Dating In Japan (A Guide For Gaijin Or Foreigners)

Japan is among the best countries for ex-pats with an interesting and somewhat mysterious culture. Although dating norms differ from country to county, dating in Japan is not all it seems to be on the surface.

A survey conducted showed that over 70% of the international marriages in Japan eventually ended in divorce. The high level of divorce cases makes you wonder where the problem is. In this article, you will learn about the unique dating culture in Japan and how to avoid making social faux-pas.

International marriages are becoming more prevalent in Japan. According to statistics from recent years, 4.3 percent, or around 30,000 couples, were made up of Japanese nationals and foreigner marriages. International marriage rates are of a greater percentage in Japan’s cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka.

How Japanese people usually meet

Dating in Japan can be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find the right person for you or even a soulmate. The difference in culture and societal views shouldn’t hinder a foreign person from dating a Japanese national.

However, it’s essential to know the dos and don’ts to avoid having all too common problems between people from different cultures.

Through Guokons

Japanese singles organize a ‘goukon.’ A ‘goukon’ is a Japanese term meaning blind dates. Here, a group of single people organizes a get-together where they meet and mingle. These dates are usually casual and are typically arranged among friends.

The friends will invite their friends, making it easier to meet someone who shares a similar background or interest.

Goukon usually occurs through workplaces or sometimes college students. After attending several of these meetings, you will know about someone you might find as a potential partner, and from there, you can decide if there are mutual feelings for each other.

Through Konkatsu Parties

Konkatsu (婚活) or matchmaking gatherings or parties are about those who are serious about marriage. This is different from koikatsu (恋活), which means searching for love. Konkatsu is for singles who are serious about finding a spouse and not just for casual meetings.

Mangy single Japanese are starting to embracing the concept of Konkastu, especially if they want to meet someone new for a serious long-term relationship. The party’s primary goal is to bring people who want to get married. Typically people meet together and have a meal. As they enjoy their meal, they start a conversation to get to know each other.

Unlike using the myriad dating app where you speak to a person online, Konkotsu parties allow you to talk with your potential partner in person and get to know them.

Japanese people prefer meeting potential partners in person to meeting them online. Konkotsu parties can be arranged to target people of the same age, occupation, and income.

Through popular dating apps in Japan

As the world is changing, so does Japanese culture. The Japanese people embrace online dating using apps such as Bumble, Tinder, Omiai, and Pairs. People use apps like Tinder to find new friends and drinking buddies. Although there are many scammers online, some people still find potential partners who are serious about dating and becoming lifelong soulmates.

Dating Norms in Japan

Before most Japanese people start dating, they begin by establishing a closer relationship. Partners start being casual by calling each other their first names. Remember, in Japan, the first names are sometimes reserved for relatives and close friends.

Once the Japanese couples start realizing their love for each other, they confess their love for each other openly. Unlike the western culture, where generally the man declares his love for a woman first, both genders in the Japanese culture can express their feelings for each other. If the feeling is mutual, their relationship will begin from there.

Unlike western couples who invite their partner for dates, Japanese people find it normal to go for lunch or dinner with their friends. If you’re a foreigner, don’t get confused and think a Japanese woman is interested in love or dating just because she accepted your invitation for tea or lunch.

Dating

Are you planning to date a Japanese person? Be prepared for All-Day dates. Unlike Western people who like having brief coffee dates and quick dinners, the Japanese prefer having long, elaborate dates. The couple will likely spend the whole day enjoying each other’s company while getting to know each other.

You will find many couples together while participating in outdoor activities together such as hiking, festivals, and visiting Japan’s many amusement parks. In Japan, couples rarely invite their friends when going on a date. However, double-date is common in Japan, whereby couples form a group and go together.

When it comes to morals in Japan, couples rarely hold hands in public. Japanese culture doesn’t encourage couples to publically displaying their affection. Public Displays of Affection (PDA) is believed to make people feel uncomfortable and to many Japanese it’s embarrassing.

One unique thing about dating in Japan is that both partners cost-share their expenses incurred during their dates. However, men can pay for the complete cost on special occasions such as birthdays and some special holidays.

How Japanese Couples celebrate Valentine’s Day

Nevertheless, Japanese couple shows their love and affection differently during Valentine’s Day. During Valentine’s, the woman takes that particular day to express their affection for their partner.

Japanese women can even shower their partners with gifts, flowers, or chocolate. This is quite awkward for western men and women since they expect men to shower women with love and gifts.

The Japanese people rarely care about meeting each other in public. Sometimes, couples frequently have stay at home dates where they do different things together like watching movies, cooking, and playing games.

No tipping when dating

Western culture finds tipping as a courteous gesture. However, this is not the case in Japanese culture, as tipping is regarded as insulting and servers and staff may see it as a social misstep.

Most Japanese restaurants require you to pay for your bills at their front desk or reception area. You will be termed ‘baka gaijin’ (stupid foreigner) if you attempt to tip a waiter or waitress in Japan.

Sitting

Typically some Japanese restaurants require couples to sit or kneel while eating. In Japanese culture, men, and women in a formal situation, are both supposed to kneel.

However, when a couple is dating, and are in an informal setting, a woman can sit down while both legs face the same side. Men are allowed to sit while their legs are crossed.

