Over the next two weeks we'll be writing a small series of posts about non-Japanese people dating Japanese people from multiple perspectives. This first post is the most common of the three (possibly four) viewpoints we'll be covering, with the other two being "What It's Like Dating A Non-Japanese Person (Japanese Perspective)" and "What It's Like To Date A Japanese Guy (Female non-Japanese perspective)."
Since the most common question I get in my email is usually a poorly written grammatical catastrophe that tends to be along the lines of "How I get Japanese gurls fast?" I thought it was only appropriate to start with the topic of men dating Japanese women, as I rarely get the opposite "How I get Japanese boyz fast?" question. Now, in this post I won't actually be telling you "how get Japanese gurls fast" (that secret disappeared with the Jomon, long ago), but I will be going over what it's like to date a Japanese girl, in general, based on around fifty people who responded to a survey I put out a couple months ago. There will also be some information that was gleaned from one-on-one interviews I conducted with people as well as some personal insight.
Alright. Are you ready to put on your imagination goggles? You're a dude, and finally (finally!) after the forty-sixth Japanese girl you've asked, one of them has sighed and then followed that *sigh* up with an "okay, fine. Just this once, okay?" It's a date! Later that night you shine your "Dispel The Foreigners" kanji tattoo, put on your fanciest cosplay outfit, and get ready for your first date with a Japanese girl. But then you realize, just as you're about to knock on her door ten minutes early (boo boo) that you have no idea what you can expect! Don't worry, we're here to help.
Keep in mind that a lot of statements are generalizations. All people are individuals that do their own things, so use the following information with caution. We are not responsible for causing any injury, death, or heartbreak, kk?
Getting The Girl
One thing in particular for non-Japanese guys compared to non-Japanese girls (dating Japanese guys) is that it seemed a lot easier for the dude to find someone willing to date them. If you just open your eyes and look around Japan you'll see this statement in action. Even outside of Japan this holds true. How many couples are there with non-Japanese guys and Japanese girls? Okay, now how many Japanese guys with non-Japanese girls do you see? Probably not as many. Perhaps none at all. Part of this could certainly be due to the fact that Japanese girls are more open than Japanese guys to the idea of dating non-Japanese people. Whatever it is, if you're a guy you're going to have a much easier time meeting and then dating Japanese people.
As you might expect as well, a lot of men met their significant other via some kind of English-related activity, whether it was English school, some kind of English practice circle, or even a girl just wanting to practice English on a train. Not looking Japanese has its perks in this case.
We met at a gou 合コン, 1 essentially. It was a dinner for girls who wanted to learn English through my company. - anonymous
I met her at a Japanese/English language exchange event in my city. - penpen ぺんぺん
I was an English teacher in Japan for a few years, then when I returned home to Canada, I wanted to keep up my Japanese language skills, so I joined a Japanese-English Language Exchange program at a local university. One day the group was sitting in a circle, and there were cute Japanese girls on either side of me. I made a quick decision that I wanted to talk to the girl on my right, so when they said to start talking, I turned towards her, introduced myself, and the rest is history. - James
Second girl introduced herself to me, in flawless English, on the train from Tokyo to Mito one night. – Dale
That being said, a lot of non-Japanese people go to Japan to teach English, so of course there's going to be a lot of English-teaching-related relationships going on. Maybe teaching English / speaking English has nothing to do with finding someone. Maybe most non-Japanese people are doing English-related things already, so of course this story comes up more often! That's definitely possible, but I wouldn't know unless I talked to more Japanese girls dating non-Japanese guys about it. But, there were some other "first meeting" places mentioned a decent amount as well. "At a bar" and "online" came up fairly often, so if English isn't really your thing then those two alternatives exist as well. Though, "English" does come up later in the "communication" section of this article, so perhaps there is something to it?
Expectations Of The Man
We'll talk more about this a lot more in the What It's Like To Date A Japanese Guy post since I think that perspective is more interesting here, but let's take a quick look at what you, the dude, is expected to do.
