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Ticking Clocks and Green Zebra Pants: Online Dating in Japan

Meeting people anywhere can be tricky business, but for foreigners in Japan, it can be crazy tough.

By 5 min read 1

Meeting people anywhere can be tricky business, but for foreigners in Japan, it can be crazy tough. I’m not talking about bar-hopping, hook-up action… I’m talking about meeting people you might have something in common with and maybe even actually…date more than once?

In Japan, language barriers, cultural differences, social morays make breaking the ice with someone you’re attracted to downright frustrating. So rather than getting dolled up and perching at a bar, many folks head home after work, put on their stretchy pants and tomato-stained t-shirts, and market themselves on the dating websites.

This isn’t a diss to the sites. I tried it myself when I came to Japan in an attempt to meet new people to hang out with. I quickly learned that I’m much better in the physical world when it comes to figuring out compatibility (and I’m also a total hermit.) I’ve even heard a few success stories… but the un-success stories are waaaay better.

Green Zebra Pants

“Gemma” is a 30 year-old Australian living in Osaka. She’s since found a great guy on JapanCupid, but has had her share of one-offs.

He was a 40-year old Japanese guy who is the lead singer of a rock band, and runs his own accessory export business – sounds fun right? Well I guessed he was a little eccentric from his profile pics, but thought I’d give it a shot as we had really similar interests.

He suggested we meet at Dotonbori and go somewhere for drinks from there. I was greeted by a short but svelte man in lime green, skin-tight zebra-print pants, a midriff top (also skin tight), bleached blonde Bon Jovi-esque hair (circa 1986), adorned in bracelets and accessories of varying colours.

He looked like he just stepped out of some weird Japanese Hair Metal cover band. 

After greeting each other, he presented a bottle of wine, some paper cups, and a bucket of ice from his backpack and suggested we find a spot on the concrete in front of the dirty Dotonbori River to drink it. The reason, he said, was that all the bars and restaurants in the area were very expensive! I suppose this was his idea of an economical date.

 So the cheapness mixed with the questionable sexuality/fashion sense meant he didn’t get a second date.

This is obviously a stand-out… Gemma also found several nice Japanese guys who were willing to take her out on an actual date.

Sexy Time

Heather, dated a younger guy for a little while, and learned the Japanese code for Sexy Time is inviting someone to your apartment. A few women have told me about this–apparently there’s no such thing as a platonic social house call with Japanese guys?

He would always order dinner for me and was quite respectful.  We went out for dinner about 4 times. I then invited him to my house to cook for him, like a thank you for taking me out. Obviously that was an invitation to have sex in his eyes. To be fair, it was quite innocent in mine.

Heather and her younger guy did date for a while, but there was no long-term potential for him because she didn’t fit his timeline. After a few weeks of dating, he broke it down for her thusly:

In 3 years’ time he wanted to get married, by which point I would be looking older. And in 5 years’ time he wanted to have kids, at which point I will be “too old inside” to have children!

It’s worth noting that in five years, Heather would be in her late 30s. Where I’m from, (California) many women start having children around this age. A male friend who’s been a decades-long resident of Japan recently told me “Japanese women are extremely practical.” It seems the same can be said for some Japanese men.

Maybe to champion the dating virtues of disclosure and efficiency, there could be a drop down box to check on the profile next to “Religion” and “Vegetarianism” an “Ovaries under 30” box?

Heather is still on the dating interwebs, doing her thing and having a lot of fun. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, meeting new people via dating websites is at the very least an interesting social experiment. You can meet people you normally wouldn’t hang out with which can be fun with the right attitude.

Looking Online

If you’re looking to meet someone new, or just find new people in your area, here are a couple of sites worth checking out:

Even thought Japan is a relatively safe country with a low crime rate, you should exercise caution if you decide to take your online chat into the offline universe.

  • Always meet in public. Meet for the first time in a populated, public location—never in a private or remote location.
  • Tell a friend. Inform a friend or family member of your plans and when and where you’re going. If you own a mobile phone, make sure you have it with you.
  • Stay sober. Do not do anything that would impair your judgment and cause you to make a decision you could regret.
  • Prepare your own transportation. Just in case things don’t work out, you need to be in control of your own ride—even if you take a taxi. Remember what time the last train is.
  • Don’t leave personal items unattended. You don’t want to risk having personal information stolen. If you’re drinking, keep your drink with you at all times so it can’t be tampered with.
  • Stay in a public place. It is best not to go back to your date’s home or bring them back to yours on the first date. If your date pressures you, end the date and leave at once.

Only ladies stepped forward to share their tales with me. Guys: I’d love to hear your experiences of digital dating here. What’s your story?

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  • jojojoko says:

    I would be interested to know how dating (online or otherwise) for gay men or women would be in Japan.



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