The Secret to Understanding Dating in Japan and How to Keep your Relationship Steady! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

The Secret to Understanding Dating in Japan and How to Keep your Relationship Steady!

By Peggy May 17, 2018

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Dating Japanese 101

If you have lived in Japan awhile, you might have the chance to meet that “special” person. Dating a person from another culture can be both amazing and challenging. If you are new to Japanese culture, there may be things you don’t realize your significant other is trying to express. I have been married to a Japanese national from the Tokyo area for nearly 16 years, and we have a son who is currently 11 years old (and a dual citizen). We have dated both in Japan/United States and long distance. We also have many friends who are married and are not of the same nationality (one is Japanese; the other is another nationality). So, this is what I have learned to share with you.




The marriage ratio and representative countries of citizens married to Japanese nationals can be seen from statistics stated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan. The statistics are from 2013, so there might be slight differences in the overall total. However, you can see the marriage statistics involving a Japanese national and an expat is quite significant.

How Japanese Communicate

Unlike some cultures, Japanese people do not tend to share their emotions or words directly. Instead, it is best to watch their facial expressions to see what they are trying to say. Sometimes, this is difficult to do. However, after you get to know the person, you can learn to read their facial and body expressions.
Japanese people also do not tend to argue directly. They might instead start to become more subdued and quiet as a disagreement occurs. Americans (for example) tend to voice their thoughts in an aim to prove their point. While Japanese people generally want the respect of his or her partner and for the partner to listen to their ideas without interruption.

Which Language Should You Use to Communicate

The choice of spoken language is an important point when dealing with two people who do not share the same native language. It’s something to discuss with your significant other and depends on the level of your Japanese vs. your shared language. Understanding that both of you will not be completely fluent in the common language is essential. It takes time to understand the finer details in any language. Have patience and open communication as it is hard for the one in the relationship trying to communicate in their second language.



Expression of Love

If you are in public or with other friends or family in Japan, your Japanese partner will most likely not show an open display of affection such as hand holding, touching, kissing or verbal expressions of love. It doesn’t mean that the person does not love or care about you. It is a point of respect that people do not show physical expressions of love in the general public or if older people are nearby.
At the same time, when you both return to a private residence or location, you might see a different side of that person. That person may be very “loving” in his or her words and actions.
This can also be true if you and your significant other travel or live in another country outside of Japan. My friends and I who have dated or married Japanese nationals have found that our Japanese partners (both male and female) tend to show more open affection in locations outside of Japan. However, once they arrive at the airport in Japan, they change to be more reserved and show all the Japanese cultural mannerisms they learned growing up.
For many cultures, open displays of affection are considered standard daily practices. However, if you are dating a Japanese person, you will need to understand the difference between public and private as well as “location, location, location.” Public affection is a common concern among internationals dating Japanese individuals. They don’t understand how Japanese can be so affectionate in private and indifferent when with others. Which can lead to misunderstandings, arguments or even the end of a relationship.




Miscommunication can happen for a variety of reasons – language, cultural norms, dating practices in both countries, etc. The key to making your relationship work with a Japanese individual is to listen. You need to have an open mind and try to see it from that person’s viewpoint. If you don’t know the culture or are still learning about the person, ask them what they are thinking and why. I have learned over the many years of dating and marriage that my ideas are not always the right ones. I need to stop and listen.
If you do have an argument, it is best to always say “I’m sorry!” You may not know fully what you did wrong, but to a Japanese person “I’m sorry” is important. Proving your point will not help. You need to sometimes take a step back and listen.


Understanding Important Japanese Dates

Every culture has special important “dating” days on the calendar. In Japan, you don’t want your partner to feel like you did not respect that special time by not knowing or through forgetfulness. Some important dates are: February 14 (Valentine’s Day – opposite to Western traditions – women give men chocolate); March 14 (White Day – men give women chocolate); December 24 (special day for dating couples), anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

Popular Dating Spots

Where to take your special person on a date can require some thought for any relationship. New couples in Japan can find many places to go.
If you are on a budget, some date options include: taking a walk in the park, going to a local “matsuri” (festival) café hopping, street shopping and eating inexpensive vendor sweets like “taiyaki” or “sembe” cherry blossoms or autumn leaves watching, etc. Although these are just a few options, they can provide you time to talk and learn more about each other.

What to Buy for your Other Half

What to buy clearly depends on the person. The best way to make a good impression is to watch what the person tends to like. If you have a chance to visit where the person lives, you can look around and see the things the person likes or their hobbies. You can tell the color they like and things they buy through the items they possess.
If you are in a new relationship, don’t fret. Japanese women tend to like cute “kawaii” things. Accessories for their phone, handbag or things they can use for their work or school. You don’t always need to spend a lot of money if you buying something to show your affection. Small things are fun and make for great conversation.
Japanese men tend to like things related to their hobbies, work, or fashion accessories. You can find these in department stores or specialty shops. Go to the men’s department area and see what items you can purchase.
Again, be observant. If you see your partner stopping or viewing something at a store, they might like that item or color. It is fun to surprise that person with an item they looked at but didn’t buy immediately.



Staying in Touch

These days, technology and social media makes it simple and convenient to keep in touch with your partner. You can use LINE, iPhone Facetime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. All of these are FREE! Even if the person will be away from the area or country for a certain period of time, you can still use these apps and keep in touch. You do not need to pay for an international call, which can cost you some money if you talk for any length of time.



Family Impression and Relationship

If you progress to the point of meeting your Japanese significant other’s family, this is considered a crucial moment in your relationship. Making a good impression is something you need to consider as parents and family members are very dear to your Japanese partner. Japanese people have a strong family culture. So, getting “the blessing” of the family is very helpful for your future together – especially if you will be living together or near the parents after marriage.
If you are dating and have had the opportunity to meet the family, a suggestion would be to ask your significant other for the family’s address and contact information. When you go on a mini-trip somewhere, it’s a good idea to send them something small to show that you were thinking about them. This will make them feel loved and aid in building a stronger, longer lasting relationship.
Also, another tip is to try writing the parents/family a small note in Japanese from time to time. You may not communicate well, but your effort to write a few sentences and mail it to them will make the world of difference.

Making a relationship work between any two individuals can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time. Relationships that involve two cultures/countries can have their own set of things to consider, but remember that “people are people.” It doesn’t matter where the person is from. Every person wants the same basic things out of a loving/caring relationship. Always remember that if that person is special to you, make him or her feel that emotion. You can make the relationship succeed if it is the “right” person for you. I can attest to that!

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Peggy/United States

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