Is Dating a Japanese Girlfriend REALLY the Answer to your Troubles?
Dating in Japan is a world that takes some getting used to if you are not familiar with the intricacies and subtleties of it. The order in which things take place, the hints and suggestions, the expectations… Although Japanese society and people’s love lives are evolving with the times, there are still aspects of dating culture in Japan that can be confusing and differ greatly from that of other countries and cultures. In particular, the divide between men and women and how to behave as such can seem old-fashioned and is wrought with many misconceptions. This article aims to break down some of these processes, pros, cons, and misleading images of dating Japanese girls in particular, in the hope that dating culture in Japan can be treated with reason and respect.
Stereotypical Generalizations of Dating a Japanese Girl
Stereotyping an entire race, ethnicity or nationality and making sweeping generalizations about dating someone from that group can be dangerous and often inaccurate. It can set people up for disappointment or surprise, cause misunderstanding and offense and is generally not a good idea.
Women from Asian cultures, in particular in countries including Japan, however, have a specific image that is very much widespread, especially in Western perspectives. The following is a general outline of some of the qualities Japanese women supposedly have, and then a discussion on the accuracy of some of these.
Indeed, it is no surprise that it seems that the vast majority of Western men living in Japan or studying Japanese have Japanese wives or girlfriends. Many half Japanese people have a Japanese mother and non-Japanese father. This is the more common pattern. Of course, this is by no means the full story. There are myriad non-Japanese women who come to Japan and end up with loving, fulfilling relationships with Japanese men. Non-heterosexual relationships are also not excluded from this narrative, as in any culture in the world. But does this former arrangement seem to be the more common way? Is there an actual reason or merely coincidence? How should you behave knowing this? Are there things to be aware of?
Pros of Dating a Japanese Girl
The following are of course all stereotypes and misconceptions of ‘all Japanese women’. As in any culture, there are women who fit these ideas, just as much as there are women who are completely opposite.
A disparity in physical appearance
One common image of dating a Japanese girl is that someone who is largely average looking in their own culture can probably date a Japanese girl who is objectively much more physically attractive. This may be as a result of the idea that Japanese women find non-Japanese, particularly Western, men more attractive than their potentially equally attractive, but Japanese, counterparts. Colloquially, and rather unpleasantly, these women are sometimes known as ‘Gaijin hunters’, and people on the other side are said to have ‘yellow fever’.
Japanese women are agreeable and not argumentative
Another stereotype that is a pro of dating a Japanese girl is that Japanese women are less argumentative and willing to go along with what their partner says. So people who find that dating outside of Japan to be difficult with differing opinions and potential for argument and conflict might find dating a Japanese lady smoother and easier. This ‘submissive’ and cutesy quality of Japanese women is an unfortunate and widespread image that stems from how they, alongside women of other Asian origin, are often fetishized in and perpetuated by pop culture, subcultures, and the media.
Japanese women are good at cooking and being home makers
Another advantage for non-Japanese people dating Japanese women is the prevailing cultural and societal framework that suggests that women are the primary home makers. Women flourish at home, and make nutritious, delicious and varied meals three times a day (including a lovingly prepared bento lunch box, perhaps) for their partners and families. They are more likely to be open to quitting their jobs to create a home and raise children, causing less friction between pairs where the non-Japanese partner might not want to sacrifice their career in the same way.
Japanese women like to give gifts as a sign of affection
Giving gifts is a huge part of Japanese culture, and not just in romantic situations. However, when dating a Japanese girl, she might like to give you small gifts regularly, such as cakes or chocolates or small handmade gifts. On Valentine’s Day, you will receive a gift from your girlfriend (usually homemade chocolates or sweets), but don’t forget to reciprocate on White Day a month later!
Unlike in Western cultures, Christmas is also a couples’ holiday, so you will be able to celebrate the festive season with your Japanese girlfriend. Popular activities include going to a theme park, illumination event, a nice romantic dinner, or just spending quality time together and giving each other thoughtful presents.
Cons of Dating a Japanese Girl
Japanese women might expect a formal procedure to getting into a relationship
Dating a Japanese girl can be complicated, especially if they have a conservative or traditional family. In Japan, there are many rules and expectations within the dating world, which are never explicitly referred to or made clear. For example, after going on a few dates with a Japanese girl, it is not unusual for her to expect a formal kokuhaku 告白, which is a formal announcement of one’s feelings for their partner, after which the pair are officially in a relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. The kokuhaku might seem unnatural and forced for people who are not used to the Japanese dating culture but it is an almost ceremonial part of a relationship’s journey, and if not taken seriously, can result in embarrassment or upset. This can be viewed as a pro, too, though, as boundaries and stages are clearly set if you follow the protocol correctly, so you always know where you stand.