When to meet your partner again

Unlike other people who schedule regular dates, Japanese partners don’t have regular dates. This often happens to those employed or those with a demanding job. Since their date takes a lot of time, they usually find it hard to plan dates frequently.

Some Japanese couples might even take a month before they meet again. Mostly, they communicate through phone calls and messages to make up for the time lost.

Another interesting thing about Japanese dating culture is that you rarely hear a couple saying, “I love you.” Japanese people are known to be quite shy, especially when declaring their love for each other.

Planning your future together

It’s during dating for longer periods of time that people get to know each other. Once the couple notices that they are getting along well, they sometimes start planning for their marriage.

Their first step in Japan is to meet their parents. Remember that not all dating couples tell their parents that they are dating someone. They have to wait for the right time because meeting parents is an indication that the person is ready for marriage.

You will also find that most Japanese people can confide in their moms because they are not as strict as their fathers.

Meeting the couple’s parents

Recently, the dating trend in Japan has changed. In the distant past, parents arranged marriages, and they decided who was to marry their children. However, in today’s dating system, children have the right to choose their partner and let him or her meet their parents once they are sure they want to marry that person.

Parents’ approval is very crucial in Japan since couples need their parent’s blessings. Both of the couple’s parents meet and get to know each other and know their future in law’s values, upbringing, and aspirations. Meeting the couple’s parents is still respected in Japanese culture, as it symbolizes commitment and dedication.

Japanese couples are reluctant to speak their mind

Japanese people often hate troubling others, and they are even unwilling to speak their minds. They might say one thing, but their thoughts are completely different. They hate hurting their anyones feelings, and they can even say words that they don’t even mean.

For example, a Japanese man can invite a lady for lunch, but she might fail to show up because she doesn’t want to tell him she’s not interested and speak the truth and hurt him. Through this communication, the Japanese are taught how to be observant and interpret other people’s reactions.

Japanese people are very conscious about what others might think and its extremely rare to see a Japanese couple arguing in public.

The Japanese couples value their privacy

Japanese couples take the privacy issue very seriously. They hardly reveal their phone’s password to their partners. Also, they rarely ask each other where they are going or who they are with. You will be surprised to learn that some couples don’t know what their partner earns while they’re dating.

It’s their culture not to share their private information with their partner, and that’s why they prefer not to disclose it. However, there is a small percentage that does prefer telling their partners everything, including their private information. Overall Japanese couples build their relationship through respect, trust, and love.

Marriage

Before the Japanese plan for a wedding, there are different things they need to take into account. The couple often will first discuss important issues such as their expectations, lifestyle, and future.

If the couple doesn’t share the same culture, they need to consider the following:

• Will the partner be arriving late from Zangyo (working lots of overtime)?

• Will the partner be preparing a bento (boxed) lunch for you every day?

• Where would you like your wedding ceremony to be held?

• Will you have a modern or traditional wedding?

• Is your partner willing to have kids in Japan, or are you planning to take them abroad at some point?

Marriage in Japan is usually conducted based on family expectations. The couple can decide to have a religious or civil wedding. Most Japanese couples prefer to combine both civil and religious marriage ceremonies.

Japanese law only accepts marriage if only it’s registered by the municipal city office. The Japanese constitution also doesn’t recognize the union of people of the same sex.

What does a typical Japanese wedding look like?

A typical marriage in Japan involves setting aside wedding planners and venue coordinators. Traditional Buddhists or Shinto doesn’t follow the same process as most western cultures do.

Traditionally, the couple would marry in a shrine to show their respect for their cultural tradition. Nowadays, couples are holding their marriages in gardens, hotels, and chapels and many are opting for western-style ceremonies.

Things you need to have to get married in Japan

Japanese couples and international couples planning to do a civil wedding should present the following documents.

• An Application Letter requesting for registration of marriage.

• A passport (for foreigners)

• A birth certificate (both parties)

• A signed affidavit from your home country

The law further requires foreigners who want to marry in Japan to hand an Affidavit of Competency to Marry. You need to prepare the Affidavit two months before your marriage registration date. This document states and certifies you are not currently married in your home country.

The Marriage Registration process

If you have decided to date and marry in Japan, you should know the marriage registration process. If both partners are Japanese citizens, they must be filed and registered by the local government office.

If both or one partner is not from Japan, they need to register with the local office and sign the application letter. Also, they need to have two additional witnesses who are at least 20 years old.

Bonding with their families

Once you get to know the Japanese people, you will realize that they have a very different relationship with extended family than many western people. Most people in Japan can live in different cities due to jobs, and getting a plane or train ticket every time to meet their loved ones can be very costly.

Japanese people are very busy and rarely have an abundance of family time. However, the Japanese people value their family and are very loving and loyal to their family.

Reasons for late marriages in Japan

Recently, there has been a decline in the childbirth rate in Japan. The reason is that most Japanese nowadays prefer dating later in life. Moreover, women are pursuing higher education and are also actively pursuing careers that were once delegated to males only.

Also, couples want to share family duties like doing house chores and caring for children, thus causing conflicts and added stress among each other.

Despite these challenges, Japanese nationals and foreigners still date and often get married. Foreigners who are not accustomed to the Japanese culture find their dating culture a little strange.

Their dating norms are not the same as the rules that most western people follow. However, love doesn’t know culture, and if you find yourself attracted to a Japanese partner, then love can bloom across boundaries even national ones.

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.