The dating scene in Japan practically came to a halt after bars, clubs, and restaurants around the country closed due to the state of emergency. Couples following social distancing who live separately were unable to see each other. Meanwhile, couples living together couldn’t separate even if they wanted to.
As many of us at GaijinPot found ourselves under these very same romance constraints, we were curious to know how everyone else was managing. We asked readers that are living in Japan to share their experience with how the coronavirus has affected their love life while voluntarily self-quarantining.
Japan’s “soft quarantine”
Around the world, people felt the pressures of lockdowns. However, it was a bit different in Japan. While a state of emergency was declared, Japan’s government cannot impose a strict lockdown. The government may only request the closure of businesses and then publicly shame those who denied the request.
If there is one thing Japan does better than anywhere else, it’s throwing passive-aggressive shade. Thus, most businesses played along less they risked the ire of Prime Minister Abe’s judgemental glare.
As for public citizens, the government doesn’t have much power there either. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told the Nikkei Asian Review that Japan’s laws emphasize protecting personal rights and that a lockdown “is impossible.” No one had to stay inside despite the state of emergency. Nevertheless, people shut themselves inside their homes.
Passenger numbers on the crowded Yamanote Line even fell 70 percent, numbers not seen since the March 2011 earthquake. Even if someone wasn’t necessarily trying to self-quarantine, with popular date spots and nightlife entertainment unavailable, staying at home was pretty much all they could do.
When forced time together brings you closer
While some of us considered ourselves lucky to hold out through quarantine and social distancing with our significant others, it was more like a cage match for others. In Japan, husbands and fathers are not typically around thanks to long hours and harsh work culture. Some wives grew stressed when their husbands were suddenly at home more.
Perhaps because foreign couples are more accustomed to hanging out together, only half of our respondents living together with their significant others said the coronavirus affected their love life. However, the majority of those respondents said the quarantine changed their relationships for the better.
Having to stay at home made us spend more time together—activities, meals, and talking more.
“Due to the pandemic, we are living together now, and it turned out to be great. We planned to do this a bit later, but it affected our relationship in a positive way, so it is fine as it is now,” one respondent said.
According to another survey respondent, “the circumstances are tough, but when it comes to the quality of our love life, it had amazing consequences. Having to stay at home made us spend more time together—activities, meals, and talking more. It also provided an opportunity to plan for our future.”
What did couples do during quarantine?
Quarantiners spent time at home watching movies, playing video games, cooking new recipes, and exercising. It wasn’t all baking and fun, however. It was also the perfect opportunity to hit the textbooks and study Japanese. For a diligent five percent, anyway. Regardless, even those who felt no real change enjoyed the extra time at home with their families.
“My wife still has to work, so we’re together about the same amount of time we were before. I got to spend more time at home with my loved ones. Nice chance for bonding, but also a little extra friction,” said another respondent.
We have grown closer and more understanding of each other’s differences through this pandemic.
Still, it’s not surprising that the pressures of health, work, and conflicting personalities can rock even the sturdiest relationships. Some couples took the quarantine as a chance to reflect and are unsure of their futures. Others are hopeful that the conflict will make their relationships stronger.
“We will probably end our engagement. He was out of work and hasn’t done anything to fix that. He drank too much and was angry—lots of problems.” Yikes.
“I have not handled the stress of being at home every day very well. I have been moody and depressed,” one respondent detailed their situation. “My boyfriend has enjoyed staying at home and doesn’t understand why I feel so anxious all the time. But we have grown closer and more understanding of each other’s differences through this pandemic.”
Couples living separately faced more challenges
For couples living separately, quarantine was especially difficult. More than 80 percent of respondents in this category said quarantine negatively affected their relationship. Those most impacted were couples in long-distance relationships as Japan’s travel ban prevented them from reuniting.
Some survey responses included:
“I live in America, and he lives in Japan. We haven’t seen each other since August. Travel plans were ruined due to the virus.”
“He went back to Japan. Orders from his job. I stayed in my county and can’t go to Tokyo because my country is banned.”
“My boyfriend is deployed, and he has been gone for almost [five months]. Due to COVID-19, the deployment has been extended, and the ship couldn’t pull into ports, so we couldn’t even talk.”
We talk everyday and video chat, but it isn’t the same as being together and dating properly.
Some couples discovered that prolonged separation strengthened their relationship. Yet, others found strength in their independence.
“We were unable to see each other for a very long time, and as the saying goes, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ My partner proposed to me the first day we were able to see each other in person again.”
“I haven’t seen him for two months. But also realize I kind of don’t miss him that much.”
Dating apps without “dating”
Meanwhile, the dating scene is split. Just over 51 percent of our respondents who identified as single said their dating life was affected by the coronavirus. But humans are social creatures. Even with the risk of a potentially life-threatening illness, you can’t keep people from following their impulses.
Given that, it’s unsurprising that dating apps are booming despite quarantine. More than 60 percent have turned to apps like Tinder and Bumble to stave off loneliness. Conversations are up, people are just not meeting as much.
Respondents said they were using dating apps as a distraction for loneliness and it was nice talking to potential mates even if they were not serious about dating. In other words, sweet, sweet validation. Others said they were too concerned for their health to meet or had lost touch with partners they saw before quarantine started.
A majority (22%) felt that being in quarantine alone made them realize that “I need someone to spend my life with in the future.”
Responses about using dating apps during COVID-19 included:
“I can’t go out and meet anyone safely.”
“The guy I like was supposed to visit me in Japan back in March but hasn’t been able to get here. We talk everyday and video chat, but it just isn’t the same as being together and dating properly.”
“I got in a relationship and then broke up quickly because we could not see each other as often as I wanted.”
“We talk everyday and video chat, but it isn’t the same as being together and dating properly.”
Those who were unaffected found humor in the idea that they never had anything to lose.
“Because nothing (COVID 19) can kill that which is already dead (my love life).”
“I’m single and broke, so don’t have money to go out and meet people anyway.”
How are you doing? Was being at home more with your significant other a blessing in disguise? Are you ready to jump back into the dating game? Let us know in the comments.