Love In Japan: Handling The ‘What’s Your Type?’ Question Like A Pro

No, 'someone nice' is not the right an answer!

By Hilary Keyes
April 9, 2019
Lifestyle, Relationships

Your kanji cheat sheet to looking like you know what you're talking about.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked “What’s your type?” (タイプは?Taipu wa?) by Japanese men and women looking to set me up on dates — or by someone who’s testing the grounds to see if I’m interested. The question is odd, especially when out of context and can easily make you feel awkward — but even more so, leave you with tons of questions: “Should I talk about looks or personality? And why is he/she asking? Am I reading in too much? And what the heck is the correct Japanese word to say all I want?” The worst is that as you rarely have a ready answer for that, most of the times you feel like whatever you say will make you sound dull. No worries, we’ve all been there.

I was not prepared for that question when I first got asked, so I just said, “well, someone nice” only to become the target of seriously unimpressed looks. I quickly realized that I had set the bar too low, and I came across as being uninterested in finding a partner. If I had gone too much into details, though, I was risking to set the bar too high: i.e. becoming too picky. It’s a constant balancing act that requires a lot of careful thought, but can be incredibly effective if used right. Here’s how to approach it if you want to sound interesting and have the ball in your hands the next time someone throws the question at you!

1. Be as cheeky as you wish: the original approach  

One phrase that has worked for me so far, especially when I’m interested in the person who’s asking is “suki ni natta hito ga taipu” (好きになった人がタイプ, My type are people I get crushes on). This one is effective because it implies you don’t have an official list of criteria for a partner, so much as fall for individuals. Which is ideally how you’re supposed to fall for someone, isn’t it!

2. Go for the direct approach

If you are into the person asking you this question and are fairly certain he feels the same about you, reply with (his/her name) mitai na hito ga suki” (~みたいな人が好き). You are very literally saying “I like people like you,” which should be a big enough sign that you’re interested. You can always follow this up by adding an impromptu confession of love if you’re feeling brave.

3. Give a general, but clear description

The next best option is to present 2-3 adjectives about the personality, appearance, or style (or a combination of them) that appeals to you. For example, “Adjective #1, adjective #2 na hito ga suki” (~な人が好き). Some of the most commonly used adjectives are the following and all you have to do is add hito (person) after every one of them.

Personality

  • Yasashii (優しい, kind, polite)
  • Shinsetsu-na (親切な, considerate)
  • Atama ga ii (頭がいい, smart, clever)
  • Nintai tsuyoi (忍耐強い, patient)
  • Majime-na (真面目な, serious, diligent)
  • Reisei-na (冷静な, calm, cool-headed)
  • Sawayakana (さわやかな, cheerful)
  • Akarui (明るい, bright, happy)
  • Sunao-na (素直な, honest, upfront with their feelings)
  • Omoshiroi (面白い, funny, interesting)

Appearance/body type

  • Se ga takai (背が高い, tall)
  • Se ga hikui (背が低い, short)
  • Maccho man (マッチョマン, macho man)
  • Gasshiri-shita(がっしりした, sturdy/athletic build)
  • Pocchari-shita (ぽっちゃりした, plump/chubby)
  • Hosomacho (細マッチョ, thin but well-muscled)
  • Hosoi (細い, thin/skinny)
  • Nagai kami no (長い髪の, long hair)
  • Mijikai kami no (短い髪の, short hair)

Style

  • Kakkoii (かっこいい, cool, in a slightly bad boy way)
  • Shibui (渋い, elegant in a subtle, often very Japanese way)
  • Sutorito-kei no (ストリート系の, often used for wild or hip hop style fashion sense)
  • Chic-na (シックな, same as in English)

Here are some additional combinations that tend to work very well:

  • Akarukute genki na hito (明るくて元気な人, someone bright and cheerful)
  • Omoshirokute yasashii hito (面白くて優しい人, someone funny and kind)
  • Shumi ga au hito (趣味が合う人, someone with similar hobbies as you)
  • Otagai ni seichou dekiru hito (お互いに成長できる人, someone you can grow with)
  • Isshokenmei ganbatteru hito (一生懸命頑張ってる人, someone who tries their best at things)
  • Shigoto ga dekiru hito (仕事ができる人, someone who’s good at their job)

4. Name a famous person as an example

Movie stars, pop idols, models, Instagram influencers … plenty of peeps up there to choose from! They all have their own charm and appeal, so if you find yourself in a pinch, you can always name a few of them to help explain your type in the simplest terms.

If you have a few that you prefer, you can say “geinojin de iu to [Celebrity Name #1], ka [Celebrity Name #2] mitai na hito” (芸能人で言うと~みたいな人), which means “I like people that are like (celebrity so and so)”.

To get the conversation going, however, make sure it’s someone everyone knows — or pull your phone out and have a photo ready to show.

Bonus: A few mistakes to avoid

It might be tempting to say what your type isn’t in situations like this, but it’s better to avoid being negative.

Another thing to avoid in this situation is being overly specific with your adjectives — naming a height and weight cut-off, or specifying what brand of clothing the man must be interested in will not work out in your favor if you’re really hoping to nail a date. You are welcome to have certain preferences, don’t get me wrong, but being too caught up in them can backfire on you.

So now that you’ve got the right terms to express yourself, hopefully, you’ll be able to answer “What’s your type?” as naturally as possible — and maybe even tell that certain someone that you like their type directly. Good luck!