Is Dating Japanese Women Really That Easy?
I’ve previously written about dating in Japan and interviewed a few of my female fellow bloggers about dating Japanese men.
After publishing it, a lot of men asked questions about dating Japanese women.
They were mainly concerned about how to approach a Japanese woman and cross-cultural differences that could be an issue.
So, I decided to “interrogate” some male bloggers about their experience.
I want to thank all the great people who agreed to collaborate and share their story with all of us!
Name: Benjamin Martin
Nationality: American (USA)
Let’s start with Ben. You might already know him as I interviewed Ben a while ago.
He has spent the last 5 years living on small islands in Okinawa. In August 2013 Ben participated in the popular Japanese TV show Motemote 99 where he met a wonderful Japanese women. In fact, he proposed to her just a while ago. Ben says:
“It’s been a whirlwind (meeting parents and dating from afar), but so far we are happy and plan to marry this year. We’ve managed to keep things alive through LINE (*a Japanese app similar to WhatsApp) and trips every month or so. I spent five days with her family prior to popping the question and that gave me a great chance to see if I fit in with them. Luckily, we all got along. Of course proposals are pretty different in Japan and the US, but I managed a hybrid approach which is pretty much how I see our life together going forward.”
For anyone who’s hoping to find a girlfriend in Japan, he suggests:
“Back in the States there are a million ways to meet people and start up a conversation. In Japan, women and men tend to socialize separately, so unless you find someone at work (which has its own issues), you’re limited in the ways you might meet a potential date. One good option is joining a community club or activity, though then there’s no telling if they’ll fit your age range.
For my part, living on a small island just made things more difficult. It takes a certain amount of commitment to start dating when everyone will know about it in a few days. I found it hard to make anything more than superficial connections or move past friendship. I joined in the TV show at the last minute not expecting much. After seeing my profile, several women came to meet me. It definitely made things easier knowing they were interested in me, yet there were distractions as well. Still, by the end of the event I found someone I could communicate easily with despite my non-fluent Japanese and her lack of English.”
Ben says that a cross-cultural relationship can be difficult:
“There are always differences in expectation and cultural differences can lead to awkwardness, yet I’ve found that clear communication can help to navigate the most difficult situations. I’m still new to my relationship and we’ve had no major problems despite our difference in language. I think it helps that we both understand each others’ priorities and our goals and plans all fit together.”
Ben admits that he’s not sure whether it’s more difficult for a female foreigner to find a partner in Japan:
“I don’t know how hard it is for Western women to meet Japanese guys. I think the difficulty would be in expected roles. The stereotype is that Westerners are strong and Japanese men don’t want that. It could be true some of the time, but I think people can find the type of personality they’re compatible with in any culture. I never found it easy to ‘get’ a Japanese woman, then again, my fiancé and I met on a Japanese TV show for the express purpose of finding someone to marry. The modern version of the omiai (arranged marriage) seems to be working quite well for us. Living in different prefectures we never would have met without the show.”
Name: Baye (Loco)
Nationality: American (USA)
You might already know Baye (a.k.a. Loco) from an interview I did a while ago or from his books “Hi! My Name Is Loco And I Am A Racist” and “Loco in Yokohama“.
In his opinion it isn’t difficult to approach Japanese women:
“One big difference I’ve found is that there are fewer places here in Japan where it’s seemly to approach women. Whereas in NY– my former stomping ground — pretty much anywhere, including on the street, was within acceptable parameters as a suitable place to meet girls, here, due to certain customs and/or expectations, the number of places is significantly lower.”
Baye also has some great suggestions how you could meet a Japanese woman in Japan:
“Japanese Girls who are looking to get involved with a Non-Japanese (NJ) man (which is relatively few, but appears very high when applied to the number of NJ men living here) will make themselves available at places where they expect to find foreign men. Typically gaijin bars in areas like Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, and those sorts of places. And if you approach them in such an environment, where they’re pretty much expecting it and frankly came there for that purpose, then you’re unlikely to scare or embarrass the hell out of them. Also, if you check certain English language magazines like Metropolis, or certain websites, you’ll find personal ads from Japanese women who are in the market for NJ guys. Although I’ve found a strong preference for white guys in these ads. They’ll actually say ‘white men only’ or ‘no black men please,’ from time to time which is enough to turn your stomach. But I guess you can say at least they’re upfront about their preferences.”
About possible issues in a relationship due to cultural differences, he says:
“It might seem so in the beginning, but eventually you come to realize that most of those troubles you were blaming on cultural differences were really just a result of your having not done due diligence (and who hasn’t been victimized by their libido’s tendency to takeover when a pretty face and lovely assets are involved, or rushed into something questionable to escape loneliness?) So, often these troubles occur when someone didn’t get to know the person before leaping into the relationship.”
