This one is personal. Right now, as of me typing this, I should be in Tokyo with A and my family, spending five nights there before embarking on a twelve day cruise, and then continuing just with A to Taiwan for another week. I LOVE Japan, and my first trip there was just amazing! So going back was incredibly exciting for me… and then COVID-19 hit. First the cruise was canceled, then the entire trip, then most of the rest of life. So we might not be in Japan, but we could bring a bit of Japan to us.
This time, we took on some of the more active cultural activities the country had to offer. Sure, we couldn’t actually go to a tea ceremony, but maybe we could replicate the experience somehow. Travel, after all, is somewhat of a mindset. If we decide that we are going to travel to Japan from our quarantine, it’s just a matter of making that mental leap. And while it isn’t quite the same as being there (understatement alert), it is as close as we can get for now.
With more activities, this date was more of a day than just a night. But hey, we are all quarantined right now, so what else do we have going on?
Japan-Themed Date Night
Eat: Chirashi and Matcha Panna Cotta
We seem to have our routine down pat. I make the entree and A tops it with her dessert. Chirashi is a sort of sushi casserole: rice with fish, vegetables, and egg. Since we are quarantining with my parents, however, we cooked our fish (my mom won’t eat sushi). Salmon got poached and sole baked and flaked. Mushrooms were sautéed and egg cooked into a flat pancake and then cut into strips. I added a dressing of sake, lime, and soy. All in all, it was pretty darn good!
My chirashi isn’t traditional but was sure tasty!
A’s panna cottas were stunning. The flavor of the matcha (green tea powder used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies) came through without being overpoweringly bitter. She made some whipped cream to balance it, and all that was left was to lick our glasses!
We also had some lovely sake and edamame to accompany the meal.
This was probably my favorite part of the day. I recently was gifted a book of origami for beginners – and I’m a total beginner, having maybe tried once before. So I ordered some origami paper on Amazon and off we went into the basics. This book, Origami Made Simple (link leads to getting one for yourself) has three chapters of increasingly complicated designs, but the hardest are only 25 steps or less, so it’s perfect for anyone who wants to experience the zen of folding but from an approachable path. I’m going to include a couple of my successful models below, and yes, I’m proud of them!
I can’t recommend this experience highly enough!
Experiences like this have become my favorite part of couch-based travel. Just because we are stuck at home right now doesn’t mean we can’t get a book and dive into one of the cultural gifts another country has to offer us. Speaking specifically about origami, A and I can’t wait to finish all of the amazing models in Origami Made Simple!
This frog actually jumps and was made with a twenty dollar bill instead of origami paper since it needed to be rectangular.
Immerse: Tea Ceremony
YouTube has so many amazing things. I found a video of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. We muted it and put some zen music on, made ourselves some tea (jasmine for me), and spent a lovely and relaxing little bit of time feeling like we were actually there.
Tea is soothing.
Tour: Kyoto Distillery
Did you know Japan makes gin? They do, and using traditional Japanese ingredients, and the Kyoto Distillery has a virtual tour with buttons to press to get more information about all of the nifty machines and vats and such. An awesome use of thirty or so minutes to explore!
Learn: The History of Japan
Short animated documentaries with dinner have become one of our go-to date night activities. This one might be my favorite so far. It traces Japan from early days to post-World War Two, and does so in a largely light and humorous way. (Obviously some parts of history can’t be funny, though.) Learning something is key for my travel experiences, and these really make that easy!
Watch: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Warning: don’t watch this on an empty stomach. That out of the way, if you haven’t watched this documentary about Japan’s top sushi chef, you must do so. Seriously. It’s on Netflix right now. Sadly, his restaurant isn’t really open to westerners.
This might have been my favorite date night so far, as it was more immersive than others we have had. So what are you waiting for? Order an origami book, brew some tea, and get started on your own Japanese-themed date!
If you enjoyed this, make sure to visit all of our travel-themed date nights here.
Like it? Pin it!