What’s Dating Like in Japan for Foreign Women?

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On August 29, 2015
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Finding love in the modern age is a tricky business for us ladies; there’s attractive profiles to create, emoticons to choose and the general deciphering of Tinder captions – ‘I feel how pizza tastes’… anyone? Throw in some culture shock, the language barrier and a completely different set of rules and you have something like dating in Japan.

In the name of research, GaijinPot got together three different women (UK, USA and Italy) to share their experiences of dating in Japan. The results were pretty interesting…


What were your ideas about Japanese men when you came here?

Chiara: I thought that they didn’t find me attractive so I wasn’t really interested in Japanese guys, even though I was attracted to them.

Rebecca: I wasn’t so attracted to Japanese men but now after living here for three years I would say I definitely am. So now when I go home I immediately look for the nearest Asian guy like ‘Hey! Hello!’…

Christa: I’ve always been attracted to Japanese men, even when I was young, so I did some research before I came here and I saw that generally they are interested but they’re very shy about approaching women so you may need to approach them.

Have you ever been asked on a date by a Japanese guy?

Christa: I was with a girlfriend in Shibuya and two men approached us on the street and we went out for drinks.

Anthony: Were they drunk?

*Laughter*

Rebecca: Exactly, each time that’s happened to me the guy has been pretty hammered. I had heard that Japanese guys tend to be intimidated by foreign women. When I first came, I felt no guys found me attractive since they never looked my way.

Chiara: I heard too that Japanese men weren’t so interested in foreign women but my experience is kind of the opposite. But you don’t know if they’re interested in you as a person or because of your foreignness.

Do girls have to be more aggressive in approaching guys here than back home?

Christa: I actually approached someone on the train recently and he was totally ok with it but yeah it was kind of up to me to make a move.

Chiara: Um, let’s say in another field I had to make the first step. I invited this guy to my house and I think it was pretty clear what I wanted to happen, and at a certain point I started to kiss him and he said ‘No. Da-me!’

Anthony: He’s like ‘えええ。。。you didn’t want to study Japanese…?’

Rebecca: A similar thing happened with my friend. She was on a date with a guy and it was going well so at some point she went to kiss him, and he just didn’t move his mouth. She even did it again just to double check and, nope…still nothing. But after they said goodbye and he messaged her saying he wanted to see her again so there’s obviously some kind of cultural dislocate there.

Anthony:I’ve heard so many stories like that where people go on dates and it’s a weird, awkward situation but then later they message you as if it was the best date ever.

Chiara: Or if they don’t want to talk to you then there’s just silence. Silence means no.

Christa: Hmm that’s so frustrating here. I feel that Japanese men scare quite easily and as a foreigner you won’t know exactly what it was that freaked them out. I’ve noticed that if I show a little too much enthusiasm or come across as too independent, that will trigger silence. Like if I initiate wanting to meet that puts some guys off here.

So when guys are shy and girls aren’t supposed to make the first move how do people meet in Japan?

Rebecca: Yeah I don’t know any of my Japanese girlfriends who would directly approach a guy.

Christa: It seems to be through organized group events like ‘gokon’.

Chiara: I know some married couples and the first meeting is usually through friends or at university. Even my boyfriend who is pretty confident had to wait for a friend of mine to set-up a dinner where we could meet before he could work up the courage to ask me out.

Anthony: Is that different to Italian men?

Chiara: Ah haha yeah, that’s not a stereotype.

Rebecca: I think quite a common thing among foreign girls who are in relationships with Japanese guys is that generally the guy has lived abroad or has some sort of not-typical Japanese perspective that makes him attracted to foreign girls.

Is it hard to find something in common or to talk about when you first date a Japanese guy?

Christa: Yeah I went on this one date and the guy spent most of the time on his phone and it was really awkward.

Rebecca: I think because of the language and cultural barrier often conversations can be quite superficial – this or that recommendation of what to do in Japan, or do you like this Japanese food etc. So it’s hard to get into a more deep conversation and to get to know each other.

Christa: I feel like I have the same conversation over and over again because my language skills aren’t good enough.

Are a lot of people dating in Japan? Who’s dating and why?

Anthony: Is there really a casual dating culture here? It seems that Japanese couples move quickly into relationships, and very early on they’ll talk about marriage and kids.

