Life in Japan

The Shocking Truth About Dating in Japan as a Foreigner

Ever wondered what dating is like in Japan?
Well, then here you go!

However, be warned: If you want to read about bragging stories of all those Western guys who get laid a hundred times per day, then you came to the wrong place.
There are tons of blog posts like that out there. You certainly won’t find that here – and not from a foreign girl like me! smilie

Before we start talking about “Dating in Japan” one thing should be crystal clear:

 

1. Dating is not the same for foreign women and men!

If you’ve ever been to Japan you might have noticed that there’s a tremendous number of (often not so handsome) foreign guys walking hand-in-hand with Japanese women. And at the same time there’s only a very tiny number of foreign (read: non-Asian) women with Japanese men next to them.

You might ask yourself why is that?
Maybe that’s a secret we’ll never quite get, but there are many theories!

A lot of Japanese women want a guy that tells them several times a day how much he loves them. For some reason (maybe through the consumption of too many Hollywood movies) Japanese women think that foreign men are like that! They’re not afraid of showing their feelings in public or telling their girls flat out how they feel about them.

Of course, having a foreign boyfriend is also “cool” and “exotic“. Some just use those poor guys as cute little “accessories“.
The extreme version of this is known as “gaijin hunter” and some will do everything for the sake of having one of those adorable “half”-kids (half Western, half Japanese) just to toss their foreign guy later on.

For foreign women it’s a completely different story.
Japanese men seem to expect certain things from a woman. Things that they fear a foreign woman would not agree to do (e.g. stay home, take care of the kids, always pour new alcohol into his empty glass etc.).
Maybe they also think that a foreign woman might expect from their man that he’s telling his feelings straight out several times a day, something a shy Japanese man just won’t do.

Another problem is that many of the Japanese men seem to be afraid of their English ability and thus fail to approach a foreign woman.
Most foreign men on the other hand, have no issues approaching a Japanese woman in English – or even in broken Japanese.

These are just a few theories by friends, co-workers and myself. I’m sure you have your own and there’s much more behind all this, but that’s it for starters, I guess.

 

2. Dating in Japan as a foreign man:

As a result, dating in Japan is usually quite easy for men.
At least getting one woman after another into your bed, is really easy, even if you’re quite ugly!
For some reason Japanese women seem to find even ugly foreign guys attractive …..

It might be a bit more difficult if you’re looking for a serious relationship as there are those women I mentioned earlier who either want you as “exotic accessory” or just want your DNA to create a cute “half-child”.

All in all, it is comparably easy for a Western foreign man to find a Japanese woman or to have a nice relationship here in Japan.
For some guys it really gets to their heads and they start bragging about it like crazy as part of the superstar syndrome.

 

3. Dating in Japan as a foreign woman:

The complete opposite is the case for (Western) foreign women in Japan.
Japanese guys are often too shy, scared or whatever and the majority of Western men is only interested in Japanese / Asian women.
As a result it is extremely tough to find a date as a foreign woman here in Japan.

It is by far not impossible and I know quite a few girls who don’t only have a Japanese boyfriend, but are also married to a Japanese man, but it is still the BIG exception!

Some of us will go through a hard time here in Japan.
You’ll start to feel completely unattractive and ignored at times.
Of course, you get a lot of attention and there’s all this staring, but it’s not because anybody is flirting with you … or at least you don’t know the difference anymore.

It might be a different story in bigger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka with a more international community, but in smaller cities and in the countryside with more traditional ideals it can be very difficult for foreign women.

 

4. Differences in relationships:

I personally know a few couples where either the man or the woman is foreign and I noticed quite a lot of differences in the kind of relationship they have.

Please note that the following is based on my personal experience and that not everybody out there is like that.

 

Foreign man, Japanese woman:

In relationships where the man is foreign I noticed that they mostly speak his native language. Although they live in Japan and sometimes even have children together who also speak Japanese, the foreign guys don’t / can’t speak Japanese.

