Ahhh…otaku in love! What a delightful experience of having two souls with infatuations of giant robots and traveling samurai to share their love with one another. For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever had a significant other to dote on. Questions may begin racing through your head as the day approaches: What do I get her/him? Where should we eat? What are some good anime series to watch that night? Does anyone else get uncomfortably awkward watching the Card Crusher video? Never fear, gentlesirs and madmans! We will help you on your endeavor towards a wondrously geeky V-Day.
Men, unless you are in Japan and/or have an agreement to celebrate White Day with your S.O, you are expected to give something to your babycakes. The way we celebrate Valentine’s Day (IN AMERICA) is that both parties usually exchange gifts or…*ahem* services. Here are some places to purchase awesome Japanese gifts.
J Toguri Mercantile Co, 851 W Belmont Ave, Chicago
In this fantastic shop near Belmont and Clark there sits a large collection of yukata/kimonos, parasols, paper lanterns, Japanese culture books and candy. In addition, there are some great Zen themed decorations and more traditional Japanese wares.
J Toys, 43 W Golf Rd, Arlington Heights
The place to go for figurines, gashapons, Gundam models, wallscrolls and other Japanese toys. The owner is very firm about customers not being there to browse but actively looking for something. I recommend you have an idea of what you want and prepared to put money down. The shop has a great selection of mainstream anime collectibles.
Giftland Inc., 2212 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago
This shop is fantastic. Despite having a large collection of bootlegged posters/wallscrolls, they carry some really neat stuff that can only be described as, erm, how you say… “kawaii”… such as giant plushies ranging from Hello Kitty to Totoro. They have a cute selection of bento boxes and thermoses in addition to their cool figurines and superb candy selection. Check this place out if you haven’t already.
Noms aka Food
Itto Sushi Restaurant, 2616 N. Halsted, Chicago
This cozy little restaurant in Lincoln Park is one of the most authentic Japanese restaurants I’ve seen. Most, if not all the waitresses speak Japanese and the sushi chefs behind the bar greet you and bid you farewell with a hearty tone. Don’t be confused by the title; Itto Sushi has more than sushi. The menu has udon, ramen, donburi, tonkatsu, teriyaki and many other delicious alternatives. The place is a bit pricey, but the food is unbeatable.
Blue Fin, 1952 W North Ave, Chicago
If you’re looking for a real classy sushi restaurant, Wicker Park’s Blue Fin is the place. The atmosphere is amazing and the servers are extremely helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. Blue Fin also has an impressive sake collection. If you’re undecisive of what kind to get, ask for a sake flight (sampler). You won’t be disappointed.
Tank Sushi, 4514 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Tank has an excellent atmosphere and a wide, wide, WIDE assortment of sushi. Their maki is very original and that’s what makes this restaurant so well-known. In fact, it may be difficult to get a reservation here. No harm in trying, right?
Wrap up this great evening with some couch cuddling and one of these recommended titles. In the regular romance department, Kare Kano, Chobits, and Ai Yori Aoshi are sure bets. For a lighter side, try a romantic comedy like Fullmetal Panic? Fumoffu, Ouran High School Host Club and Whisper of the Heart, while action seekers can try Fushigi Yuugi, Inuyasha, Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle. And if you’re not so keen on all the sap, there’s always 5 Centimeters Per Second, or Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen for your darker side.
If you have any suggestions to add to these lists, let us know about them in the comments. Happy Valentine’s Day!