When I first came to Japan, I was soon introduced to the “Charisma Man” stereotype. According to this stereotype, foreign guys are irresistible to Japanese women who are utterly incapable of distinguishing between suitable and unsuitable mates, happily dating losers that foreign women see right through.
As my first cautious dips into the dating world taught me, however, Japanese women have plenty of ways to deflate wannabe Charisma Men themselves.
Usingしつこい to describe persistence
Overly enthusiastic daters may hear the word しつこい (persistent), for example.
Though the word itself doesn’t always have a bad connotation, in the dating scene it’s used to mean a person who just won’t take no for an answer. If you’re a student, on the other hand, and someone says 勉強する努力をしつこくやってるね (he/she is persistently putting in the effort to study) for example, the connotation is more positive.
Of course, not everyone has the self-awareness to realize when they are being しつこい. Japanese have a secret slang for such people—KY which is pronounced けーわい. This term is taken from the phrase 空気読めない (someone who can’t understand social cues), which we’ve talked about before.
In dating, this describes a totally clueless person who is missing the hints that whoever they’re pursuing is just not interested. At all.
KY people may hear this associated with words like 不安 in sentences such as 不安にさせる (you’re making me uneasy) or in extreme cases paired with the word 下心. 下心 is an interesting compound word made up of the kanji 下(under) and 心 (heart). It means the person has an ulterior motive that’s usually malicious.
Looking for love in all the wrong places
One of the problems with a lot of stereotypes about Japanese women is the tacit implication that they’re only looking for a casual partner and any foreign guy will do. Of course, if a woman for a one-night-stand (ゆきずりの女), or guy for said one night (ゆきずりの男) is what you want then, party on!
Those looking for something more serious might want to watch out for non-playful accusations of ナンパ. ナンパ is used for picking up would-be dates in a creepy low-grade sense rather than talking to them like a normal person. Definitely avoid using cheesy pick-up lines (口説き文句).
We’re not here to hate on pick up lines though—a line is only cheesy if the recipient isn’t interested, after all.
Are you an 遊び人?
Japanese can be a vague language and not all words in dating are clearly defined. A particularly tricky one is 遊ぶ (to play). Sometimes it can simply mean to have fun with someone. 遊びに行こうか or “let’s go play,” is still a common way to invite someone out, but if you get called an 遊び人, it means you’re a player.
Let’s say that you’re really just a frustrated single who’s just testing the waters to truly find “the one,” and they’ve got you all wrong. You can exclaim, 僕は遊び人ではない (I’m not a player)!
Another way to say “player” is チャラい. I have yet to see this word attached to a woman, surprisingly. It seems that guys being players is pretty common in Japan as the word 女たらし is another one attached to men who are womanizers. Then there’s just straight-up プレイボーイ (taken from the English word playboy).
Naturally, there are stronger forms for particularly lecherous guys such as 変態 (perv) or スケベ (letch) which can, of course, be swear words depending on how they are used.
Other seemingly innocent phrases can also be repurposed for dating. A strange example is 計算 (calculate) that can become 計算高い (a calculating person) in dating. Likewise, tactics (駆け引き) can be used for that person who seems to have their seduction plan suspiciously well prepared. You may also see the verb 付け込んでる (To take advantage of) repurposed with obvious connotations.
Words for dumping someone
We’ve talked previously about Japan’s love of repeating verbs such as 擬態語 (repeating phrases often used as onomatopoeia) many times, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these are also found in dating. A common one is チャラチャラする which is a verb for messing around.
There used to be an entire group dedicated to these players called チャラチャラした人が嫌い (I hate people who just mess around with you), on the Japanese social media platform Mixi.
This Valentine’s Day, it’s important to get the balance right as Japanese has a lot of words for kicking a useless guy or gal to the curb. 振る (to dump someone) and 捨てる (to throw away) are both verbs associated with relationships that are on that “It’s not you, it’s me,” stage. 捨てる is an especially heinous one as it’s also used for throwing out trash.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been accused of being an 遊び人 or if you’ve ever been thrown out like Monday’s trash with 捨てる.