Dating Differences Between America and Japan
By Yumi Nakata
When I first moved America to attend college, I was nervous about starting a life in a new country because I wasn’t sure how quickly I would be able to adapt to the new culture. Even though it had been my dream to live in America, I was very excited but nervous at the same time.
Growing up in Japan my parents were really strict and so I didn’t get an opportunity to start going on dates until after I graduated from high school. I did have a Japanese boyfriend but I ended things with him to go to school in California.
Unlike Japan, California is a true melting pot of cultures but since I had so little dating experience back home, I was nervous about getting into the dating scene in America. Mostly because I had no idea how the American dating culture worked.
I was young and naïve so it was a little scary in the beginning and I soon discovered the dating process in America is quite different from the one in Japan. In this article, I want to talk about a few major differences I saw between Japanese and American dating cultures.
Among Japanese teenagers the most basic way of starting to date someone is by giving them a “kokuhaku” or love confession. This sounds a bit creepy but it’s not so much telling someone you love them but rather the Japanese way of letting them know you like them and asking them out.
One thing that is very different in Japan is that it is not uncommon for a woman to ask a man out. I have to confess that I had a crush on a boy in junior high and my friends forced me to do the kokuhaku ritual. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out as the boy wasn’t interested in me. If you confess and she/he says yes, you two could be considered a couple.
Valentine’s Day is especially popular for young women to do kokuhaku.
In America, it really depends on the person but I have never experienced this type of initiation. I find that dating is more casual and at times it’s hard to understand if we are dating or just hanging out. Something fellow GP writer, Grace Buchele Mineta mentioned in her podcast interview.
In Japan, women can confess their love so it’s not strange if we ask a man out but in America, it seems that women tend to wait for men to ask them out. This was a little strange to me because I wasn’t sure what to do if I was really into someone.
Another thing that I noticed was that American men tend to pay for dates but Japanese men usually don’t. I did the online dating many years ago and a couple of men say that it was getting too expensive for them to ask women out because even if you meet them just for a coffee, it quickly adds up.
This isn’t a problem for Japanese men who usually will arrange a date at a very cheap cafe and still expect me to pay my share!
Anyways, these are the things that I have learned from dating men in America and these are very uniquely different experiences. Do I prefer American or Japanese dating custom? Quite frankly I don’t think either of them is very effective.
The thing that I like about typical Japanese dating custom is that “kokuhaku” (confession) makes the start of relationships more simplified. I don’t like having to wonder if my date is interested in being in a relationship with me, and dating isn’t very fun because of the games involved in the process.
On the other hand I like that American men are more chivalrous than Japanese men and will do things like pay for dates and hold the door open for me.
What do you guys think? Has your dating experience in Japan been different than in your home country?