Letters From Japan: “Was I Right To Decline A First Date At His House?”
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject "Ask Hilary."
Hi Hilary. I got asked out on a first date to a Japanese guy’s apartment. It was an hour away from my place, and, despite talking to each other on the phone a couple of times, I still didn’t feel comfortable going to his apartment for a first date. I told him I didn’t feel right doing that, and he ghosted me. Was I just being paranoid, or did I make the right call? — Safety First or Missed Opportunity?
Dear Safety First,
Let’s get that out of the way first: You made the right choice! Being asked to come over for a first date to a literal stranger’s apartment is a huge red flag. Booty calls are a great fun, but in a country with so many love hotels, there’s no reason to go to a stranger’s home for a first date. Not one reason at all.
I’m not trying to say that he had bad intentions for you. He could have just been a lazy man, but the fact that he ghosted you when you declined implies not only that he was purely after sex (not a date), but also that he doesn’t respect you. Japan is known for being a very safe country, but that doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen here. Sexual assault, unfortunately, happens here way more often than reported or revealed in statistics.
Being asked to come over for a first date to a literal stranger’s apartment is a huge red flag.
So, staying safe in Japan falls to the same practices that women have to follow all over the world — be vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and listen to your instincts. You know the basics: if you’re walking alone in the evening don’t play your music too loud, don’t walk down dark streets or alleyways and try to avoid known entertainment/club districts. These are important tips when it comes to strangers, but a lot of this also applies to dating when you still can’t fully trust the person. If you haven’t met him before and if you feel like you can’t trust him yet, don’t go to a place where he is in a full control of the situation.
Though this was not a dating case, the rape-murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker, a 22-year-old British woman in Chiba, is still vivid in the memories of many foreigners, especially women living in Japan. Lindsey was an English teacher who was approached by Tatsuya Ichihashi to give him private English classes in March 2007. She conducted the classes at a cafe, but was told by him that he had forgotten his wallet at home and would like to go and pick it up to pay her. She was, unfortunately, naive to follow him and think that she could trust him. He raped and killed her at his home and buried her body in a bathtub before fleeing his apartment and going on the run for two years prior to his arrest in 2009.
And while this is a very extreme and sad case, in cases involving strangers (and people you feel that you can’t trust fully), it is always better to assume the worst rather than the best. Always think “what if this happens” rather than “it’ll probably be okay.”
If you like the guy, meet him, but make sure it’s in a place where you can be helped if something goes wrong. The more crowded, the better.