I also experienced that they’re unable to do anything on their own. When I ask them about how they got their cellphone or credit card they just answer they don’t know because their wife did it for them. smilie
Consequently they don’t see the need to study Japanese, because their wives will take care of it all.

One big problem seems to be the fact that in Japan the man earns the money, but the woman takes care of it! The man only gets a small allowance every week or month and needs to ask his wife for permission if he wants to spend any more of his own hard-earned money! Foreign guys often seem to struggle with this system.

Because of all that I’ve seen couples who got divorced, even when there were kids involved. I noticed that those kind of relationships seem to work out better if they live in his home country and not in Japan.

 

Foreign woman, Japanese man:

For the opposite constellation you’ll see that in most(!) cases the woman speaks Japanese. She has studied Japanese properly or puts in a lot of effort to improve her Japanese ability even if the Japanese man can speak her native tongue.

They know how to survive in Japan even without the help of their husband / boyfriend who is at work most of the time anyways.

The man seems to accept that she wants to keep working even after marriage. Most of the time those kind of Japanese men who get into a relationship with a foreign woman are more open-minded and have some experience with foreign culture because either they’ve lived or studied abroad for a while. And even those who haven’t seem to accept that there are cultural differences and they don’t expect the same they would from a Japanese woman.

All the couples I know of have a relatively harmonic relationship. Of course, there are enough reasons for disputes, but all in all they seem to manage better than couples where the man is foreign.

 

5. Conclusion: Dating in Japan

There’s so much more that could be said about this topic and I’d love to discuss it with you some more.
I’m sure everyone has their own opinion and experience with this!

All I want you to keep in mind is that as a guy you should not let it get to your head because suddenly you get all this attention from beautiful women.
And as a foreign girl you should keep in mind that your time in Japan – at least in terms of romantic relationships – could be quite lonely at times.

Read on:

 

If you still want to read more, here are some great books on “Dating in Japan”:

 

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373 Comments

    • That’s actually a very good question.
      My personal experience was that each and every Western man I met in Japan was either already with a Japanese woman or was interested in finding one.
      At some point, I just accepted it as a fact.

      For me it never mattered if a guy was Japanese or foreign as long as we would get along.
      And I’m quite sure that there are other Western women in Japan who feel the same.

  • I soooo can relate to this article!
    I met quite a lot of japanese guys, but they usually weren’t really serious which made me quite sad.
    A (male) friend of me came to Japan too one year after he heard from me from the Working Holiday and while my time went up somewhen without being able to get married he found really fast a girl who would marry him. He also couldn’t speak any Japanese at all and when he came to Japan I helped him with finding things, getting a suica, getting a mobilephone and so on. And when I asked him where he found her – online or offline – he didn’t even remember this! He told me that he dated so many japanese at that time that he really doesn’t remember anything.

    Well, I had to go back to Germany somewhen and searched online again for someone to marry, I also found someone, but…. when I went to Japan again and we first wanted to try living together before marrying it was so lonely that I went back to Germany after three weeks. Because in this three weeks I was like always alone in his house seeing him only for a short time in the evening or not at all, because he was staying usually at this company or at his parents house. In that three weeks he only slept two times in the same house with me and only once in the same room. I thought this is really weird. Especially because we were supposed to be in love and he actually wanted to marry me?!
    Well, I could have lived with that, BUT I also wasn’t supposed to leave the house alone. Not even for going to the conbini or whatever and buying my daily needs. So I was just sitting aroudn everyday and everyday and after three weeks I thought, no, I really want to stay in Japan, but not like this and just left for the airport.

    Last year I met another man online, we fell in love and after he went to visit me in Germany he wanted me to come to him to Japan and marry, but… I already had a bad feeling when he was here and I was right (and my mom too). It seems like this guy had a big dept and wanted me to come over there and marry me so that I can go and work and help him pay his dept.

