Across the world, Christmas is a time of giving, connection and love.

In Japan, while New Years is reserved for family, Christmas is a time for friends and couples to celebrate together. December 24th is considered one of the most romantic nights of the year, on a par with Valentine’s Day. With thoughts of being with a true love often on the mind of many in the run up to Christmas, often nudging various singles into contacting a marriage agency to get help finding that perfect partner. While the Kansai region doesn’t often experience a white Christmas, Osaka and Kobe in particular, lean into the frivolity and fun of the season with Christmas markets, illuminations and other winter themed activities for couples to enjoy. Fear not, those outside the big centres! Events occur in other areas of Kansai too. Read on for a list of the best and the brightest spots around.

Osaka Umeda Christmas Illuminations

Illuminations

Romantic Illuminations Midosuji Street Nakanoshima

Osaka knows how to shine. Visual spectacles dot the city, glamming up the hubs of Namba and Umeda. Sparkling lights stretch along kilometres of the Midosuji to the art island of Nakanoshima. Visiting an illumination event is regularly cited as the number one must do activity for date nights around Christmas, so wrap up warmly and go see some Christmas lights!

Cute Illuminations Christmas Nakanoshima Osaka

Namba Parks

Encrusted trees, glowing tunnels and an 18 metre shimmering blue waterfall of lights. The level of beauty on display at Namba Parks is incredibly high for its zero yen entry fee. The illuminations are for winter and not Christmas dependent, allowing for a date any time between November and late February. The rooftop garden on Level 8 is rumoured to be a quieter dating area with benches and the ability to bring your own food. So pack your knee rugs and snuggle in to enjoy the lights.

Midosuji and Nakanoshima

Nakanoshima Midosuji Illuminations Romantic Date Night
Described by one local as being “gorgeous to the point of driver distraction”, visiting the main thoroughfare of Midosuji from late November until the last day of December, is worth the risk. Wandering beneath the blue, gold and silver wrapped trees with a cup of hot wine, a camera and a special someone by your side is undoubtedly the ultimate way to experience the four kilometre stretch. Around Nakanoshima, the lights line the river banks and reflect off the Tosabori river. Projection mapping paints the city hall, and various tunnels invite the chance to stroll, hand in hand.
Midosuji Street Christmas Illuminations Osaka

Christmas Markets

A good Christmas market, filled with food and a cosy atmosphere, leans into the mystique the holiday holds in Japan, and can feel like a portal into another world. Consider visiting Christmas Markets held in nearby Kobe, or even taking the further trek south to find a slice of Europe within Wakayama.

Christmas Market Romantic Evening Date

Kobe Christmas Market at Nunobiki

Take a romantic rope-way ride up Mt Rokko to Nunobiki Herb Garden. While an excellent spot to date at any time of year, during the winter season from early November to Christmas Day you can enjoy the wreaths, the fruitcake and the fairy lights of its German style Christmas Market. Midweek day trips will find less crowds than weekend evenings, but will sadly lack the shimmering night views of Kobe and the cheer of the Christmas lights.

Festa De Luce Wakayama

Port Europa is a favourite of cosplayers across Kansai thanks to its Italian styled buildings and plaza. Christmas lights only add to the charm and over the winter season, this pocket-sized theme park lights up with parades, floating lantern releases, and even fireworks! The food part of the Christmas market is only on the weekends, and features less traditional fare, like oden, taco rice and pizza. However, with a lower price point for entry than other amusement parks, and less density to the crowds, this might be a nice way to cap off a day trip down south.

Ice Skating

Ice Skating Date Fun Memories

Another activity high on the list for romantic dates is ice-skating. With excellent opportunities for laughter and natural physical interaction while supporting each other, it’s an easy way to break the ice (pun intended) on early dates. From the sublimely romantic Umeda Tsurun Tsurun rink, to a more pragmatic but larger option in Kyoto, here are some spots to skate.

Umeda Tsurun Tsurun

Tsurun Tsurun Ice Skating Date Umeda
Tucked in beside Grand Front Osaka, this rink is an annual favourite and very convenient as a location to begin, extend or end an amazing date. Over the romantic period leading up to Christmas, those who want to send a loving message to their partners can apply to have it projected across the ice. Even without resorting to grand gestures, a spin around Tsurun Tsurun is guaranteed to be a fun and romantic memory to savour. As a bonus, in the evening after skating, a couple can stroll around the deck of Umeda Sky Building, enjoying the panoramic views of Osaka, and maybe even leave a pink heart shaped love lock there as a promise to the future.
Love Padlock True Love Long Term

Kyoto Aquarena

Kyoto Aquarena is not romantic at all. The centre contains a sports gym and the rink doubles as a swimming pool in summer. In addition, the price of entry and rentals is higher than Tsurun Tsurun. However, those who want to display a higher level of limb coordination or confidence on the ice to their date can take skating lessons here. The rink itself is massive, with more space to enjoy skating around and sturdy chest high walls to cling onto for those who choose not to take lessons beforehand.

Christmas In Japan

Christmas Dinner With Loved Ones

While Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in Japan, the country has taken on the celebration with enthusiasm. Christmas trees sprout up around department stores and plazas. Restaurants provide exclusive Christmas courses, though many prefer the conventional KFC Christmas dinner. Presents are exchanged between friends and those who hold a special place in the heart.

Christmas is a time for true human connection and generosity of spirit, beyond materialism. Spending time with the one you love can be as simple as a dinner at home with a streaming service of choice. Or as organized as travelling internationally to meet up with your potential life partner, after dating long distance for much of the year. The words we use and the actions we make in showing our appreciation to others, is what the holiday is truly about. May everyone stay safe and well during the winter season, and look forward to a happy and prosperous new year filled with love and healthy relationships.

Christmas Love Heart Candy Canes

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