Ask Sara: Is Tinder in Japan Just for Hooking Up?

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Our resident love-in-Japan writer, Sara Who, answers your questions on everything from dating rules to finding a partner for love, marriage and more. Got a question you’d like to ask Sara? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com.

Hook me up with a committed relationship?

Dear Sara,

A bit of background: I initially came to Japan on a working holiday visa with my boyfriend, but he ended up cheating on me with a coworker. I seriously considered packing all my things and going home but after thinking about it, I decided to make the most of my remaining time in Tokyo. I found a long-term job and I’m now really happy here, but there’s one thing that’s been bothering me.

It’s been about six months since I broke up with my ex and I think I’m ready to date again but I’m finding it really hard to meet people.

I’ve heard about Tinder, but I’ve never tried online dating before. Is it really a good way to meet guys? Back home, I was under the impression Tinder was only for hookups, but I’ve been told it’s different here.

Also, because of my ex, I find it hard to trust guys now and I’m not interested in anything casual. Do you think Tinder could be good for me? How can I tell if a guy just wants to get laid? Also, what would be a good thing to do on a first date?

Sorry for all the questions!

– Tinder Virgin

Dear TV,

First of all, I’m glad to hear you decided to move forward. Sometimes, things happen for a reason and you never know, you might end up meeting the man of your dreams here!

So…Tinder.

As a woman on Tinder, you will get tons of matches. Having seen my guy friends using the app, I can tell you they literally swipe right to every single profile. So, you’re really getting the whole range. I’ve seen guys whose profiles said, “Looking for my first Asian” to others explaining (at length) how they are genuinely wanting a friend to practice English with. There is some truth in the talk that Tinder is different here, perhaps because one-night stands are apparently less common in Japan.

That being said, when you match with someone, wait until they contact you first. If they like your profile, they will. While I do think there are many Tinder guys in Japan looking for casual sex, even some of these guys are not necessarily opposed to a relationship if they meet the right person. As in any dating situation, be clear from the start and tell them exactly what you’re looking for.

The risk is whether they will lie to you or not. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell unless you meet them. Beware of the obvious signs, like meeting for a drink, going for karaoke towards last train or the ol’ classic, “Let’s Netflix.”

As for date ideas, try to meet them during daytime but don’t make it lunch or coffee. Unless there’s instant chemistry, it can be really awkward to sit in front of a total stranger and try to make conversation, more so if there’s a language barrier. Go to a festival, an exhibition or a Japanese garden to admire the autumn foliage instead. You’ll have plenty to talk about this way.

Don’t lose hope if your initial experiences aren’t what you expect. I know — and know of — plenty of committed couples who met on Tinder here in Japan.

Still, if you find Tinder is not really your cup of tea, you should give the app Meetup a chance. It’s really taking off here and it’s a great way to meet people with whom you have shared interests in a group setting. Some events are so popular you need to register weeks in advance! There’s also Happn, OKCupid and Pairs for you to try. Good luck!

Love, Sara

Have you used Tinder? What have your experiences been like? Any advice for this week’s reader on online dating in Japan? Let us know in the comments!

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Intercultural explorer, matchmaking choreographer, dating in Tokyo since 2011.

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  • one spoken word says:

    Wow, reading this article, I felt kinda shot down. I’m not on the market anymore, but could imagine myself in the shoes of her prospective Tinder date.

    How about a cup of coffee? Nope. Eh, a drink then? Nope. Lunch or dinner? Nope, nope. Meh. What about a reggae show? That’s the first date that I had with my lovely S.O. “[F]estival, an exhibition, [sic] or a Japanese garden” these are all good ideas, but honestly I wouldn’t have been creative enough. Hopefully, T.V. takes the lead, and suggests some acceptable courtship ritual, jus sayin. Then again- points for perseverance?

    By the way, at first glance I thought her pseudonym was “Tender Virgin” and thought, “Geez really throwing it out there, huh?” Lol. Also by the way, I have never used Tinder. If it works though, who cares? Don’t mess with success. However, the only match I’ve successfully made online was via Myspace, when that was still a thing. Perhaps I’m dating myself.

  • Elena Ferroni says:

    I met my future husband on tinder 2 years ago, totally unexpected and totally worth it.

  • GK says:

    every tinder contact in Japan I have made is girls wanting to ‘have a gaijin BF/experience’ nothing long term…I gave up on the app trying to get something serious.

  • Lifeo Fideas says:

    Meetup may be the best choice, because you meet men and women in a non-dating situation. And whatever the meetup is about should be intrinsically interesting, anyway. But regarding Tinder–isn’t it still too hook-up-oriented? What about trying some of the comparatively less hook-up-oriented online dating apps like OKcupid?

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