    By now I’m not too sure about marrying a Japanese man anymore, but we’ll see…

    • Hi Flamara,

      You are absolutely right. That is me. I’m glad to hear you read it back then and also got to go to Japan. ^^
      (Sorry had to erase that part for privacy reasons. :D …)

      I’m sorry to hear that you had so much bad luck until now.
      To me it sounds extremely weird that he would get a foreign girl to help him pay off his debts.
      Wouldn’t he have a greater chance with a Japanese girl who doesn’t have to worry about a working visa, who speaks the language fluently and has more job options?
      Very strange.

      Maybe destiny is telling you that it shouldn’t be a Japanese man after all?
      Either way, good luck to you! :)

  • I really think that every relationship can thrive and develop harmoniously as long as both compromise and listen to his or her partner’s desires and needs. You two really worked hard at it. Very inspiring !!!

  • Totally agree, as foreigners who are visiting Japan I also feel there is a different between tourist arrivals and also a native of Japan, honestly I have an Asian face as they (didn’t mean to be racist).

    The first impression I expected the first visit is their culture, as I watch on several “anime” which in my opinion. It’s exciting, but of course that’s just my expectations LOL

    Thank you for great article, it is fun to read XD and sorry for my English since it’s not my mother language…

  • And then there is the case where it is the total opposite. I’m a Caucasian man, been living in Japan approx. 8 years, married to a wonderful Japanese woman, have kids and speak mostly Japanese with my wife. Same goes for my friend who is married, has kids and speaks fluent Japanese.

    My co-workers are two Caucasian women from the US and England respectively, are in a serious relationship with a Japanese man and there Japanese is almost non existent.

    I need to add that both, my and my friend’s wife are fluent English speakers.

    So I don’t know if this article makes any sense.

  • Don’t believe the hype and the stereotypes. I am a western guy early forties and have lived in Japan/Tokyo & Kyoto for 15 yrs. I speak fluent Japanese. I work for myself as a architect because I cannot stand the Japanese corporate culture – but I have them as clients. I am 6’4″, blondish with a bit of silver and quite fit. Think of the Aussie blond beach guy but with education and culture and that is me.

    Not boasting, but picking up a Japanese lady is pretty easy, but here’s the catch. Most just want either my DNA, my money or both. I have been in 3 relationships (never married) over the past 12 yrs or so, but 5 years ago after the last break up I made a pledge to myself to NEVER get into a live in relationship with a Japanese girl again. Why?

    The first year is great. Awesome sex and heaps of fun with a hot Japanese cutie. The second year is about getting to know each other a lot more but by the 3rd year the pressure kicks in to get married and have kids. Also every Japanese girl I have ever known becomes a control freak or worse…wants to audit my bank account every couple of weeks. Also ALL Japanese girls I have been in a relationship with use emotional blackmail and sex as a power/control mechanism over you.

    I love Japan and the Japanese people and I’ll always respect their culture. Japan has made me rich but I had to really fight to keep my money, cars, art and properties after the last relationship ended. She thought what was mine was hers also… arrrhhhh no it aint honey. If you want a successful and rich life (money but also having great people around you), you have to treat people with respect and value them for how they enrich your life.

    My advice to Western guys wanting a cute Japanese hottie is to approach with caution and never commit to anything when you’re in bed with your Asian dream-girl. You and your wallet will regret it.

  • Hi, I was messaged over social media by a Japanese boy a year older than me about a year ago and just wanted to read more on this because he is a very close friend and I had questions if dating was more or so a thing in japan. I learned Japanese two years ago and had a sentence in Japanese in my bio and I’m not sure if that gave him more confidence to confront me although he did seem quite shy. I am actually going to japan tonight to go meet him in person for the first time and am staying there with family. I’m not sure if he had more confidence cause I am at the least some part Asian or the fact that I knew Japanese but I do look very western and a few details in my eyes only show any Asian. I would love it if I could get some more information on this cause I already know a portion of the Japanese culture but this is not something I was willing to ask to my asain family. So if I could get some more insite on the subject that would be great. He does know English although he is not fluent in english its hard to tell he isn’t

