What’s Dating Like in Japan for Foreign Women?
By Rebecca Quin
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?
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!