Letters from Japan: ‘Who To Pick?’ and ‘A Girls’ Bar’?

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

By Hilary Keyes
April 7, 2021
Ask Hilary

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 something you’d like to ask Hilary? Send your question in an email to editorial@gplusmedia.com with "Ask Hilary" in the subject line.

Dear Hilary,

I have a few FWBs [friends with benefits]. I mainly sleep with three of them and I just found out I’m pregnant. I decided against abortion, but now I don’t know what to do. Since I have to keep it, my options are marry somebody or be a single mother. What am I supposed to choose? 

—Baby Momma-to-Be

Dear Baby Momma-to-Be,

Congratulations on your pregnancy. Your predicament is one I’ve encountered before in my friend group, so hopefully you have the same positive outcome my friends did.

Are you financially capable of being a single mother in Tokyo or where you’re located in Japan? Can you provide for yourself during pregnancy (covering all medical costs, lost wages at work, etc)? Can you provide for yourself and your child both during and after maternity leave ends? You should start working out your budget, cutting costs wherever possible now in order to have a clear picture of where you stand.

I strongly suggest getting in touch with your ward office as soon as possible to learn about support groups/assistance for single parents in your ward. Whether you later choose to be with a partner or not, these groups will be extremely helpful to you now. Both your ward and these groups can help you with questions regarding childcare, finances, and the like. If you prefer to raise the child in your home country, then please make sure you have the proper support system there as well.

Morally speaking, I think it’s best if you inform all of your partners of your pregnancy. That being said, you will need to determine who the potential father might be. How many partners you were sleeping with at the time of conception could have taken place (11-21 days after your last period)?

You don’t mention any specifics, but if your FWBs are different nationalities, then there are definite issues that could arise if you “just pick” one of them and hope for the best. Even if all of your partners are Japanese, it’s still not a good idea.

Having that DNA test protects both you and the father, and can be a good place from which to start further discussions regarding the child.

Paternity testing isn’t as widely done in Japan as it is overseas, but it is becoming more common by the year. According to seeDNA Forensic Lab Inc., they conducted 3300 paternity tests in 2019, 1200 of which were prenatal. And according to Aera magazine (2014), nearly 40% of paternity tests are conducted by men without their wives’ knowledge, while at the time, about 5% of tests were done by suspicious grandparents.

It sounds cold, but taking the paternity test before discussing marriage will save you from trouble in the long run. Just like on talk shows overseas, people will deny/claim paternity and can even attempt to have mothers declared unfit and take sole custody of the child here too. Having that DNA test protects both you and the father, and can be a good place from which to start further discussions regarding the child. You might also wish to consult with a family lawyer, just in case.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope both your and your future child have happy, healthy lives.

Dear Hilary,

My Japanese husband and I have been married for a year. We go to dance practice every Sunday, and near the dance studio is a girls’ bar. On our way up the stairs he slowed down and looked at the sign on the door. I asked why he was looking at it and if he was thinking about going to it or one in general. He said, “Maybe. Just to see what they do” and so on. I told him that was a load of crap. I know it might have been wrong to say that but I don’t see any reason to go to one! He is married to me. 

I am not sure how to help him to understand that I am totally not cool with him doing anything like that because I would never do that. Not to mention the money that he would be spending. 

Please tell me what to do or say. I am really scared. Thank you.

—Scared and Worried

Dear Scared and Worried

Please don’t approach this from a place of fear and worry. Remember that this stemmed from a hypothetical discussion and one that may not have needed to go in the direction it went.

You two are on the same page enough to attend weekly dance classes together, so he’s clearly chosen to spend his weekends with you instead of gallivanting about elsewhere. Sometimes people look at signs for reasons other than because they are thinking of cheating—advertising is meant to catch the eye, sometimes places have interesting names or designs on their signs, etc.

That you immediately assumed he was thinking of going there suggests insecurity on your part, and your subsequent worry indicates this as well. Has he ever given you any reason to think he might cheat? Have you ever discussed what counts as cheating or not in your relationship?

You also mentioned the money that it would cost. While I can’t say for certain what your financial situation is, your current anxieties may stem from more general affairs over the stability of your relationship. Financial stress can absolutely bleed into other parts of your life.

Remember that this stemmed from a hypothetical discussion

That said, his reaction was either insensitive, petty, or oblivious. Insensitive would suggest he knew his comment would bother you and didn’t mind, and possibly does intend to go to one. Petty would suggest your worries have been taking a toll (regardless of validity) and he decided to get some minor revenge. Oblivious would mean that he truly didn’t know it would bother you.

As you and your husband share a partner-based hobby, I assume that you both understand the value of communication. The easiest way of dealing with your fears is to sit down together and talk about them.

You need to explain in a clear, calm manner that you would consider his going to a girls’ bar to be cheating and that you think he would feel the same way if you went to a boys’ bar. He may not view things the same way, but if it’s important to you that this boundary not be crossed, most monogamists will abstain in the interest of their partner’s feelings. 

Remember why you two got married in the first place and what other factors may have driven you both to react the way you did in that particular conversation. It’s likely not as dire as you fear, but in any case, communication will save the day.

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