Things I wish I had known before I moved to Tokyo
Anyone who has spent time in Japan can tell you that, of the interracial couples you find on the street, a disproportionately large number of them are non-Asian men dating Japanese women.
I don’t want to hate any of these men (or women), I’m just stating that the most common interracial relationships in Japan happen to be between a foreign man and a Japanese woman. In fact, the “reverse,” a Japanese man with a non-Asian partner, is rather rare. Nicknamed “AMWF” (which stands for Asian Male, White Female) or “AMBF” (Asian Male, Black Female), these couples are few and far between.
But “we” exist. And “we” even have our own support group.
This community is helpful not only because of the rarity of non-Asian women dating Asian men, but also because of complicated social issues such as dating the first son, gender roles, unequal earning potential. When each side enters the relationship with drastically different expectations, problems arise.
I met my husband in Pennsylvania. He was studying abroad at my university in America. I was on a committee with his roommate. Stuff happened. I spent the following year studying abroad in Tokyo, we got engaged, tied the knot shortly after I graduated from college, and moved back to Tokyo together.
As romantic as “moving across the world for love” sounds, in reality, the transition was tough. Japan is a wonderful, clean, and fascinating country, but as the foreign wife of a Japanese businessman, I’ve also found life rather isolating. It’s the little things, like when we went to the bank to get a replacement card and the teller asked my husband if he was acting as my translator, or when we moved into our first apartment, how the land-lady asked if we were roommates (and when she found out we were married, she seemed shocked), that can wear you down.
Maybe you’re moving to Japan for love. Maybe you got a job as an ALT or you’re studying abroad in Japan. Whatever your reasons, these are the four things I wish I would have known before I moved to Japan:
1. You will never be Japanese.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve read the blogs of people lamenting over the fact that they are always treated as a foreigner. Yes, it does kind of suck always being addressed in English or having strangers ask “What do Americans think about [insert food, social issue, etc],” but the sad truth is that you are not Japanese.
And no matter how much time you spend in Japan, you will never be Japanese. Once you embrace that fact, other people reacting to your “foreignness” gets less annoying.
2. Men and women often socialize separately and if/when you break that barrier, people might talk.
Nearly all of our couple-friends, and all of his coworkers, are Japanese. I often go days or weeks without running into another foreigner. This usually doesn’t bother me… except when it comes to double-dates.
In most (but not all) double-dates, the genders split up. Girls hang out with girls, guys hand out with guys. This becomes a problem when we do things like go to the beach with friends, because most of the time, the women want to stay in the sand (and often don’t even wear a swimsuit, but long cover-ups, and don’t want to get tan) while the men are out playing in the water. And of course, I’m in a bikini, ready to get tan, and dying to jump in the ocean with everyone else. So I play in the ocean with my husband.
And later, one of the girlfriends tells her boyfriend, who relays the information to my husband, that my behavior was inappropriate (yes, this happened, and yes, I’m still kind of bitter).
The little things that are “normal” for me (as an American) are not “normal” in Japan. It’s exhausting trying to navigate that barrier.
3. Despite what people might tell you, there are lots of ways to meet men in Japan.
A lot of my friends complain that it’s difficult to meet date-able (i.e. unmarried) men in Japan. Yes, it is difficult, but no, it is not impossible. If you’re interested on how to meet men in Japan, check out this post: How to Get a Japanese Boyfriend: Where to Meet Guys in Japan.
4. You can’t stereotype an entire race or gender of people.
You can’t say “All Japanese men are sexist” or “All Japanese women are docile.” That’s not fair. People are more than their gender (and race) and by automatically assuming that Japanese men are un-date-able or Japanese women are too “weak-minded,” you’re losing out on a great chance to make friends.
Remember how annoying it is when people ask “Do Americans like [insert food group, fashion choice, movie, etc]?” Don’t be that person. Whenever possible try to refrain from saying “Japanese people are _____.”
I’ve lived in Japan for going on three years now. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for the world – living abroad in Japan is one of the most interesting and exciting things I’ve ever done.
Of course, we all have good days and bad days, but the important thing to remember is that you have a chance to experience a whole new way of life in the land of the rising sun.
Dating in Japan as an American woman” is a guest post and any information and opinion is provided by Grace. Therefore Zooming Japan doesn’t take any responsibility for the content.