Like most others, Baye agrees that it’s more difficult for foreign women to date Japanese guys here in Japan:
“I think NJ women have to deal with stereotypes just like the NJ men here. And often, at least according to my Japanese male friends, those stereotypes involve aggressive attitudes, impatience, sexual promiscuity, and resistance to compliance. But, that’s not to say you can’t get past those. And while some of those same stereotypes apply to NJ men, the Japanese women who are attracted to NJ men are generally (in my experience) attracted to and are frankly expecting those qualities from NJ men (and may or may not be receptive if they’re not present).
Chauvinism and misogyny are male attributes that are present all over the world, and Japan is no exception. The society dictates what is acceptable, tolerable, attractive and even what will bring a man the prestige among his peers he might desire, and in most cases the women they choose either fulfill these needs or are expected to conform to them somehow. I suspect, though I might be wrong about this, that it is pretty difficult for a NJ woman to conform to Japanese men’s / Japanese society’s expectations, and it is the rare case that a man will disregard these demands. The decision to step outside of the expectations of one’s society has ramifications that are far-reaching, and can potentially impact every facet of their lives, be it family, career, even friendships. In my experience, most Japanese men would label the challenges caused by having a NJ wife ‘mendokusai’ (*a pain in the rear).”
Coolio is a German blogger who has been living in Tokyo for many years now.
When I asked him if he sees any difference in approaching Japanese women or Western women, he answered:
“In the end, Japanese women are just women as well. The difference is that you MUST approach them. Usually there’s no initiative to approach men, like for example in Germany. And if a Japanese woman approaches you as a gaijin, just run as fast as you can!”
I also wanted to know if Coolio sees any cultural differences that could cause trouble in a relationship. He says:
“Yes. Sure as hell. Starting with a completely different meaning of ‘love’ in Japan, followed by the concept of ‘honne’ (本音: real feelings) and “tatemae” (建前: what she’ll tell you) to name just a few. Wanna try? Be prepared for a lot of disappointment.”
Coolio is of the opinion that it’s indisputably true that foreign men have it easier than foreign women when it comes to dating in Japan:
“A lot of Japanese dudes are thinking that gaijin women are just too strong for them and that these women wouldn’t fit into the typical role of a woman in a typical Japanese marriage. Well, I’ll tell you foreign ladies a secret: A lot of disappointed male gaijin are just waiting for a chance with you!”
Name: Donald Ash
Nationality: American (USA)
Donald is a blogger and English teacher. He says about himself that he’s a rather introverted person who wouldn’t just walk up to a Japanese woman, throwing the following at her: “Konnichiwa, nice stockings, wanna go out?”
However, he also states that it’s far less intimidating to approach a Japanese woman than a non-Asian woman:
“There’s no real penalty for screwing up. I’ve never had a Japanese woman snap at me for trying to approach her, but I have in America! When approaching women, guys often are afraid of being embarrassed or publicly rejected. In Japan, that fear is greatly reduced. If the woman isn’t interested, or doesn’t understand you (for those who don’t know any Japanese yet), she’ll just ignore you or walk away. You can simply blame it on the language disconnect and move on.”
Apparently he has had some positive experiences with approaching Japanese women:
“Sometimes you don’t have to approach at all. I didn’t have to go out and do naked handstands to get my very first dates in Japan. My first dates were with people who already knew me, with someone that a friend introduced me to, or with someone who had an extreme interest in hip-hop culture and gave me their number because (surprise, surprise) I’m black.”
He adds a few more encouraging words:
“You honestly have a chance!
Has anybody else seen the super gorgeous Japanese woman with the super-nerdy boyfriend or husband? I have, and I love it!
Nerds, rejoice with me! There’s hope for us!”
Although Donald sounds really optimistic now, his first year in Japan was rough:
“I had the hardest time getting women to even consider dating me. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why women would shy away from me. Some even seemed to be outright scared of me. It wasn’t like I was rushing up to them and screaming. I would just try to be my normal self and women didn’t seem to take notice. I would lower my standards and still get rejected.
I thought maybe it was a Japanese issue, but that wasn’t it either. I started to improve my Japanese so I could communicate better, and it still wasn’t working. I had friends who spoke even less Japanese than I did, and they always had a hot Japanese date on their arm.
There were times when I felt like an African-American version of Quasimodo.”
However, he says that being date-starved and desperate during that first year has taught him a lot:
“I realize now that the approach isn’t all that different. If you can spark an interest or really engage a woman, you have a chance for a date whether she is Japanese, American, British or Martian. I think the difference is that you don’t necessarily have to work as hard in Japan to create that spark.