Christa: I think that dating isn’t so common among men and women in their late twenties and early thirties. Back home I’m at prime dating age but I wonder about the guys I date here and why they’re not married yet.

Rebecca: Yeah, it seems like back home dating is really much more frequent. I mean I think that people will go on lots and lots of dates, going in and out of relationships over their twenties and kind of assessing what they want before they settle down.

Chiara: Hmmm there’s a lot of pressure for both sides to get married and establish at least the appearance of a stable family unit as soon as possible. My friend, an American guy, has experienced a lot of first dates where the women already bring up kids and marriage and he’s like ‘woah, what about your favorite music first?’

What about dating foreign guys in Japan?

Rebecca: My experience dating foreign guys here has been comparable to back home – so pretty awful actually – but the general picture of foreign guys in Japan is that they really want to date Japanese girls. Not to say that’s true for every foreign guy here but you do see a lot more couples made up of Japanese girls and non-Japanese guys around.

Chiara: With foreign guys it’s easier to figure them out I think. With Japanese guys you don’t know how much of their behavior is cultural or is actually their personality. And at the same time it’s hard to know, like we were saying earlier, if the guy is interested in you mostly because you’re foreign and the kind of status that that brings with it.

Rebecca: Actually I think that must be difficult for foreign guys especially. I don’t know if it’s true or not but I have heard that there are some Japanese girls who look to specifically date foreign guys because they’re seen as cool or ‘ikemen’.

Are relationships more conservative here?

Christa: Hmm the dynamic between men and women I think is more traditional then back home. On the way here I saw a couple on a train and the guy was just on his phone, he didn’t even look at his girlfriend once. I see that often, these really attractive couples who don’t have much in common and they maybe go on to get married and have a family because of the social pressure.

Rebecca: Yeah I wonder about relationship equality. The idea that women should be in the home is still quite common – at least it’s not so shocking for Japanese women – whereas back home the attitude seems quite vehemently against that traditional dynamic of the alpha male and trophy wife.

Chiara: I have to say compared to back home in Italy, Japanese men help around the house and I was quite surprised by that. They’re also very attentive day to day so I would say that men aren’t as chauvinistic as cultural stereotypes make them out to be.

Any last comments?

Rebecca: Dating in Japan is just as messy and confusing as it is back home but I’ve been lucky enough to find someone really special here and I think that’s the way it works wherever you are.

Chiara: I’m really happy with how my boyfriend and I are learning to collaborate together to make a great relationship so I think if both sides are willing to make it work then it will.

Christa: Yeah I’m excited to meet more people here. I think it’s a really wonderful chance to learn and grow when you have these cultural differences to share.

A huge thank you goes out to all of the girls who took part in the dating in Japan discussion!

Have you dated in Japan? How do you feel about some of the things that were talked about? Comment below!

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Tokyo-based writer and consultant.
  • mariana says:

    I was in tokyo for 2 weeks. I’m a 5´7 latina woman but look kind of white because i have blue eyes. Well i met a japanese man on tinder, he was very talkative for being japanese maybe because he told me he works in publicity. He told me he want to kiss me and he did it…really weird, i never expected that from him. Then a few days later we met again and hook up, from what i think he is a total gaijin hunter and probably will tell his friends he hooked up with a latina. It is easy to get someone to hook up but probably difficult finding someone for a relationship

  • Everything about the situation sounded reserved based on the women’s experience, but it seemed to work out for all of them. I think its a big challenge for Asian men to make that confident approach hopefully that barrier can be tackled. Not sure what it would be like for men dating women in Japan. Im sure there are different intentions for both men and women who are foreign. Good post! Gives me a better understanding of how the dating scene works in Japan before I visit.

  • Martha Uchino says:

    I met my Japanese husband at a bar in Japan. He had foreign friends, both male and female, and was in a Led Zeppelin cover band, so he wasn’t that shy about talking to a foreign woman and he approached me. I never had any preconceived notions about what Japanese men are supposed to be like. I think it’s a mistake to prejudge anyone anywhere. However, I am ten years older than he is and I didn’t think of getting into a relationship with him at first meeting–just thought it would be fun for a date or two. Surprise! We’ve been married 17 years and he is the best thing in my life. We are best friends and share so many things in common. Sometimes you just have to give someone a chance. They just might be your lifetime partner.