  • It was interesting coming from a western woman about dating in Japan and more at all the comments, I did not read them .As a married and divorced 50 s man with 2 hafu kids whom I have not seen for 14 years I gave up on any idea dating Japanese women ,most are ok as people you meet and work ,but every place ,cafe I go to to study Ainu language I even started to show directly my contempt I have grey beard I do not dress smart and maybe smell like sweet sweat they get up and leave very fast seats around me are vacant and I get looks even and also I start to grumble in bad impolite Japanese like Yaqwza I want to be an Ainu oppressed and despised because my KIDS WERE ABDUCTED the Japanese law and rules and fascism I hate so much I can not have a relationship because of deep hanger inside I manage to live off the welfare they refuse me jobs a True Ainu experience many Japanese women are also kind and oppressed but the system punishes relationships ,having a one night stand will get you in hell and sickness no matter how nice ,I may not be the typical man but 27 years in Japan looking at all sorts and just think leave them alone and try your best to be polite to the polite but try to put them off as much as possible make them run away from you and leave you in peace because they just want your money and soul. God will replace us.

  • First of all, I want to point out that a lot of people are getting way too offended by this post. I guess it’s the age we live in where generalized observations for the sake of broad conversation are met with outrage and anecdotal counterarguments. I don’t agree with a lot of what you said based on my own experiences, but I also understand the reason for those generalizations and think they have a lot of basis in truth.

    I’m a very tall, very thin, blond American. I have lived in Japan both as a single college student for four months and currently for almost a year and a half as a married (to a Japanese woman) man. As a college student, I didn’t drink, studied very diligently and tried my best to only speak in Japanese everywhere I went, and have always treated women with basic respect instead of like a pickup artist, always been a serious relationship-type guy instead of a hookup guy, etc.

    There’s a weird dichotomy for me where everybody tells me I’m some ideal of exotic attractiveness for Japanese women — and I can tell based on the fact everywhere I go passing girls (nowadays sometimes high school girls literally half my age, which is creepy…) whisper “ikemen!” “kakkoii!” to each other just within earshot — yet with limited yet perseverant Japanese and without being an aggressive pickup artist at a nightclub or gaijin bar (and in those bachelor days it was before smartphone dating apps), dating Japanese girls was almost impossible because they are generally extremely reserved, and I am too.

    Maybe it’s my Western beta-male feminist politeness, general shyness about approaching girls and Catholic upbringing that’s the problem, I guess…it’s a weird kind of loneliness when everyone’s attracted to you yet shyness and politeness keeps you from capitalizing on any of it. Except for aggressive gaijin hunters, for whom I have no interest in being the fulfillment of their stereotypes. You never know if the girls hitting on you actually care about you as a person or just want to fulfill some fantasy/curiosity/ulterior motive – I guess that’s true everywhere but the exoticism factor makes it more of a minefield here.

    Note – my shyness around girls is partially because I don’t consider myself extremely attractive by American standards – I’m thinner than 95% of Western girls (which means even if they were attracted to me, they’d be self-conscious about their weight, which has always limited my “field”), freakishly tall, completely pale (sunburn prone) , often with ultrasensitive skin that is simultaneously peeling-off dry and zitty. I’m a gawky pasty Irish descent dude…don’t fit the swarthy, muscular ideal in the West, but Japanese people apparently think I’m a model. May explain your disconnect between guys you consider unattractive getting Japanese girls’ attention. In the West, people who have never lived in Asia might consider relatively unattractive Asians more attractive/exotic than they would be considered in Asia.

