This is a difficult topic. There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to romance. All those articles are a little different, each taking research and personal experience into account. I got lucky. I found someone within the first year of living in Japan. Many foreigners, and even natives, spend months searching and can’t find a stable relationship.
Japan is one of the loneliest countries in the world. With men and women putting countless hours into their work, self-care becomes difficult. Dating takes time and resources, it tends to feel like a second job. Some people don’t have the kind of energy to put on a smile and talk to strangers for hours on end.
According to a recent Yomeishu survey, about 60% of Japanese women ages 20-30 said they cannot relax enough to find love. Much of their energy goes into work relations, meetings, and trying to bear the heat of summer in full suits. So with that fact out of the way let’s dive into how these busy salarymen/women seek love in Japan.
Gokon and Aiseki
Are you reserved in public? Shy? Not sure what to do around complete strangers? You are not alone. Many Japanese are reserved by nature. It is built into the culture; Japan is the birthplace of the hikikomori (the ultimate recluse). If you are timid or shy it’s best to lean on a friend, a single friend.
Gokon (合コン, goukon) is a lighthearted gathering of singles to drink and talk. Many times it’s organized by a friend and that friend’s friend. Gokon might be a group from four to eight people. With all the drinking, laughing, and texting going on you might find yourself short on time and giving an elevator pitch about yourself with a stomach full of booze. Going to a gokon with a friend has its benefits because he or she can help steer conversations in your direction and play up your strengths.
If you can’t assemble enough single friends to have a group date like a gokon, the latest trend will suit your needs: Aiseki (相席, aiseki) bars and restaurants. Aiseki bars and restaurants, simply put, are blind date drinking establishments. Depending on the place the format might change. Some aiseki bars have a large table where eight random strangers will be talking, or it might be private rooms where it is only four people per table.
In today’s day and age we rely heavily on our smartphones. We turn to our phones for the time, travel, calendars, and staying in contact with our family that are miles away. Why not use it to search for love? Dating apps are convenient for those who are always on the run and can only find their dates from their office desks or standing in the train on the ride home.
The only problem about going digital for your date is dealing with the sheer volume of apps. There are quite a few. Scrolling through reviews, popularity, and other blog posts there appears to be two popular apps in Japan: Tinder and dine.
Tinder is a simple profile read with a “yes” or “no” swipe gesture; if two people say “yes” to each other then it opens a chatroom to set up a date. dine, made by a Japanese company, skips all the messaging and jumps right into the date planning: someone posts restaurants they are interested in, a potential date picks one, and if they both agree on it they go on a date.
Just Get Out There
Sometimes all it takes to build a good relationship is to find people who think alike or share similar tastes in things such as music, books, and recreational activities. If you feel like you cannot connect with anyone you meet randomly, by a friend’s recommendation, or on the Internet, then the best option is to leverage your interests and join a club.
Do you like drawing? Join a drawing club. Do you like music? Join a music appreciation group. There are enough people in cities like Tokyo and Osaka that there’s a group for every hobby. To join a club catering to a hobby, a quick search on Facebook or Meetup.com will give you a handful of events going on around your area.
Just remember that these clubs and meetups are more for making friends and doing things as a group, it’s not the time to be flirting one-on-one. When you find someone that resonates with your ideals and want to get to know that person better, ask them out for coffee or an art exhibit. There are plenty of both in Tokyo.
Dating is about playing the long game. Matchmaking apps can go nowhere fast. Sending messages back and forth can take days. Sometimes you and your potential date just can’t seem to squeak time out of your busy schedule for a proper meal. Stay calm, stay patient, stay yourself. Everything tends to fall into place after that.
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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