  • Sekyere Owusu Lucy says:

    Really an interesting topic, this what I have experienced while dating a japanese guy.
    I am from Africa and Ghana in particular, I just moved here in japan for 4 months now, and it may be hard to believe but yes I already have a Japanese boyfriend, we meet through internet and decided to go on dates, in the beginning he was shy but i always try to bring on a topic for us to talk, he has never ask me about my background or anything about me it’s only through charting, on our forth date we finally got to hold hands, then he kissed me on our firth date when he sang in a karaoke confession his love for me. Huuum for the past months I have really grown to love this guy, now it’s awkward for me to ask him about his family or anything concerning him. One thing for sure he is not afraid to show me to the world.

  • Chibaraki says:

    When I was in my early 30s here in Tokyo, I dated a few Japanese guys. The signs of affection are subtle but unmistakable. I didn’t take the relationships that seriously, however, because I wasn’t ready emotionally or culturally for the repercussions for my job, meeting the guy’s family, or getting married. I was too skittish. So I dated a lot of foreign guys, but my relationships didn’t work out for various reasons.

    When I was over 40 I met my awesome Japanese guy. I think that, because both of us are mature (age wise, anyway!) we were open and honest about our attraction to each other, and we have the patience for each others’ cultures and personal quirks. When you’re young and inexperienced, everything is magnified and more dramatic and sometimes scary.

  • Caro-chan says:

    Probably the main reason i moved out of Japan to the UK….one date i can remember well, in Tokyo, with a Japanese working man, everything seemed fine at diner, until the point where he mentioned i should do more fitness- i was and am still 50 kilos – as he found i was too fat 🙂 my american girlfriends could not believe their ears when i got back from diner ….we laughed for days…but it did make me think about dating in Japan….

  • LoveJapan says:

    I’ve lived in Japan for almost two years and it’s ridiculously hard to meet people. I role my eyes at online blogs saying that how easy it is for white males to meet the female natives here. Most people have no idea how life really is in Japan and how secluded and isolated the people have become. hmm… maybe the decrease of population in years to come has something to do with this. Honestly, most Japanese girls enjoy living with their families and don’t have a strong desire to move out and even do things for themselves like cook. Their family does that for them. It’s pretty sad when you come to Japan to have your dreams crushed once you are faced with the realization of how life and their people really are here.

  • Brodie Taylor says:

    I’m a 30 year old woman who has been living in Japan for over a year and my dating situation is pretty depressing. Japanese guys don’t seem interested in foreign women, and 95% of the foreign guys living here are either already in a long-term relationship or only interested in dating Japanese women. They seem to have tunnel vision and have zero interest in getting to know the foreign women in their area. In bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka it’s easier to meet people and go on casual dates, but in smaller cities or the inaka it’s a lot harder especially when there’s a language barrier. Guys in smaller cities aren’t accustomed to interacting with foreigners so are more likely to be scared of us and avoid us completely. Most of my foreign female friends are in the same boat, the few who do have Japanese boyfriends are fluent in Japanese which seems to make a big difference. One last thing: on the few casual dates I’ve been on with Japanese guys, they were confident enough to make some physical moves, but as soon as I reciprocated and made a move on them they freaked out as though I had done something wrong. I guess they’re not used to women taking the lead when it comes to kissing, holding hands, etc.

  • Charlotte Araki says:

    My husband is Tokyo born and raised and we’ve been married 50 years but I still remember dating. FYI back then kissing was considered part of the sex act and NEVER in public and NEVER kiss a child. The first kiss in a film caused a huge controversy. I’ve noticed that in the last 20 years more parents kissing their kids and friends tell me it’s the influence of western TV and film. Oh yea, after 50 years of marriage he’s still the worst kisser in the world and avoids doing it when possible. I got over it.

    Good luck to all of you. There are rewards!

    • Mary Scheil says:

      Thank you so much Charlotte for your writing. It got a smile on my lips and I really want you and your husband to be happy 🙂

  • I’ve dated Japanese guys, and its not easy. The dead fish kiss is usually in public. Or they are very inexperienced.

  • Wim says:

    Good read, interested in the male counterpart a lot though!!!