    Additionally, being a “good looking” foreigner = Japanese guys being intimidated by you/afraid you’ll steal their girlfriends/attention, etc. = hard to make guy friends. Only after a year and a half of living in Japan and with quite decent conversational fluency have I been able to start making normal male friends, and that took a lot of effort on my part. Once you have male friends, it gets easier to make other male friends. I find Japanese guys to be a lot more sex-obsessed and far less feminist than Western guys, and they envy me as they assume I’m plowing through Japanese girls left and right because I’m attractive, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    If you’re shy or reserved and foreign and want serious, deep relationships, Japan can be a very lonely place no matter how attractive you are and no matter what gender you are. If you’re attractive/exotic and outgoing and are ok with shallow, physical, probably short relationships, you will probably be popular wherever you are and whether you speak a language well or not. I don’t want to be someone’s novelty or accessory or one-night trial, and having a relationship where you can’t communicate well is never going to be deep enough to be completely fulfilling either (and Japanese women know this too). And that’s where the disconnect between perception about gaijin male popularity and reality is. Also the reason many foreign male-Japanese female marriages eventually end in divorce once the spark is gone.

    So after a semester of frustration at not making any lasting, deep human connections in Japan at all, I went home and started dating my Japanese friend at my American college, who is now my wife. We bonded over shared experiences in each others’ countries. We moved back here a year and a half ago. We speak English at home not because I couldn’t speak only Japanese but her English is far better than my Japanese as she lived in the US for 14 years and I’ve lived in Japan for less than 2. We speak mostly Japanese in public because I would be embarrassed to make no effort to speak Japanese after living in Japan for an extended period and studying for five plus years. I am reliant on her for a lot of things because there’s a lot of legalese and stuff that would take me a long time and a lot of effort to read or write, even though I could do it if I had to.

    Honestly, haven’t been that happy with my marriage for a long time for various reasons, and Japan has made this unhappiness more complicated. Now that I drink/socialize and actually try be more assertive with friend-making and can have interesting conversations in Japanese I’m certainly starting to understand how outgoing foreign guys can pull lots of girls if they know how to or if their willing to lower their expectations. I’m sure if I went to gaijin bars or nightclubs I could pull a girl a night if I were that kinda dude. Women here don’t have the Christian hangups about sex (or marital affairs) like in the West (lol, I do though), and girls are used to most guys either treating them like sex objects or not knowing how to communicate with them at all, so a romantic Westerner who finds the middle ground may be many girls’ ideal, or at least a relationship they’d like to try out of curiosity.

    Being in my early-to-mid 30s, I’m also at the age a lot of unmarried women give up on finding an ideal Japanese husband and start thinking about finding a foreign husband. The quantity of gaijin hunters goes up with marital desperation I think. I’m not an English teacher so not skint for cash (I’m a computer programmer who works for a US company). Being in a city with not many Westerners, being a musician and being able to speak the language are all big pluses. I’m faithful too. I’m really not trying to brag – but I’d probably be the archetype of what Japanese women look for in a foreign husband.

    Thus I am always having to make the effort to keep my distance to avoid falling into the infidelity trap, and end up hesitating to make deep friendships or start a band here because I’ve seen how much female attention I get just as a married, reserved nobody who doesn’t hit on women…Being an unhappily married lapsed Catholic and having countless affair opportunities I have never capitalized on with gorgeous women without lying about my marital status or trying very hard is also a weird kind of loneliness and unfortunately makes me resent my marriage more, even though I know it’s not my wife’s fault. In fact, she said (after moving here) she doesn’t even care if I “hook up” with girls (something I never even did when I was single), as long as she doesn’t know about it, which was a mindf— and totally incongruent with the image of “ideal” marriage from my Catholic parents and grandparents.

    A lot of Japanese women do want guys who treat them like princesses, tells them he loves them, holds hands/kisses in public, etc. – the images they see of Western romances in movies. They like that Western guys are more likely to let them be themselves, have careers, share housework/childcare duties and also may be their ticket to living abroad and escaping Japan’s often repressive culture. However, Japan and the West are completely different cultures with different expectations in a lot of ways, which often comes out eventually no matter how hard you try to overcome it.

