Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Dating in Japan: A How to Guide

Photo: Marco Mastrojanni on Flickr

Dating in Japan: A How to Guide

Liam Carrigan

If you’ve been following my work here at Taiken Japan for the past 18 months or so, you’ll have noticed that I have tried my best to cover a wide swathe of topics pertinent to living in Japan. However, there is one subject I have stayed away from, that is at least until now.



RageZ on Flickr

Yes, of course it is the fascination with the culture, the art, the history and the people that brings most foreigners to Japan initially. But, in an increasing number of cases, what keeps us here is that special someone, that little part of Japan we just can’t bear to be without. I refer of course to those of us fortunate enough to find a partner in this country.

Indeed, the pursuit of that ideal lady to be my life partner here in Japan has been something of an ongoing struggle throughout the 10 years since I first moved to Tokyo.

So, I wonder, what have I learned through my struggles?


takasuii on Flickr

Well, as of yet I still haven’t met her, but I’ve come close a few times. Without going into the gory details, I have been engaged twice before and did manage to keep a relationship going for a few years at one point.

No, today I won’t presume to tell you how to find your perfect match. After all, until I finally walk down that aisle with my blushing bride sometime in the, hopefully, not too distant future, for me to presume to know all about Japanese women would be disingenuous and insulting both to you, dear readers, and to Japanese women in general.

So, instead, today I hope to impart a few simple pearls of wisdom garnered from almost a decade of dating in Japan. I’ve had some great experiences, and I’ve had some truly excruciating ones, but overall it’s been a fun and informative adventure thus far.


Daisuke Matsumura on Flickr

Of course, I have to point out that, as a man who dates women, I can only present part of the full picture here. Perhaps in the future another of our fine bloggers on here can offer a woman’s perspective and of course that of the LGBT community too.

So for the time being, here is a male perspective on dating Japanese women, and how to best go about achieving the goal of a lasting relationship.


Pieterjan Vandaele on Flickr

Make a Good Plan

Firstly, I would say that it is very important to give consideration to differing cultural norms. For example, I have found that, in my experience, particularly on first dates, things tend to go much more smoothly when you make a firm plan and you, the man, take care of the arrangements. This may sound chauvinistic and perhaps in some other cultures it would be considered so. However, I have found that Japanese women like it when the man takes the lead in planning where to go and what to do on a first date. A common criticism many of my Japanese female friends have of Japanese guys these days is that they are indecisive and sometimes come across as lazy and non-committal. Putting some thought and effort into organizing a good meal or other event for your first time together will, hopefully, score you a few extra points with your potential partner.


David Shackelford on Flickr

Don't Bring Your Date Home on the First Date

Location is important too. Do not invite her over to your place. More so in Japan than in other countries, going to the home of someone of the opposite sex is seen as something that only people in a committed relationship would do. Give it at least a month or two of getting to know each other before broaching that particular issue. Of course, everyone is different, and if she wants to come over to your place earlier, then that’s your call to make.

As for the first date, consider where she is travelling from and meet somewhere that is central and easy for you both to get to. If you’re meeting after work then a restaurant somewhere in the city is probably best. If it’s the weekend then perhaps you can head a little further out. Perhaps go to an aquarium or the zoo. I’ve found that most of the women I have dated in Japan thus far share my love of nature. And also, unlike a noisy café or restaurant, walking around somewhere a little more open and spacious will give you both a little more opportunity to unwind and talk, and really get to know each other.


sparkle glowplug on Flickr

Give The Silent Treatment

This brings me to my next point. Given their natural shyness, it may be the case that on your first date, your companion may not have much to say for herself. Many western guys can misinterpret this as a lack of interest on her part, but that may not be the case. Japanese people in general, I have noticed tend to be more content with the sound of silence than is the case in other cultures. To that end, don’t worry if she’s a bit quiet. By all means, engage her in conversation as and when you can, but don’t feel awkward if she just wants to sit quietly and enjoy the view for a while.

Whilst it is nice if she can speak English, you should also make an effort to try and engage her in her native Japanese if you can. Not only will this put her at ease, but it will also show her that you are making an effort to understand her ways and her culture. In time, as you get to know each other more, you will probably find yourselves communicating in a mix of Japanese and English that is comfortable for both of you.

It is an oft-misappropriated stereotype that Japanese people are cold and passionless and lacking in any romantic expressive abilities. This is not true, trust me!


dat' on Flickr

No PSA's (Public Signs of Affection)

Whilst you may find she is reluctant to hold hands or hug and kiss in public, let’s face it: that can be the case with women anywhere in the world. Once she is comfortable with you and your relationship has reached a certain point you’ll find Japanese people have a great deal of love, passion and desire buried beneath that shy, nervous exterior.

Again, without going into graphic detail, it’s safe to say that, when a Japanese woman is ready to take things to the next level of your relationship, she will let know and it will be an experience you won’t forget anytime soon!