  • Not to burst the bubble but Japanese men and women are deffinately more interested in dating white people than any other race. Also they equate most white people to being Americans. As a person from a west Asian country, they really don’t even go beyond aquaintance stage. I do agree that Japanese men are shy and the women are pretty aggressive. The only reason if a Japanese guy asked me or a few of my friends to even hang out was only because he wanted to learn English. In fact,it’s easier to date foreigners here who don’t know any Japanese rather than the ones who do because for obvious reasons they want to date a native here.

    • Nyansu says:

      I also have to disagree… I’m also a West Asian woman and I’m pretty popular with certain types of Japanese men (as in, guys want to nanpa me), and my Japanese isn’t that good. I think Japanese men are shallow and like women that take care of them self and doll up. Sure it’s not an ideal way to get into a relationship with someone but it can happen and move onto greater things. I’ve personally been with my boyfriend for 3 years now, and he was the one who approached me; I never approach men because I am too shy.

    • GeneralObvious says:

      I have to disagree completely. As a foreigner its much easier for me to meet girls speaking Japanese than English. I agree that a lot of Japanese people are interested in dating foreigners, but many are shy or won’t even entertain thought because they can’t speak English well. That is unless you’re interested in hanging out in gaijin bars and talking to the same 20 or so English speaking girls that hang out there every month.

      I’d also say that they are interested in dating White, Black and Hispanic people equally. That aside, I know tons of Philippina girls here who are married to or are currently dating Japanese men. As long as you can speak some Japanese you should be fine. If you can’t though, it’s going to be very difficult, as there are tons of other foreign Asian girls that come to Japan from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, etc. and they can almost always speak fluent Japanese. From a Japanese man’s point of view, a Caucasian or Black girl’s physical appearance is rare and interesting, so he’s willing to put in the extra effort to make it work, but as an asian girl you blend in with everyone else. You’re competing with every other asian girl living in the country and so the conversation aspect becomes far more important. It sounds shallow, but it’s that’s how it is.

      • this is a late reply but I don’t agree with you for a few basic reason. Despite being relatively fluent in Japanese, the chances of landing a date with Japanese people is low if you don’t live in the big cities. I personally have secured JLPT N2 and yet the scene is far from how you describe it.

        You seem to have assumed that West Asians looked like East Asians which are both quite different. West Asians And South-East Asians do not blend into the East Asians in Japan. With dark skin and curly/wavy brown hair, they do stand out and stand their own. Despite Philipines being in South East Asia, they look completely different from Indians or Pakistani people and this region is abundant with diversity. (South East Asian Countries-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southeast_Asia and West Asian Countries https://www.google.co.in/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=southeast%20asia)

        Also “Gaijin Bars” are a thing in big cities. I have traveled and lived in super “田舎” while I was living in Japan and as far as my experience goes,for them, it’s really difficult to even grasp that West Asians+South East Asians can actually even speak Japanese beyond general greetings, leave alone having conversations at length. So, they are not at all acclimatized with things beyond their daily experience and I can’t blame them.
        Also your gender does matter. Being a girl, I have a lot of Japanese friends but having male friends is much more difficult. Also, if you are a male foreigner, you stand a better change of landing a significant other.

        • GeneralObvious says:

          Asian is asian, regardless of the specific country they come from. In Japan it’s perceived as “cool” to be dating a foreigner that does not look asian. As I said before, if you are asian and you come to Japan, it’s going to be far more difficult for you to meet someone, than a Caucasian for example, for that very reason. You do not have that “cool foreigner” image working for you. And because of that you will be judged heavily on how you present yourself, as you are forced to directly compete with every other cute, stylish, bubbly, fun, exciting, (insert adjective here) asian girl living in the country.

          Are you trying to get male friends or a boyfriend? They are not the same thing and you shouldn’t go about trying to get those 2 things in the same way. Don’t take my questions as rude, because that’s not my intention, but are you putting yourself in situations that increase your chances of meeting someone? Are you presenting yourself in a way that lets men know you are interested in them? I.e. eye contact, flirting, etc? Unspoken language is just as important, if not more so, than spoken language in theses situations.

      • TokyoNightOwl says:

        Nailed it.

    • Pia Mercado says:

      I totally, completely agree with you.

  • junavatar says:

    Really good read!

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