Seeking romance and companionship in Japan? Finding love is usually not simple, and Japanese cultural norms surrounding dating and relationships here can make things infinitely more complex.
However, like any other country, the dating experience is also vastly different depending on who you are: searching on the internet will yield horror stories from non-Japanese women and fairy tales with a magical wedding ending for non-Japanese men. Laws and societal norms in Japan have slowly progressed in recent years, but dating for the LGBTQ+ community is still severely lacking.
While everyone’s experience will be different, however, getting a date in Japan and finding the romance that you want is possible, and all you need to do is be yourself. This article covers how to meet people, using dating apps in Japan, and aspects of dating culture to be aware of, and what a long-term relationship, partnership, and marriage look like in the land of the rising sun.
1. How to Meet People in Japan: Konkatsu, Gokon, and Apps
While some people are bolder in their dating game, meeting people and asking someone out in a more organic, spontaneous way, is perhaps less common than you may expect.
Instead, gokon (合コン), a blind group date, and konkatsu (婚活), arranged dates, parties and meet-ups for singles seeking a marriage partner arranged by marriage-consulting groups, are common ways to meet a partner. If you find someone you’re interested in, at the end of the event you will exchange contact information to continue your communication, which may spark some romance further down the road.
Gokons often occur through your workplace, where a colleague you know will invite you to a dinner or group date, where you will meet new colleagues from a different department, or someone with an affiliation with one of the attendees. Konkatsu is a paid service: konkatsu companies, like Pairs Engage, Zexy and Zwei–you will often see often advertisements on trains, television, and social media.
If arranged meets and marriage counseling isn’t your scene, dating apps have become very popular and accepted widely in Japan in recent years.
2. Tinder, Pairs, and Popular Dating Apps in Japan
More people are meeting online and on apps than ever before, and as mentioned above, Japan is no exception. Some of the more widely-used matching apps are Tinder, Bumble, Pairs, and Omiai, but there are many other apps you can try.
Tinder is a popular app in Japan too, and it isn’t just for flings. The app in Japan can also be used to find new friends, drinking buddies, and network. While it may take some effort and time, some people have also been successful in finding a more serious dating partner. As Tinder is originally a non-Japanese app, you will be in a more international dating pool here, too.
Bumble is also in Japan and is another great way to meet people. The app is divided into clear categories: dating, friends, and networking, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. Again, this app has a more international user base.
Japan-produced dating apps like Pairs and Omiai are geared more towards serious dating and have a large Japanese user base, which means you will mostly be using Japanese.
As with all dating apps, your results will vary: some encounters could end with the partner ghosting you after a first date, and some people you match with may only want to talk online. Being persistent and staying optimistic is key.
3. Confessing your Love with a Kokuhaku
After you’ve been on a few casual dates, you may be on the receiving end of a kokuhaku, which is when your partner asks your status as a couple to become official.
The timing of the kokuhaku varies by the situation, however, and it can also come suddenly from someone you never considered romantically.
You can tell that a kokuhaku is coming if your partner sits you down or stops you somewhere and says these lines:
一緒にいてとても楽しい… (Issho ni ite totemo tanoshii; It’s been so much fun being with you.)
あなたのことが好き… (Anata no koto ga suki; I like you…)
They will usually ask you directly to be official like this:
私と付き合ってくれませんか? (Watashi to tsukiatte kuremasenka?; Will you go out with me?)
私の彼女/彼氏になってください！(Watashi no kanojo/kareshi ni natte kudasai!; Please be my girlfriend/boyfriend!)
Be Prepared for All-Day Dates
If it’s not the first date, short coffee dates, or grabbing a quick meal together in Japan is not common. Instead, dates tend to be elaborate day-long affairs, starting with you meeting up in the morning or at lunch, and not returning home until late after dinner.
A typical date like this could involve a trip to a theme park, a day trip to your nearest city, or a leisurely drive through the countryside. To avoid any misunderstandings, be sure to confirm with your date how late they expect to be out, and make sure matches with what you want.
When Can I See You Again?
As mentioned above, quick, impromptu dates are not common. On top of this, if your partner is working at a Japanese company or has a demanding job, it will be difficult to find time for dating without a lot of effort and planning. This means that you may not be able to get together with your dating partner as much as you’d hoped.
In your home country, it may be common to see your significant other several times a week or even every day. In the author’s experience in Japan, however, dating someone typically meant seeing them once every two weeks, or around once a month.
If your partner being there for you often is important, you need to communicate this at the beginning of the relationship or try finding someone new if they don’t agree.
Long-term Relationships, Moving In, and Marriage
It’s a wonderful thing when you’ve found a person you want to spend a long time with, live with, or get married to.
When considering moving into your partner’s place or living together in Japan, be sure to discuss your expectations, lifestyle needs, and the future, as there may be unexpected differences due to culture. Does your partner expect you to prepare a bento lunch for them every day and do all the chores? Will your partner coming home late frequently from 残業 (zangyo — overtime) bother you?
If you do get married, where will the ceremony be? Where will you want to be living? If you want a family with this person, will you be comfortable with raising children in Japan?
There are many things to consider once the relationship starts getting serious; being in a relationship with someone from a different culture and background will require a lot of consideration and communication.
Dating in Japan
Like in any other country, dating and finding love can be difficult in Japan. Unique dating culture like the kokuhaku, arranged meetup parties, and lavish all-day dates may be hard to understand, and potential language barriers may be discouraging. However, it is possible to find happiness in a relationship, and experiencing Japan while in love or with a partner can be amazing. Remember to have fun and be safe in your search for romance!