How does dating work in Japan?

People pics from David et Magalie's flickr stream

Dating and all that goes with it – is, at it’s most basic, the same all over the world. That said here’s little information about dating and Japan. I'm sure each culture has it variations on a theme. Japan is going to be different than many western countries if only for the fact that many adults live with their parents until they are married. This has two knock-on effects, the first is that young adults generally don’t have sex at home and the second is that they’d quite like to get married at some point. They are having sex though, and they are dating. Japanese couples will often make use of love hotels, karaoke booths, the backs of cars, public parks and so on. But that’s not the focus of this particular article.

If you live with your parents all the time – they will eventually want to marry you off. Arranged marriages still occur though to a much lesser extent than a generation back. Some Japanese men may get mail order brides from near by poorer Asian countries. Far more Japanese men are married to foreigners than Japanese women. Let’s exclude those dating options and look and the way relatively normal people hook up.

Group dating is probably the one big difference. This will be organized so that you (usually) pay a set amount and then go to a restaurant with a friend or two of the same sex. You will then meet mutual acquaintances of the same and opposite sex that you may know or not know. Everyone there will be “the friend of a friend …” though. You all eat together then after you may go sing karaoke, if anyone gets along well they may pay off. This is called kompa.

If you make a fist and hold up your pinky finger, well in Japan, this means girlfriend.

It is quite common in Japan that after a date the bill will be split – so you each pay for half. You can ask for separate bills by saying (betsu-betsu). To me this is a wonderful idea that should be adopted in all countries. If you disagree with this you may be able to break this cultural mould and pay for everything. Some Japanese woman have the incredibly incorrect impression that all western men are gentlemen and that they should therefore allow them to pay the bill if they so request. It is unlikely a Japanese man will pay for the entire date; rather he will pay for his half. On the upside he may bring you presents.

Japan is quite closed and homogenous as a country, so if you visit and you are not Japanese you will probably be viewed as exotic. Of course exotic people can still be ugly and communication does tend to make up a large part of a relationship. Assuming every thing goes well and you do find yourself in a relationship, be forewarned that safe sex isn’t a strongly hammered in to the public consciousness as perhaps it is back home. There’s a wide view the sexual transmitted diseases only exist outside of Japan. This is not a fantasy you should buy into. It is also true that many Japanese condom brands are ever so slightly smaller. At larger drug stores there will a larger stock, so shop around. The pill is available but may require a visit to a particular clinic rather than the general physician. The majority of Japanese women believe the pill is something only prostitutes use and that it may cause permanent DNA mutation or something of the ilk. It is not widely used.

Go and have fun and be safe.

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