I know I missed Valentine’s day by a week, but it is still the ‘love’ season right? I thought I’d cover love in Japan for this cultural episode this month. It is something that not a lot of people talk about, but I’m sure a few wonder about before they move here. What is love, and for that matter dating, like in Japan?
Well, here are a few pointers to help you get a better idea from the married guy that doesn’t date anymore. 🙂 But, darn it, I used to, so listen up.
The first thing that is a little different in Japan is that lover’s holidays are celebrated a little differently. For example, for Valentine’s day, women give men chocolates. Usually the nice more expensive chocolates are saved for husbands and boyfriends while male co-workers, bosses, and even teachers get the not so fancy chocolate.
Of course, a month later, the men reciprocate by giving the ladies chocolates as well. Men tend to be a little more lax about this duty though. I know people are usually surprised when I remember they gave me chocolates and I give them chocolates on White Day.
Christmas, which is usually celebrated as a family holiday in the West, is celebrated as a lover’s holiday in Japan. I always recall my first Christmas in Japan when I, a guy friend, and a gal friend went out to have Christmas dinner. The entire restaurant was full of couples except the three of us in the corner. It was still a good dinner though.
In the West, or at least in the States, online dating is becoming more and more popular. One statistic I heard was that something like 30% or marriages recently are couples that meet online in some way. That seems little high to me, but it is definitely becoming a lot more mainstream than it once was.
Not so in Japan. People are generally a little more sensitive about their privacy and meeting people online in general. Instead, people usually meet their potential mates through dating parties called gokon, not to be mistaken with gokan, which is ‘rape’.
For gokon, an organizer usually invites 3 or so guy friends and 3 or 4 gal friends that are single to a small party, usually at a restaurant. Sometimes there are little get-to-know-each-other games they play or they just have a nice dinner together and just chat. Then, afterwords, it is up to the guy to txt the girl he likes to ask her to a possible second date.
You might have heard a lot about arranged marriages in Japan as well. They do still exist. I know at least one friend of mine has had an arranged marriage. But they are generally considered a last resort. Something that people do to find a partner before they get too old to have kids for example.
Meet the Parents
Parents do still have a strong say in who their son or daughter marries though. I know of at least a few weddings that didn’t happen because the parents of the bride and groom couldn’t sit down and come to an agreement. In one case, a gal friend of mine had arranged the whole wedding ceremony, booked everything, the hall, the reception, the works. The went through the ceremony, but their parents could never agree so they never signed the papers.
What is interesting to me though is that parents will rarely meet boyfriends or girlfriends. The first time they usually meet them is when they are asking if they can get married. Which is a bit of culture shock to me because I used to meet my girlfriend’s parents all the time when I was in high school and university.
Dating in General
Dating is usually a little more serious, at least in my experience. There are not a lot of people that date just for fun and it isn’t uncommon for two people to start dating and then start making wedding plans after only a few months. That’s pretty typical for two Japanese dating, but not as typical for a foreigner dating a Japanese person. It seems like the rules are a little more relaxed for us.
Recently however a growing number of people have no interest in dating much less getting married. There is a generally apathy towards the whole subject, at least statistically speaking. Most of the people I’ve meet and are surrounded by on a daily basis are either married, dating, or are pretty interested in finding someone to date, but maybe that is just the Kansai area 🙂
There seem to be several theories why people have generally lost interest in dating and even find being with the opposite sex to be a bit off-putting. The theory that I tend to most agree with is that women want more freedom, and don’t want to get stuck doing housework and raising kids all day. This, to me, is completely understandable, being a housewife is boring and hard work. Where are the robot maids we were promised?
Men meanwhile have become more withdrawn socially. Either they withdraw into virtual worlds, like otaku,or they just aren’t all that ambitious with women or their careers. This new breed of easying-going guys have been dubbed soshoku danshi, or herbivore men. The idea is that they no longer hunt or work hard for meat, and are generally just content to eat grass.
Whatever the case may be, I think there is still love to be found in Japan if you give it a chance. I hope everyone had a good Valentine’s Day and an awesome White Day with friends, special friends, or spouses.
Where is the Love?
Did you find it? What are your experiences with love in Japan like? Don’t be shy, you can be anonymous if you like. Let me know in the comments below.
Photo by kidperez