Dating in Japan is similar to dating elsewhere, in that men are usually clueless about what women really want to do. Strapped for ideas, you might invite your girlfriend to come by your place, you know, just to hang out. Maybe you’ll cook dinner together, which if you’re anything like me, means that after burning your third chicken breast, she’ll forcibly take the frying pan away and suggest you put out the napkins, only to be puzzled later at how you managed to burn those, too.

Over the course of the meal, your girlfriend may mention that next time, she’d really like to go on a dam date instead. Take heart, though. She’s not upset, she’s being helpful.

While fancy restaurants and amusement parks remain popular date courses in Japan, an up and coming alternative is visiting dams.

When you stop and think about it, there’s actually a lot of appeal. Much like watching the surface of a lake, there’s a tranquil effect to seeing the large body of water held in check. Dams tend to be in rural locations, which in Japan translates to beautiful, lushly wooded mountains.

If your timing is good, you might even get treated to a show. To regulate water levels, dams regularly discharge their reservoirs. There may not be any musical accompaniment, but the sheer natural force on display puts any piddly hotel fountain to shame.

▼ Warning: make sure you’ve firmly established the context of going to a dam before inviting a girl to see the “massive discharge”

Some dams even publically post their discharge schedules in order to attract sightseers, such as Kanagawa Prefecture’s Miyagase Dam, Toyama Prefecture’s Kurobe Dam, and Nukui Dam in Hiroshima Prefecture.

▼ Miyagase Dam

Of course, it always pays to be dam prepared. Enthusiast Masaki Fujiwara, who runs a dam website, shared the following tips on how to get the most out of this unique outing.

Fujiwara recommends looking at the structure from at least two angles. “Looking up from the base, you really get a sense of overall scale and presence, while staring down from the top really hammer home just how high dams are. Really, they’re gigantic compared to the image most people have in their heads.”

▼ Nukui Dam

Dam-loving couples don’t have to limit their dates to the outside, either, as some locations offer tours of their inner workings as well. And before we dismiss his advice as just the ravings of some dam lunatic, the recently married Fujiwara shares that he met his bride during his dam pilgrimages.

“You see a lot more couples on the tours these days,” he continues. And while we’re assuming the new Mrs. Fujiwara only has eyes for her husband, some of his female acquaintances seem to have become smitten with the water-retaining installations themselves. The physical appearance of dams are naturally influenced by their individual facilities and the contours of the surrounding land. Resultantly, each has a unique shape, which Fujiwara says some dam fangirls assign personalities too. “They’ll say, ‘This one is a prince,’ or ‘Oh, this one’s a butler.’”

Although we have to admit, he does look dreamy.

The rural locations in which most dams are situated come with benefits beyond just lending a nice backdrop to your dam photos. Almost every locality in Japan has some kind of regional delicacy, and the volcanic makeup of the island means that once outside of the city, you’re rarely far from a hot spring. Fujiwara recommends following your dam visit with a nice meal and a nice soak, although we caution readers that baling half the water out of the tub in an effort to imitate the dam discharge is a major breach of Japanese bathing etiquette.

▼ Kurobe Dam

Fujiwara leaves us with a heads-up about the current special events in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the completion of Kurobe Dam, the largest in Japan. “They’re started holding regular discharges for sightseers in June, and they’re scheduled to continue until the middle of October. In late September, they’ll be lighting up the structure at night, and it’s also a good location for some romantic stargazing.”

Sounds like a dam plan.

Dam source: Yahoo! Japan
Dam related: Kurobe Dam, Miyagase Dam, Nukui Dam
Dam insert images: Wikipedia/Σ64, Wikipedia/QurrenWikipedia/河川一等兵, Pakutaso