First of all, you're going to be paying for everything… that is, except purikura 2 (actually part of a story I'll put in the opposite version of this article), because girls can pay for that on their own. If you go out on a date for dinner, be prepared to pay for the food. No splitting the bills or BS like that, because you're the guy and you're going to pay. Of course, there's exceptions to this "rule" and there will be girls out there willing and asking to pay for date-related things, but that's not the norm.
That being said, if you end up living together or visiting her home, you won't be expected to do any of the housework or cooking. There were a couple exceptions to the cooking rule (where the guy really loved cooking and insisted on cooking), but for the most part it's expected that you're going to let them do all of that.
There will also be some interesting cultural differences, depending on where you're from. Expect more gift-giving to happen from girls. This is one thing that seemed to pop up in the surveys that surprised people a lot, for some reason. Japan is a very gift-giving culture so it makes sense, but just be sure to be ready for it. My favorite quote has nothing to do with gift giving, however, and has to do with going on a movie-date.
We were on a movie date and she refused to let me hold the popcorn bag. She actually held it there for me for over 2 hours. Also, she has given me several little gifts pretty early on. Typically I wouldn't expect that here. - penpen ぺんぺん
The expectations of "what a guy is supposed to do" and "what a girl is supposed to do" are going to be different from culture to culture. I don't want to spoil too much from the girl's perspective article though, so I'm going to stop here. But, the above should give you an idea of where to start at least, should you find yourself in the position of dating a Japanese girl.
Affection and how you show it tends to be a bigger topic on the "girls dating Japanese guys" side of things, but we'll go over some of the bigger points here (and you'll have to wait for more of the stories and such in the next article).
In general, Japanese people don't show as much affection towards each other in public (or in private, for that matter) compared to Western couples. This surprises a lot of people at first. There's a lack of hand holding, hugging, kissing, and so on in public places. Some people even complained that "the first kiss" happens way later than you'd expect, though others said that sex tends to happen sooner than they expect. I suppose both of those statements could be true at the same time, though.
There were some Japanese girl perspectives in the survey I ran and thankfully a couple of them talked about this topic as well as the topic of physical affection.
It's more important to understand each other than it is to show how much I love someone through touching. - anonymous
Sometimes it's nice when thoughts are difficult to understand. It adds some mystery to the relationship. - anonymous
Less physical contact makes physical contact more special when it happens. If you always touch each other, then it's not special anymore when you do. - chi ち
In Western relationships you're expected to show physical affection in private and in public. It's how you show you love someone, right? In Japan that's not the way you do it and "understanding of the other person" becomes more important. This was also brought up a lot in terms of non-physical affection. One complaint I saw a lot was that non-Japanese guys had trouble knowing what the girl was thinking and feeling. It's certainly the Japanese way to not come out and directly say how you're feeling about something, so this has caused a few problems in respondents' relationships.
In Japan, you're expected to be able to read and understand people and how they're feeling, even though they're not showing it or telling you. That being said, Japanese people spend their entire lives learning how to do this whereas in the West we tend to just say what's on our mind so this "skill" never really develops. A lot of people in the surveys thought their girlfriend was being cold to them, but in reality they were just being normal and the guy was expected to know what was going on. Or, when the girl was upset about something she wouldn't really say it, and it would become a problem when the guy didn't realize. It's safe to say that you should pay extra close attention to noticing cues she may send out. If you miss them you may not think it's a big deal, but after a while she will think you're selfish and mean. Communicating and talking about this issue has also proven helpful to some.