Casual dating is not as much of a thing in conservative Japan and you may seriously insult or hurt someone by assuming something is less serious. Also, if a Japanese girl is in her mid-twenties to early thirties, she may be looking to settle down or get married soon.
In Japan, you are expected to be able to read and understand people and situations
A lot of the time, communication in Japan is ‘unspoken’. The phrase, kuuki wo yomu 空気を読む literally means ‘reading the air’ and describes the cultural Japanese ability to pick up on social cues that might not be explicitly voiced and act accordingly. For someone who has not had a lifetime of practice reading the air in the way a Japanese girl has, this might be difficult and can lead to accidental offense or let down when a situation or expectation has been misinterpreted or goes unnoticed completely. Japanese women may not always clearly or honestly say how they feel. This requires both parties, ideally, to meet each other halfway in terms of communication, but is often easier said than done.
A Japanese woman may have traditional or conservative views regarding living together and family
Another aspect of dating a Japanese girl that could be difficult if she is very traditional is the notion that couples cannot live together before they are married. Also, being introduced to family members is a very big step for Japanese couples, so expect to only meet the parents, siblings, or extended family members if you are extremely serious or considering marriage very soon.
Dating a Japanese woman can be difficult from a linguistic perspective
Language problems can occur in any cross cultural relationship if one of the pair is not confident with the other language. This can be particularly difficult when dating a Japanese girl, as the Japanese language is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn from scratch. Linguistic difficulties here can occur even outside of the language itself, and crop up in the subtle nuances of language and tone, causing miscommunications and increasing the risk of misunderstanding, particular if one is quick to jump to conclusions. It is an important step, therefore, to make the effort to learn Japanese if you are dating a Japanese girl, and also vice versa. Even if one party speaks the other language perfectly, it is still important for both sides to make a concerted effort, as friends and family who may not speak at the same level increasingly become part of the picture. Any future involving children is also important to consider from language perspective
Dating a Japanese woman could be based on an expectation to be able to practice English, or vice versa
Many intercultural relationships between Japanese women and their non-Japanese partners start on the basis of language learning or practice. Perhaps you are language exchange partners or a tutor and student. These situations can of course lead to greater feelings; however, there are often instances where the dynamic can revert back to student-teacher or time spent together might feel like a lesson or tiring and surface-level, rather than deep and mutually understanding. Be careful not to be a token English (or other language) speaking partner, and in the same breath, don’t seek out a Japanese girlfriend with the main goal being to practice your Japanese language skills!
The non-Japanese man might be expected to pay for everything
Expectations for a traditional Japanese woman of their partner might dictate that he should be financially stable in a respectable, secure job with good pay and good social standing. Particularly if you are considering having a family, the man is more likely to be expected to be the main, if not sole, breadwinner. When going on dates, the man might be expected to pay for everything. Traditionally, Japanese girls are perhaps not used to splitting the bill.
Japanese women are less likely to want to show physical affection, especially in public
Although this could be viewed as a con – the less physical affection you show, the more special it becomes when it does happen, or perhaps for people who dislike public or physical displays of affection – the lack of showing affection through touch might come as a shock to people from Western or other cultures, where being in a relationship entails hugging, kissing, or holding hands.
International Marriages: The Expectations and the Reality
While today, international marriages are increasingly commonplace and ubiquitous, the expectations and reality of international marriages can be very different. Again, this is of course dependent very much on individual circumstances and personalities. However, it is said that up to 40% of international marriages end in divorce.
Fortunately, the breakdown of international relationships is more often than not, NOT due to cultural differences themselves. For long-term partners, these are usually able to be overcome and compromises go a long way. It is, however, the realities of the practical and compatibility differences of international marriages that can be more difficult to conquer. Perhaps it is logistics – being with someone whose home lies halfway across the world to yours can cause problems when it comes to choosing where to raise children or when you or your parents start to age. Money can be another issue, with international relationships requiring more travel and relocation expenses.
What are your Thoughts Now on Dating a Japanese Girl?
Overcoming racial and cultural stereotypes and just treating your partner and being treated by them as a PERSON above anything else is the biggest barrier when dating a Japanese girl. The important thing is to NOT fetishize or think of Japanese girls as exotic or submissive. Rather than focusing on the fact itself that she is Japanese, get to know her as an individual. Anyone dating a Japanese girl should take all of the above pros and cons with a massive handful of salt. These stereotypes can be harmful if taken too literally. For every quiet, shy Japanese girl there is a fiercely independent and feisty woman out there. Do not reinforce incorrect cultural stereotypes with your actions and expectations.
Although cultural and racial difference should not be ignored (being ‘blind’ to race is rather naïve and ignorant) and instead embraced in a natural way, the only way to have a successful and healthy relationship, intercultural or not, is to respect the other person not purely as a product of their race or culture, but rather as an interesting and evolving individual who just so happens to be of a certain nationality – in this instance, Japanese.
Maia // UK