Love In Japan: 7 Ways To Meet That Special Someone
Hello! Is it me you're looking for?
Now that you've got the do's and don'ts of dating in Japan down pat, it's time to actually meet someone you'd like to go out with. And here's where you should be heading to.
So you’re walking through the aisles of Tower Records in Shibuya, looking at various books and when one on ukiyo-e (traditional Japanese woodblock prints) catches your eye, you reach for it. Your hand collides with another’s — a man’s. You both recoil in shock, the book slips and falls down to the lower rack with a loud, attention-drawing thud. You turn to look at the stranger who has the same taste in books as you and then — bam! The world is suddenly filtered in ’80s soft focus lighting, the sound of the nasally English lesson in the cafe fades away and you’re left staring at Mr. Perfect who is grinning at you like a fool already in love.
It sounds too good to be true. But that’s exactly what happened to me. And while the relationship didn’t turn into much, it was still something special; a story that I want to share to emphasize that things can happen anywhere — and will, if you let them.
It’s a strange world — you can be desperately single for years and then suddenly meet your perfect partner in a matter of hours.
Well, forget about fairytales and let’s get down to business. Where does the dating actually happen? According to research done by Anan and Zexy magazines and OZmall (Japanese) websites, the top three ways in which Japanese women met their partners were:
- By joining the same club at university
- Through work
- Via introductions from their friends
But since we can easily scratch off going to the same university, this shortens our list quite a bit, doesn’t it? No time to worry, though — it’s time to get busy.
Introductions Through Friends
This is a category that most people will find either helpful or terrifying, depending on the number of friends that they have in Japan and their personality type.
Of my friends that have had successful relationships in Japan, most fit into this category and ended up in these relationships thanks to house or karaoke parties, weddings, or group day trips.
That being said, if you have a very limited group of friends, it might be a good idea to try and expand your horizons by taking part in more local events or getting out and seeing different parts of Tokyo/Japan through a tour. Don’t make “searching for a partner” the goal of these excursions though, you might find that you’ve set yourself up for disappointment, get discouraged and be less interested in putting yourself out there in the future.
By heading out to weekend activities and international events, not only can you enjoy great food and learn new things, but also you just might find yourself meeting someone special.
One dear friend of mine met her husband when they ended up sharing a table at Oktoberfest in Yokohama a few years back.
Another friend is still dating someone she met at the Indian festival held in Yoyogi Park every summer. Savvy Tokyo and GaijinPot (among other sites) have weekly listings where you can find dozens of free or reasonably priced events held all around the Greater Tokyo area, so it just makes sense to get out and socialize.
Through Work or Company Parties
If you’re an ALT or eikaiwa (English conversation school) instructor, this is a tricky topic. Dating a student is out of the question, naturally, but another teacher? That really is up to your particular school or company’s policies. You might find yourself in a tangle of emotions and contractual rigmarole, but if the relationship is that important, then I hope it turns out for the best for you both.
Having said that, company parties may in fact be a great place to meet people from other departments, especially if you work for a big firm.
New Years’ and staff welcome parties (and farewells) or cherry blossom picnics may be just what you’re looking for.
These events draw large crowds, including people you may not have met before or who might work for the same company in an entirely different department or even office building from you. You might meet someone wonderful from the accounts receiving Chiba division while you work in customer service in Tokyo.
Tinder & Social Media
Tinder is either a godsend or a cesspool — it really depends on what you’re looking for in a partner. To many, Tinder is just for meeting a sefure, the shortened version of “sex friend” (or “friend with benefits” to non-Japanese speakers). To others, it’s a great place to ghost people after flirty conversations. A small minority of the men available on Tinder are properly looking for a girlfriend or relationship in general. The same goes for other platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Japan-specific dating sites such as JapanCupid, Pairs (Japanese) and others.
I know a few couples that met through Tinder though, so if you’re prepared and capable of sorting through the meh to find the good, it can be an excellent avenue. So start swiping to the right — to the right!
I have to say that it’s been a great many years since I went clubbing — I can’t stand how my ears ring after a couple hours now. But, when I did go out in my little black dress with my girls, we did meet more than a few decent guys — a co-worker from many years ago ended up marrying one such gentleman and they now have three children. You will find some men that are notorious foreign women fetishists, but they tend to be painfully obvious and incredibly awkward to talk to for longer periods of time (don’t let these men take you somewhere private — they can get “handsy” fast). For extroverts, this is the perfect option and I would highly recommend going out in the Shibuya or Shinjuku areas — I have a lot of fond memories and a couple of exes that I met in those places.
Museums, Galleries & Cafes
This may seem like an odd choice, but hear me out: if you’re interested in something, and it’s important to you that your partner share similar interests, wouldn’t it make sense to scope out potential candidates while browsing through the latest art installation or museum exhibit?
I accidentally met someone lovely in a bookstore thanks to a shared interest, so anything is possible. Plus, this option works well for both extroverts and introverts — you can approach someone, they could approach you, but no matter what, you will still get to enjoy seeing something wonderful.
…A Bonus Location
You never know — love may be just behind the corner. Or at that local izakaya. If there is a small bar or pub near your home that you often see people in your preferred age range frequenting, you might consider stopping inside and having a drink some night. Besides finding a place to hangout or have a hot meal after work, you may also find yourself making some friends in your neighborhood — and that can lead to all sorts of new opportunities. This option is a lot of fun for extroverts and introverts as well: the former may find a place to party and really live it up as they meet people, while the latter might develop some new relationships by becoming a regular fixture in the shop. In either case, changing your routine might make things a bit more fun, right?
Meeting people in Japan does tend to depend on the kind of person that you are at heart — whether you like going out to loud, active events, bars and clubs and are not afraid to strike up a conversation; or you like to stick to established friendships and might take part in the odd hobby group or two.
You don’t have to change yourself just to meet someone, but you may find that you need to push the boundaries of your comfort zone in order to move things along.
If you’re interested in meeting someone, the best piece of advice that I can give you is this: be proactive about it but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t flourish into a relationship right away. And if you find yourself near an attractive, non-creepy stranger in public, well, why not see what happens?
How did you you meet your partner in Japan? Share your stories!
In Part I of the “Love in Japan” series, we discussed the “Do’s and Don’ts On Your First Date.” Hilary’s next article will introduce the blessings and horrors of Christmas in her first installment of “Seasonal Dating.” If you have any questions about dating in Japan for Hilary, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.