    I also find most foreign guys tend to settle for maybe slightly-above-average-looking-at-best Japanese girlfriends/wives, often below average (myself included tbqh). Only rarely do I see a gaijin with a jaw-dropping, knockout beauty. Occasionally, those guys with average girls are still batting out of their league (after all, the Japanese average is quite high quality by Western standards imo), but also I’ve seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. Just yesterday, I noticed some guy fitting my archetype of good looking, tan, California beach-bum looking guy – with his quite homely Japanese wife/girlfriend. Hate to say this, but I too get mostly baffled or shocked looks when I walk around in public with my wife since we don’t really match appearance-wise in their eyes. I was never particularly attracted to her (she’s considered both overweight and unattractive — debusu – by Japanese standards but not by American standards.) My wife is also quite Americanized after 14 years there and hardly cares about fashion, makeup, her weight, etc. but the attention is still awkward and makes us both self-conscious. When my wife and I have been seen together by her co-workers, the comment later is “haha, Maki with Brad Pitt (note: I don’t look remotely like Brad Pitt)…how the hell did that happen?” A lot of people apparently think I’m a movie star and she’s my translator/tour guide, I guess?

    I think the reason for that dichotomy is because communication is pretty essential in relationships, and the number of English-fluent Japanese people or Japanese-fluent English people is a limited pool on both ends so you often settle for the best you can get, and in long-term relationships, personality and shared experiences wins out over appearances. I always liked my wife for her cynical humor, for example. We didn’t marry for the right reasons (she needed US immigration and we already lived together out of convenience) and we may end up divorcing (we both want to live in each others’ countries but not in our own), but it’s kind of all in a holding pattern right now, I guess…

    TL:DR – Even males considered highly attractive on all levels here will find it way harder to make meaningful relationships in Japan than elsewhere, especially if they are shy/unassertive, unconfident in their Japanese language skills, self-conscious about appearing to not make the effort to always speak Japanese, and unwilling to settle for shallow flings/gaijin hunters and/or older and/or below-average looking girls who will more aggressively seek them out. Especially outside of Tokyo and Kansai, the number of competently English-speaking girls drops drastically which makes deep relationships inherently more difficult.

  • Dating a Japanese woman as a western man is easier than shooting dead fish in a barrel. Japanese women go to bars and almost literally throw themselves at the men. It can be embarrassing to watch.

    But the thing is, there’s something off with western men who like Japanese women. Most of them are undesirable to western women, for a reason, and have no backbone so in Japan these men get really full of themselves with all the easy Japanese women. There’s a caveat, though. These Japanese women themselves are usually undesirable to Japanese men, very often because they’re batshit crazy. The men marry them quickly because the crazy women tell them to or because the women get pregnant to make the men marry them. A few years go by and bam, the men are in expat forums with their desperate situations:

    The women reveal their craziness and now it’s time for a divorce. The crazy woman will lock the idiot westerner out of his own house or she cheats on him or she’s using all his money, because men have to give their wives all their money, and doing nothing but enjoying her favorite hobbies which are sitting on her ass all day watching TV and sleeping – not realizing that Japanese women are the most boring people on earth is a side effect of yellow fever. The separation gets more fun if there are kids involved because the woman gets full custody and the idiot western man will NEVER see his kids again because that’s how things work in Japan.

    The men who do not divorce their wives go shamelessly after western women in search of affairs, though many also look for affairs with other Japanese women, too. So many openly complain about the lack of sex in their Japanese marriage. It’s so pathetic.

  • This was an engrossing read (the comments, mostly, but also the article.) Hilarious and sad throughout the years (of comments.)

    10/10 would read again (the article and the comments.)

    Looking forward to visiting Tokyo in a few months (US born, currently working in Philippines, excited for lots of trips throughout SE Asia, Australia, etc. now that I have crossed the Pacific.)

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