Meeting Her Family
"Meeting the family" seemed to be one of the things that a lot of people were initially nervous about then figured out that it wasn't so big of a deal. Most families are nice, accepting, and won't try to kill you in your sleep because you're dating their precious Japanese daughter. Almost everyone had a great experience meeting the family… that is except for one respondent, who has an awesome story. Keep in mind, this is probably not the norm. Also note that this Japanese girl also grew up partially in Japan and partially in LA (will make more sense as you read it):
Mom loved me, and even told me I was chotto sekushi sugi 3, with a frighteningly lecherous wink. Dad was old school Nipponjin 4 and hated my guts. At oshogatsu 5 time, my girlfriend invited me over – I was off work with not much going on, so I suppose she didn't want me to feel lonely (or call any of her friends back). New Year's Eve day, and of course they're cleaning the house, for company the next day. I didn't understand oshogatsu protocol very well, and didn't think this was a big deal. I wanted to help clean, but of course they wouldn't hear of it, and sat me down in in front of the TV while they worked. In retrospect, I see how,this,was tough – manners dictated they treat me like a guest, but at the same time they wanted/needed to do the family house clean. I was just getting into watching The Highlander without subtitles when I heard a row starting in the kitchen through the shoji 6 that separated it from the room I was in. My girlfriend was defending my being there, and Dad was berating her for bringing an Ameko 7 (yes, he used that word) into their house on such a family day. At this point, i asked mom if i should leave. she assured me in very polite Japanese that it was ok to stay. Girlfriend stomped off from dad into the room I was in. Dad followed her very mad at this point telling her how a respectful Japanese daughter should never walk away from her elder when she was being talked to, and he slapped her face. Like any young woman who had reached maturity in L.A., and very unlike a respectful Japanese girl, girlfriend acted out of reflex when she was slapped and kneed him hard in the royal regalia. He went down like a ton of bricks. At this point mom leaned over, and still in very polite Japanese, suggested that now might be a good time to leave, after all. About 30 minutes later, girlfriend rode her bike over to my apartment with 20,000 yen her mom had given her, and we partied for the next couple days with mom's blessing. –Dale
Despite the story above, this seems to be one of the things you least have to worry about. In fact, there seemed to be more problems with the Western parents, because usually they were afraid their child would never come home again after marrying a Japanese girl (sometimes they were correct in this assumption).
Another topic that I thought might come up more but didn't actually pose much of a problem was the issue of "communication." Despite having two separate native languages, respondents communicated well with their significant others. I have a couple theories on this.
One involves an idea brought up earlier in the article in the "affection" section. Communication is often unspoken in Japanese culture (not due to bionic implants, sadly) and you're supposed to read the other person to know how they're feeling and to know what they want. Perhaps those who have had longer and more successful relationships realized this earlier. Or perhaps the Japanese significant other met the non-Japanese partner half way (in being more direct).
The other theory involves English. Of course, the non-Japanese person often learned quite a bit of Japanese, and that helps too. But, since so many of the "meetings" of these couples had to do with English (school, meetups, practice-attempts, etc) it is safe to assume that the Japanese girl had an interest in English already which means they would be more likely to learn English well compared to regular Japanese girls. Same usually goes for the non-Western guy (with Japanese), which means they learn each others' languages pretty well.
One story in regards to using Japanese/English in their relationship really stood out to me.
My wife and I used to use Japanese when we argued , because it's more polite than English. The worst insults are rather silly: "your mother has a protruding belly button," that sort of thing. We used to argue a lot, and it kept my Japanese language skills sharp. But after 26 years, we hardly ever argue anymore. So my Japanese language skills are fading. - Ira
It's funny because it's true. The Japanese language is inherently set up to be more polite. I wish I could have seen their arguments.
So like "meeting the family" I think there's less here to worry about than most people might think. Communication can occasionally be an issue, but usually like-minded people will find a way past any problems and make it work without issue. If you're not meant to be with each other then sure, maybe communication could hurt the relationship. But, if you're good together then the issue of "communication" will hardly make a drop in the bucket. If that doesn't happen, though, I guess we can look forward to a future of bionic brain implants.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Also, please no more "Can I haz Japanese girl?" emails, please.
Next up (Friday), Mami is going to take us through some of her experience, being a Japanese girl who married a non-Japanese guy. Please be sure to look forward to that article if you enjoyed this one. I've skimmed it already and it's really interesting!
合コン are co-ed student parties or mixers. ↩
Purikura are Japanese photo booths. ↩
Chotto-sekushi-sugi means "a little sexy". ↩
Nipponjin means Japanese person. ↩
Oshogatsu is Japanese New Year. ↩
Shoji are door, window or room dividers made of translucent paper in rectangular wood frames found in traditional Japanese architecture. ↩
Ameko is derogatory slang for an American. ↩