The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner’s Parents

A mini-guide to impressing future Japanese in-laws!

By Sharon Alphonso
February 16, 2022
Families, Relationships

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Here are a few tips on getting your future Japanese in-laws to accept you when you're introduced.

It’s been three long years that have passed since I’ve met my Japanese husband’s parents, but the memory remains fresh in my mind. When we met his parents in Nara, I vividly recall feeling nervous yet excited at the same time. As much as I wanted to make a great first impression, I didn’t want to come across as someone trying too hard. Fortunately, everything went smoothly despite the language barrier and cultural differences. While I cannot turn back the clock, I can certainly share some solid relationship advice. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you meet your Japanese partner’s parents for the first time. Let’s begin, shall we?

Bow When You First Meet Them

The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner's Parents

When you meet your Japanese partner’s parents for the first time, bow deeply and stay in that position for at least five seconds. This gesture shows respect. As tempting as it may be, avoid going in for firm handshakes, kisses on the cheeks or warm bear hugs. These gestures are uncommon in Japan. Hence, to avoid offending or embarrassing anyone, bowing is a safe way to greet them.

Always Bring A Gift

The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner's Parents

It’s always a good idea to bring a gift along when meeting someone new. Remember, the present doesn’t have to be extravagant, but thoughtful and practical. Some safe gifting options are edible souvenirs, a bottle of sparkling wine or sake, a fruit basket or even a sweet handwritten note in Japanese.

Work On Your Chopsticks Skills

It’s your chopsticks skills that will take your future Japanese in-laws by surprise. If you have mastered them, then you’re going to fetch plenty of brownie points. According to my husband’s relative, Japanese people secretly judge one’s education level by the way they use their hashi (chopsticks). Hence, practice at home first, before you meet them. Begin by picking up simple food items at first, such as sushi, carrot sticks, dumplings, sticky rice, sliced cheese and cold cuts. As you gain more confidence using chopsticks, try trickier food items, such as natto, peas, beans, nuts, grains and tofu. With practice, you will become a pro in no time,

Practice Speaking Japanese 

The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner's Parents

Even if you don’t possess a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1 certificate, simple conversational words and phrases will be enough to impress your partner’s parents right away. You can improve your communication skills by setting an hour aside every day to listen to Japanese podcasts, talk with your partner in Japanese or watch anime and YouTube videos. Beginners will enjoy learning Japanese from YouTubers like Japanese Ammo With Misa and Learn Japanese With Puni Puni.

Dress To Impress

Dress elegantly and stylishly when you meet someone’s family for the first time. Showing too much skin is distracting and can make the people around you feel uncomfortable. Avoid wearing V-neck blouses or mini dresses. Stick to smart casuals instead. Try embracing cardigans, blazers, trousers, black jeans, midi skirts and long-sleeved tops.

Refrain From Displays of Affection 

Indulging in PDA is a big no-no in Japan. Simply holding hands won’t get you into trouble, but you might get disapproving glances from the parents if you run your fingers through your partner’s hair, plant kisses all over their face or closely lean into them during conversations. Play it cool by keeping your distance and respecting your partner’s cultural boundaries.

Minimal Makeup For The Win!

The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner's Parents

Did you know that the Japanese people value natural beauty over heavy makeup? The less makeup, the better the skin breathes and looks. When meeting your future in-laws, stick to soft tones in shades of nudes, pinks and browns.

Five makeup tips to keep in mind:
  1. Concealer is a better option than a full-coverage foundation for hiding blemishes. Less product will ensure a more natural look.
  2. Red or coral lipstick colors can appear overpowering. Go for a neutral or pink lip tint or lipstick instead.
  3. With mascara-coated lashes and well-groomed eyebrows, your eyes will stand out perfectly.
  4. Keep your look monochromatic: pink lids, pink lips, and pink cheeks!
  5. Add a little touch of blush on the apples of your cheeks for that fresh, flushed look.

Always Ofter to Help!

The Best Way To Woo Your Japanese Partner's Parents

Whether it’s helping with the dishes or clearing the table after the meal, always be willing to offer help (even when it’s not asked of you). Most of the time, they won’t let you lift a finger. However, as a sign of courtesy and good upbringing, always offer help.

Last but not least, have fun with it. It’s natural to make mistakes a few times, but do not let that discourage you. As long as your words and actions come from a pure place, they will love and accept you. If you find yourself in a bind, ask your partner for help or simply follow what everyone else is doing. There isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that you’ll do amazingly well. Good luck!

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