told us, not a word changed:

“My partner Nobu and I live in Osaka-city, Japan. On Valentines day, we choose to break Japanese tradition and not to buy department store chocolates. Rather, we plan a date in the spirit of the holiday–sweets, flowers, and romantic dinner out.

Our date begins in the late afternoon among the trees of Utsubo Park. The park is nestled among office buildings in the western area of Osaka city.  Utsubo Park, meaning “Quiver Park” in English, is the perfect setting for cupid to leave his arrows as Nobu and I have an afternoon Valentine’s Day stroll. The top of the stairs that lead to the rose garden, in the centre of the park, is the best vantage point at which to appreciate the sun setting over the budding roses.

Utsubo Park, Osaka, Japan

As we wait for the setting sun, Nobu and I claim one of the benches that flank the staircase. Having come prepared, Nobu and I break out coffees and pastries we bought from a shop nearby called Vesta. Vesta is well known for their in-shop bakery that uses many organic and locally grown ingredients. For Valentine’s Day, Nobu and I look forward to the strawberry tarts occasionally sold at Vesta which are topped with fresh whipped cream and then lightly sprinkled with gold leaf.

Sweethearts

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After Nobu and I have eaten our tarts and the sun has set, we head to dinner at Tsurutontan–our favorite udon noodle restaurant in Osaka.

Tsurutontan Restaurant, Osaka, Japan

Tsurutontan Restaurant, Osaka, Japan

Tsurutontan’s neo-classical Japanese  atmosphere and generous portions are well known throughout the city. I usually order spicy cod roe udon and Nobu often enjoys asparagus and corn cream udon.

Japanese delicacies, Tsurutontan, Osaka

Japanese delicacies, Tsurutontan, Osaka

Even with the superb food and atmosphere, prices are extremely reasonable. Dinner for Nobu and I, with two glasses of Ume-shu (Japanese sweet plum liqueur) is around three thousand yen.

Utsubo Park, Osaka, JapanNobu and I made our Valentine’s Day memorable in Utsubo-Park–Cupid’s quiver in Osaka. Even away from the traditional Japanese chocolate exchange, our date and romantic dinner together helped open some of the beautiful and delicious gifts Osaka has to offer.”

Utsubo Park (Utsubo Kouen):
150m north of exit 28 of Honmachi Station on the Osaka Yotsubashi Subway Line

Vesta – Bread & Sweets (Kyomachihori):
http://vesta-bs.com
Just outside the North-eastern corner of Utsubo Park
Osaka-shi Nishi-ku Kyomachihori 1-13-2
Tel. 06-6445-7474  Hours: 11:00am to 7:00pm

Tsurutontan (Daikokucho):
http://www.tsurutontan.co.jp/
Just south of exit 2 of Daikokucho station on the Osaka Yotsubashi Subway Line
Osaka-shi Naniwa-ku Shikitsunishi 2-1-11
Tel. 06-6641-2626 Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Photos: Edward Grinewich-Yonashiro