The Five Stages Of Breakup Survival In Japan

Breaking Up Isn't Easy …. Especially In A Foreign Country

By Hilary Keyes
August 13, 2017
Lifestyle, Relationships

Breaking up is never easy, even when it’s amicable. But here are five common tips that will bring you back to your feet and help you move on.

Being dumped in a different country is heartbreaking and frustrating to say the very least. But before you start hiding under your futon and refuse to leave the house for the next few weeks, read on for a few tips that will help you deal with it, eventually helping you return to that fabulous woman you were when the relationship first started.

Breaking Up In Japan

Over my time in Japan, I have done my share of dumping and being dumped. Neither are fun. Like in many other countries, breaking up here tends to either come to you as an unexpected lightning from the sky or simply fade away — in other words, hard and soft breakups.

Hard breakups: This is the messy type. (S)He goes out of his way to be mean to you, picks fights over insignificant things and throws ‘culture differences’ in your face, is unfaithful to you, or, goes for the throat with an “I don’t see this relationship leading to something that aligns with my goals for the future,” and there’s not a single thing you can say that will get them to speak with you again.

My ex-fiance combined the last two and got his co-worker pregnant, so that was a fun breakup to deal with on Christmas Eve (yes, he told me that over the phone on Christmas Eve). This is a rare case though, and I hope you never encounter it. Either way, this is a shocking thing to deal with, but the good thing about it is that you’d know there’s no going back (and there shouldn’t be). Leave the memories behind, and thank all heavens you didn’t end up with a partner like that.

No one is irreplaceable, after all, and if your partner is avoiding you, it’s time to find someone who won’t.

Soft breakups: This is the slow killer. Their phone is acting up, they had to work too late, suddenly they start saying things like “I don’t think it’s necessary to text all the time,” “I don’t have time to message”, “I’ll let you know when I’m free”, “I have to work more overtime now”, or otherwise become less available, less talkative, and less interested in speaking to or seeing you.

This type of breakup saves face for the dumper — they might not technically be lying when they say they’re busy, but literally, they’re saying “I’m not interested enough in this relationship to make time for it.” It’s harsh, and in some ways more painful than a hard breakup, because it can take weeks, even months, for it to happen. You find yourself feeling that something is off, you try to find excuses for them and persuade yourself that they may just need some time off, and that you need to be more understandable. You’ll find yourself thinking about this all the time, wanting to find answers, yes being scared to ask. If you care for that person, give them a week or two to process whatever phase they’re going through and if things don’t change, then you’ll know it’s time to move on. No one is irreplaceable, after all, and if your partner is avoiding you, it’s time to find someone who won’t.

Regardless of whether it was a hard or soft breakup, it will be difficult for some time. But hiding in your room for ages won’t lead anywhere. Here are five things to do to recover from a breakup and move on.

1. Cry

Cry as much, as hard, as disgustingly as you want until you can’t cry anymore. And even when you think you’re done crying, put on a sad movie or TV show, listen to sad music, and get the last remaining traces of those tears out of your system. This could take a day or a couple of days, and you might even have to repeat it, but crying it all out first really makes the next steps easier. It’s not a surprise that in Japan they have ruikatsu (crying out loud) events — crying releases emotions and leaves you better off when you’re done.  

2. Write or talk it out

Pick a notepad and write out everything you didn’t like about the relationship, or about your partner down in a list. Then, write down what you want in your next or ideal partner, what your relationship compromises and deal breakers are. Write down what kind of person you want to be for your next partner and what things you’d like to change about yourself. If you’re more on the talkative side, call up your closest friend in Japan or back home, and go through the same steps to sort out your feelings. Say or write whatever it is that you’re feeling because those are all valid emotions that you should feel comfortable expressing. One day you’ll go back to the list with a smile.

3. Focus on yourself

After a breakup, some women find it hard to care about themselves, and though this is understandable, it’s also the worst thing you can do. Use all the money you would be spending on dining and wining with your ex to buy yourself new clothes and change your style. I had a friend with black hair down to her waist that, who after breaking up with her boyfriend of six years, met me in Shibuya with a short, white blonde bob. The imechen (“image change”) step is one that essentially is a free pass where you are allowed to change whatever you want to about yourself, in order to start anew. Some women go for physical changes, fashion changes or wardrobe updates, others take up a new sport or activity, and others might go back to school or start studying something new. Image changes serve a dual purpose: you’re not only physically clearing away the old, but you’re also opening up yourself to the possibility of new experiences, new friends, and new romance. Plus, investing in yourself feels great!

4. Go out

Have you been spending an inordinate amount of time haunting your office, regular hangout spots, or just not moving from the sofa post-breakup? Then it’s time for you to go out! Go somewhere you haven’t been before, whether that be a new restaurant down the street, a station you’ve never been to, to a gallery or museum, or if you have some vacation time and extra money, visit a new prefecture or even country. Go to an onsen, travel with your friends, go to a concert, and spend some time having fun on your own — regardless of how difficult this may sound. The idea behind this is to see what else is out there, to get your physical and emotional self together and out of the same old surroundings, which can leave you lingering on the past if you’re not careful. Spending time with people is also a key to finding new friends, the support you need through rough times, and your next romance, too!

5. Delete traces of your ex 

The last of the steps, this one can take the longest to reach, and you might have a really hard time with it. You may even have to repeat some of the other steps once, twice more before you can get yourself to this state. At this point, it’s time to get rid of those reminders of your ex in your life. That comfortable hoodie they let you borrow? Take it to H&M or a charity and donate it. Those cute purikura photos of you two cuddling? Introduce them to a paper shredder. Stuffed toys from a game center that you can’t bear to look at? Give them to a friend’s kids or take them to a recycle shop. And most importantly, delete any and all old emails, selfies, and social media connections. You have to scrub them out of your life. You may not forget, but you don’t need your ex lurking in the shadows as you move forward with your life.

Last but not least, although it may be tempting when you’re lonely and going through a rough time, going to a boy’s bar or host club is a terrible idea when you are still dealing with these five steps. While the attention those guys are being paid to lavish upon you can feel great when you’re emotionally vulnerable, the impact that ‘dating’ one of them can have on your mental and financial health is both long lasting and devastating. Leave going to a place like that for when you’re strong enough to remember that genuine affection doesn’t have a price tag on it.

With these five steps to guide you along, plus any other healthy tricks of your own, you’re sure to find yourself feeling like the super woman that you know you are again. And as always, if you have a question or just want to talk about your relationship with someone who’s probably been there, send me a message!

Have you ever been dumped in Japan? What are your tips for surviving a breakup? Share your thoughts in the comments.