For example, if you’re a foreigner who plays in a band here in Japan, it’s like an instant hook!
Also, does anybody ever notice that when you don’t try, that’s when the dates come? That seems like a universal principle to me. It’s the same here in Japan.”
Just like many other people I interviewed, Donald agrees that there are cultural differences that cause issues in a relationship:
“One problem is the language barrier. Relationships are based on good communication. When you can’t fully express your thoughts to your partner, it can become an issue. When you disagree, and you eventually will, being able to speak your mind in Japanese is truly important.
During that initial, sparkly, new relationship phase not knowing Japanese can be an interesting way to learn together and grow your relationship in the process. But once you understand, there’s no going back. When you can fully comprehend the Japanese, you now have full access to every complaint, to every emotional twist and turn.”
Another cultural difference he observes is “the altar rush” among women in Japan:
“I know I’ve been in Japan for a while but I always thought marriage was something that happened gradually (or if two people make an accidental baby). Some of these so-called ‘shy’ Japanese women will let you know straight up: I want to get married and I want to have kids.”
Donald agrees that it’s more difficult for foreign women to find a partner here in Japan:
“I think a big part of that stems from the fact that the man is ‘expected to’ approach the woman. There are some pretty brazen Japanese guys out there. But when given the choice between playing it safe and dating a Japanese woman or leaping out of their comfort zone to date a foreign woman, which will the average Japanese man choose?”
Last, but not least, he wants to give a word of advice for anyone who’s thinking about coming to Japan:
“I know some people have the misconception that just because you’re a foreigner that as soon as you step off the plane you’ll be swarmed by beautiful Japanese women. While this is true for some people, it hasn’t been my experience at all. If you’re anything like me, you’ll either have to work at dating in Japan or just be a little smarter about it. You don’t have to be an over-the-top extrovert to find dates, but you may need a couple of drops of proactivity.”
Oh, and to all the women … pretty(!) women out there:
“As for me, I’ll stick to being creative! To any gorgeous women who are interested, my number is 080… What? I can’t give out my number here? …”
No, because I need to knock out the competition right from the start! Ok, paper and pen are prepared, go ahead!
Age: late 30s
Matthias is a fellow German who is married to a Japanese woman and has his own little German-Japanese family now. When I asked him if it’s difficult to approach Japanese women, he answered:
“I’m not sure about that. I never approached a Japanese woman myself since I met my wife in Germany. I’d imagine though, that there are certain things that impress Japanese women but not non-Asian women and vice versa.
In the end, it’s all about the place. If you try to date someone you met coincidentally somewhere, it’s certainly different from dating someone in, let’s say a club in Roppongi, where some Japanese women already go with the intention to date a foreigner.”
About possible problems in cross-cultural relationships he says:
“I think, the language plays a big role. I know some couples who get along very well without actually understanding each other’s language.
Putting aside simple things such as her being shocked when he sticks his chopsticks into a bowl of rice, I think the main issues lie in the different sense of humor, but also in different expectations. A nice example for this is childcare – Japanese and Western fostering are quite different, and this confuses a lot of Western men. In some cases, the difference is too big. I know couples who divorced shortly after giving birth.”
I wanted to know whether it’s easier for foreign men to “get” a Japanese woman or for foreign women to get a Japanese guy. Matthias’ conclusion is:
“I’m sure it’s easy for foreign women to ‘catch’ a Japanese guy. It’s all about where to look. But the ‘pond’ is certainly smaller and lots of Japanese men being interested in foreign women are only searching for a trophy, so to say.
On the other hand, it’s certainly easy for a guy to get a Japanese woman, but it’s rather difficult to find a Japanese woman who dates you because you are who you are character-wise and not because you happen to come from the other side of the world … or because you seem to have money.”
Dating Japanese Women – Conclusion:
Thanks to all these wonderful men who agreed to share their story with us, I think we all got a pretty good picture of what it is really like to date Japanese women in Japan.
It’s surely not the easiest thing on earth, but doable. And it seems to be much easier for foreign guys to find a Japanese partner than it is for foreign women, mainly due to expectations and stereotypes that strongly exist within the Japanese society.
It’s interesting to see that foreign men and women seem to experience similar issues in their cross-cultural relationships. Many mentioned the language barrier as one of the biggest problems. I remember that the Western women I interviewed often struggled with the expectations of their Japanese husband (and his family) in terms of “role allocation” and household. None of the male foreigners here mentioned anything like that.
I wonder if it’s eventually more difficult for a foreign women to adapt to a cross-cultural relationship with a Japanese guy, when living in Japan.
Over To You!
I’d love to read about your experience or expectations.
Feel free to share your story with us in the comments below.
You can also ask the people I interviewed or me. We’ll gladly answer your questions!
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