Stoking The Embers Of Love In A Bookshop

February in Japan is a difficult month to plan romantic outdoor adventures. Typically the coldest month of the year, even unseasonably warm days cannot be trusted. A well-prepared love interest wanting to build a healthy relationship might pack an additional fluffy scarf or knee rug to wrap their date in, should chilly weather roll in. Choosing a cosy indoor dating destination avoids the elements altogether, and where better to experience a rom-com worthy meet-cute but a bookstore?

Good for:

  • Cold or wet days
  • Bookworms
  • Low pressure exploration of personal preferences

Quick points:

  • Coffee and light meals
  • Instagrammable
  • Bilingual book options
  • Focus on Kyoto and Hirakata

Browsing For Love

Rom-Com Worthy Meet-Cute Bookstore Dating
The physicality of a book, the chance discovery of a new favourite while perusing the shelves, or the ability to flip open a novel to sample the author’s style. Bilingual book stores in Umeda, Kyoto and Hirakata offer these simple pleasures, and, to new couples, the chance of shared adventure in the pages of a new story.

Maruzen Bookshop, B2, Bal department store, Kyoto

While the Osaka branch devotes the entire 6th floor to English books, within the bottom-most basement of Bal resides an abundant, even surprisingly diverse, selection of titles. Nonfiction books run from hard mathematics to the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault, from phrase books on Kansai dialect to the latest Trevor Noah biography. Multiple shelves of fiction run the gamut of classic literature to contemporary and genre sections including mystery, adventure, and, of course, romance. Even fantasy and science fiction are given space, with the foundational works of Asimov and Bradbury alongside the newer works of Gaiman and Sanderson. There is also a generous amount of translated manga for those working up to reading in the original Japanese. A cafe sits conveniently close to the English quarter of the store, where weary couples can compare their discoveries over coffee and cakes.

Couples Can Enjoy Wandering Book Stacks Comparing Favourite Authors

Taking up over a quarter of the store, couples can enjoy wandering through the book stacks, comparing favourite authors and sharing stories of well-loved tomes.

Bal, is itself a fun destination to explore. Described as one of the most beautiful department stores, at least in Kyoto, there are touches of an old-world style, with warm wooden panelling inside the elevators and lamps lining the escalator shafts. Yet the airy shop floors, exposed ducts coiling in the ceilings, and scents of organic fragrances wafting from one of the many hipster retailers results in an industrial chic meets art gallery aesthetic. Even the Starbucks here has an avant garde flair.

Bathroom Mirrors Akin To Backstage Dressing Room Of Art House Theatre

Mirrors in the bathrooms feel like they belong in the backstage dressing room of an indie art house theatre.

A Photo Gallery Slides In Seamlessly With The Other Artistic Stores

A photo gallery slides in seamlessly with the other artistic stores.

A Unique And Even Slightly Creepy Iteration Of Bal Starbucks Kyoto

A unique and even slightly creepy iteration of Starbucks.

Tsutaya, 2F & 3F, Hirakata T-site, Hirakata

Indulge Your Beauty And The Beast Library Romance Fantasies Here

Indulge your Beauty And The Beast library romance fantasies at this very Instagrammable spot.

A little off the beaten track, but only two minutes from Hirakata’s Keihan station, is the glass cube creation, Hirakata T-site. Insta-famous for floor to ceiling walls of books, there is an emphasis on literature in everyday spaces throughout the building. Book shelves run alongside the escalators and hang over rows of pop-up shops on the ground floor. While boasting a glorious array of novels, magazines and literature adjacent stationery to peruse, sadly the Hirakata T-site Tsutaya has very little to offer for English readers apart from feeding aspirational fantasies of an impressive home library.

Romantic Non Japanese Works That Have Been Translated

Sadly misleading, this section is for non-Japanese works that have been translated.

Though Popular On Instagram The Main Photo Area Was Surprisingly Quiet

Though popular on Instagram, the main photo area was surprisingly quiet.

What it lacks in bilingual book choices, Hirakata T-site makes up for in comfy spots to sit. Tsutaya shares its space with a plant-filled indoor terrace, umbrella covered picnic tables, and cafes. Counter benches line large glass walls that let in natural light for readers and loving couples sharing notes or swapping bites of their shared brownie. On rainy days the effect is calm and diffused, perfect for quiet conversations over coffee.

Spacious Cafe Section With Plenty Of Places To Sit And No Time Limits

The spacious cafe section provides plenty of places to sit, no time limits and the opportunity for both people watching and story swapping.

T-site also has breakfast options for early birds with Grounds Baker opens from 7am, with a morning set until 11. Apart from the typical toast and salad sets, there is a diverse range of bakery goods, including a New York style of sweet loaf called Babka, made out of local Hirakata ingredients. The cafe is also known for mixing mochi with a croissant, resulting in a sticky treat that comes in three flavours.

Wake Up Over Fresh Bakery Goods Before Hitting The Bookstore

Wake-up over fresh bakery goods before hitting the bookstore.

Fruity And Sweet The Ruby Chocolate Drink Is An Alternative To Coffee

Promising to be fruity and sweet, try this Valentine’s Day hued “ruby chocolate” drink as an alternative to coffee.

T-Site Flower Shop An Opportunity To Surprise And Delight Your Date

A flower shop and an international grocery store, also on the ground floor, provide opportunities to surprise and delight your date.

Book Themed Cafes

With a focus more on consuming coffee than character arcs, Kyoto has several cafe options for literary couples looking for a bookish ambience.

Cafe Bibliotic Hello!

Easy to find thanks to vibrant banana palms framing the front entrance, this popular and beautifully renovated machiya still manages to feel tucked away and private. Seating options range from a view of the inner garden, to the squishy sofa (ideal for couples wanting an excuse to slip an arm around while out), a communal table, or even a perch in the rafters. Bookshelves contain a few English books, including some on art and design. But poking through to uncover other gems may not lead to much, unless a copy of Campbell’s Microwave Cookery book is considered a hidden treasure. However, for those focused on less practical things, Cafe Bibliotic’s dim lighting, jazzy soundtrack, hot chocolate and pistachio cupcakes combine into a warm and romantic spot for a date.
Couples Can Enjoy Cakes Hot Chai Sandwiches Or House Salad Together

Couples can share insights and background information over cakes, hot chai, sandwiches or the house salad.

No Need To Read Alone When On A Date Through Marriage Matching

No need to read alone when on a date through Marriage Matching.

Cafe OyOy vege and books

The lights in this cafe are brighter than Cafe Bibliotic’s and a busier vibe pervades, thanks to its location within Ace Hotel’s trendy mini shopping centre. As the name suggests, alongside its coffee and carrot cake, Cafe OyOy sells organic vegetables and books. However, the published selection is small, exclusively in Japanese and generally on the theme of traditional Japanese farming techniques. Surrounding the cafe are a variety of interesting shops and snackeries including a primo chocolate shop right next door to add additional sweetness to your date.

Nurturing True Love With A Cosy Bookshop

Winter and rainy days need not spell doom for loving couples seeking romantic dates as their relationship builds. Curl up on a couch together with a favourite novel, or wander hand in hand through the book shelves, searching for the next bestseller while nurturing that spirit of true love with your potential life partner.

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