Dating a Japanese Guy 日本男性と付き合って

“You should go home to Australia, before you fall in love with a Japanese guy. That’s the best thing for you. International marriages are hard work. Go home and marry a nice Aussie boy and start a family.”


This is what my Japanese grandmother told me about a year and a half ago, when I was debating whether I should stay for a fifth year or not. She made a valid point; international marriages can be a lot of work, especially if there is a language barrier. However, I had been single for almost four years by that stage and seriously liked my chances of staying single for one more year. This is Japan after all, the land of the single foreign women!


It didn’t take me long after I began living in Japan to notice a trend. Many of the male ALTs around me were dating Japanese women, while most of the female ALTs remained single. This phenomenon seemed strange to me, so I went to my trusty friend Google for an explanation. It seemed like a lot of foreign women living in Japan were single and avid bloggers. They all had various theories for the occurrence, most of which placed the blame on the current trend in Japanese society for guys to be more passive, and or seemingly uninterested in dating foreigners. I have several theories of my own which I won’t go into, but after four and a half years of enjoying the single life, against the odds, I fell into the world of dating.


Honestly though, it doesn’t really feel like I am dating a Japanese guy. My boyfriend lived in Australia for two years, then New Zealand for a year, and brags that he is part Aussie. On top of that, I am not your average Aussie girl. I have been living in Japan for quite a while now, and spend most of my time shocking people with how “Japanese” I am. Nevertheless, we are still an international couple, who are sure to come across some speed bumps along the way.


While trying to unravel the mystery of the single foreign women in Japan, I stumbled across various blogs written by foreign woman who were dating a j-boy. They wrote a lot about the cultural differences they came across when dating Japanese guys. For the most part, I was prepared for the worst; everything from communication problems to cultural differences, such as the division of household chores, etc. Most of these warnings turned out to be exaggerated or non-applicable to my relationship, which prompted me to write about my experiences so far. If nothing else, I want to convey that international relationships don’t have to be so complicated; we are all just people after all.


Let me start by busting a few of the myths that I read about online.


Myth number 1 – Relationships start with a “confession”

My high school students and numerous Japanese dramas had led me to believe that you cannot truly date someone until one of you has ‘confessed’ your love. In the traditional dating scene of Japan, a couple would go on a few ‘PG dates’ before the confession, but most of the getting to know each other, the holding hands, hugging, kissing, and ‘real’ dating happed after the confession. This pattern naturally results in some pretty short relationships, because how do you know if you like a guy before the first kiss? Of course, the dating scene is changing slowly, and it is absurd to generalize an entire culture, but this is the image I had before I met my boyfriend. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to deal with all the guess work and politics of confessions. Our relationship started much like a relationship in western countries. We went out on dates, got to know each other, and slowly fell in love. We waited until we were ready to say “I like you.”



Myth number 2 – You will have to make the first move. Japanese guys are too shy!

The second thing that probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but did anyways was how not-shy my boyfriend is. He initiated everything. He approached me, asked for my phone number, invited me on a date, the works. To be fair, he is the first person I have met in 4 years who had the balls (personality?) to do this, so perhaps it is justifiable to say he is rare. He also speaks his mind, whether it upsets people or not, which is somewhat unusual in Japan. So ladies, we don’t always have to be the first person to make a move!



Myth number 3 – meeting the parents is serious.

Meeting your boyfriends parents means you guys are “serious”, as in seriously about to get engaged and have babies. This is another myth busted. My boyfriend’s mother came to see him when we had been dating for only about two months and we went out to dinner together. It was a little awkward, because his mother is quite shy, as am I, but we made it work. Thankfully his mother’s friend was with her, and she did enough talking for all of us. The classic Japanese moment was at the end of the night when his mother (and her friend) said “musuko yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” If you don’t speak Japanese, this might be a little difficult to understand because it is very culturally based, but you could roughly translate it to “please continue to get along well with my son”.



On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I read about that turned out to be true.


Fact 1 – You will get stared at, like a lot.

International couples are still rare in Japan, especially in country Japan, and especially Japanese-male foreign-female couples. There will be sometimes when you will feel like a circus animal on display. At least you have each other!



Fact 2 – Communication is vital.

This really goes without saying. Every relationship requires communication between the two parties. If language is a problem, you will need patience and understanding, and a lot of it. A willingness to learn each other’s language will also help by sharing the burden. It can be stressful if one person has to speak in their second language for long periods of time.



Fact 3 – Jobs, visas, and bureaucracy will play a vital role in your future life plans. 

I am just starting to realise the extent to which this is going to affect our lives. Will we live in my country or his? Where can we both find jobs that interest us? How high do we have to jump to get a visa? The list of questions gets longer and longer each day. Some people have suggested that it would be easier just to get married, but that in itself is a mission. The process for international marriages and partner visas is so complicated that you can hire an agent to do it for you, for a small fortune of course. It is said that the stress of the process is enough to break some relationships. Hopefully ours is strong enough to make it!



Both of us will admit that it would probably be a lot easier to date someone from our own culture/society. We have spoken about it a few times, especially after having a disagreement, or not being able to express our feelings due to language barriers. However, both of us would not exchange this for anything. Who knows what the future will hold, but for now, we are doing alright.  


I told my Japanese grandmother about the latest turn of events. She wanted to hear all about him. She asked me when we are getting married and having children. I guess she’s forgotten about her previous advice. Grandmothers are the same in every country!

We played tourists for the day at Saito Burial Mounds


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