• Life & Culture

Dating in Japan as a Foreigner | A Guide to Sites & Culture

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Are you new to Japan and looking to meet new people? Are you open to dating? Or are you too shy to get yourself out there in the dating scene? Our comprehensive guide will walk you through the ins and outs of dating in Japan as a foreigner.

 

From exploring the vast customs ingrained in Japanese culture to the myriad of dating sites and apps, we’ll help you to find that special someone – or at least try!

 

Let’s start by diving into the Japanese dating customs that you NEED to know. Understanding Japanese dating customs can mean the difference between a good date and a bad date.


Japanese Dating Customs

 

Japanese dating, while slightly more elaborate than other cultures, in theory are the same. Each country has its own customs to abide by, Japanese customs will just take a bit more adjusting to.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that dating is different for everyone, what could work for someone else might not necessarily work for you. So think of this article as a rough guide to help you triumph in the world of dating as a foreigner in Japan.

 

Here are some of the most common Japanese dating customs that you should definitely keep in mind before you’re looking to date.


Hookups and Casual Dating are Taboo

 

While hookups in other countries are not especially celebrated, they are accepted as part of society. However in Japan hookups are seen as “filthy”, this is mostly the opinion of those that practice a religion. Yet even the people that don’t share this opinion also.

 

The same can be said for casual dating, even something as small as kissing your date is shunned upon. Only when you are officially in a relationship should you be able to kiss each other.


Japanese Prefer In-Person Dating Opposed to Online

 

While online dating sites and apps are making the ability to meet new people even easier, Japanese people still prefer in-person dating. Preferring much more intimate, affectionate relationships.

 

In fact until 2015, 72% of married couples met through friends, work, family or school.

 

In Japanese dating an ‘online relationship’ is not seen as a real relationship. So if you meet that special person online, be prepared to make the venture to meet them in real life.


“Reading The Air”

 

In Japanese dating there is a term called Kukki o Yomu ‘場の空気を読む’ which means “understanding a situation without words”, the literal meaning is “reading the air”.

 

The culture and customs in Japan are much different to other countries such as The United Kingdom and the USA, in which it is encouraged to speak your mind. Japan is very much an indirect speaking country, a lot of things are better left unsaid, or the approach would be different.

 

When dating as a foreigner it’s important to essentially ‘read between the lines’. Being aware of your date’s feelings is one of the first steps to ensure your date goes well.



The Dating Culture in Japan

 

It’s safe to say that the dating culture in Japan is massively different to that of foreign countries. A lot of what would be acceptable in Western culture is not acceptable in Japan, or in some cases, taboo, and would be looked down upon.

 

The expectations can be different from the reality of dating in Japan. So it’s important you understand what is, and what isn’t acceptable before you immerse yourself in the world of dating.


Your “Confession” is Essential

 

Much like other countries, there is a point in which you are dating that one of you would approach the other one and ‘ask them out’. This is called a “confession”.

 

This is in slight contrast with foreign countries, which in most cases, a mutual understanding is built, and it doesn’t need to be said out loud.

 

The reason this is so important in Japan is because many people go for lunch or tea as friends. Without making your intentions clear the other person may be in the view that you are just friends.


No PDA (Public Displays of Affection)

 

PDA or public displays of affection. You wouldn’t think twice about at home, would you? In Japan, the social rules are vastly different and PDA is considered a big no-no.

 

This comes down to two reasons; privacy and accommodation for others. People in Japan value their privacy immensely, so partaking in something so public as PDA could take away the personal connection of dating.

 

The other reason is that it is thought that PDA would make other people uncomfortable – which is something I think we can all relate to. And for this reason, PDA is very uncommon in Japan and is something you would most likely want to avoid.


Full Day Dates

 

The other thing that separates dating in Japan from other countries is the content and length of the date. While it’s not untrue for dates to last all day in countries outside of Japan, it’s very common for dates in Japan to take up half, or even a full day.

 

What we would consider a date, such as going for coffee or a walk would not be seen as a date in Japan. There’s a certain element of planning involved; fireworks, shopping, theme parks, restaurants, drinking – a date is like an event in Japan.

 

Moto-Machi is a popular date spot in Yokohama. Next to China town and located at the base of Yamate, it is full of little cafes and boutique restaurants.

Infrequent Contact

 

This is where the differences become especially apparent between dating in Japan and other countries. The frequency of contact is something that is especially prevalent when dating in Japan, and how infrequent this contact can be.

 

It’s known for couples that are dating in Japan to speak maybe 2-3 times a week. Japanese people take their work very seriously, and as a result will not reply during working hours or even during social gatherings.

 

Instant replies is not something you’ll likely see, and what would be deemed as “ghosting” or MIA in Western culture, is completely normal in Japan. It’s definitely something you may need to adjust to if you plan on dating in Japan as a foreigner.


Saying “I Love You” Doesn’t Really Happen in Japan

 

Saying “I love you” doesn’t really happen in Japan. Japanese people tend to be quite shy, and wouldn’t be forward enough to declare their feelings in such a way.

 

A large part of Japanese dating culture is a sort of “unspoken understanding” in which you know how your partner feels, and vice versa. Of course every couple is different, but this guide serves as a rough guideline as to what to expect when dating in Japan.


Stay at Home Dates are Just as Fun

 

The Japanese seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to dating. Looking to stay at home and stick on a bit of Netflix? Been there, done that. While for the most part, countries such as England and the US like to go outdoors and socialise for their dates, the Japanese see time spent alone, together as extremely important.

 

This can include anything from cooking together, watching movies, playing games; you name it.


Valentines Day Works Differently in Japan

 

In Western culture, Valentine’s Day is famously known as the day where boyfriends and husbands make the voyage to the supermarket, last minute, to purchase a card and flowers for their partners.

 

In Japan, it’s actually the women who prepare an offering for their partners. It’s normal for women to prepare a gift of chocolate for that special man in their lives. This is then followed up by ‘White Day’ a month later on the 14th of March, in which the men then give the women a present in return.

 

While Valentine’s Day is a day designed for those that are dating, married etc. in recent years it has also been known to celebrate those special people in your life, regardless of relationship status.

 

In Western culture we see Galentine’s Day, whereas in Japan we see two forms of celebrations; ‘tomo-choco’ and ‘giri-choco’. These translate to “friend chocolate” and “obligation chocolate” in which women give their friends or boss a special chocolatey treat.



Marriage in Japanese Dating Culture


In Western culture, marriage may be a conversation to be had WAY down the line – maybe a few years or so. In Japanese dating culture, marriage is always at the back of their minds – it’s a consideration from the word go.


Japanese People Think About Marriage When Dating

This is primarily focused on the perspective of a Japanese woman, but marriage is something that is clearly ingrained into the natural progression of relationships.


Japanese people tend to be especially marriage conscious when they start reaching their mid-twenties. This is the age where dating becomes more of a search to find “the one” rather than just for the sake of dating.


It’s Not Common to Live Together Before Marriage


While in Western culture, moving in together is an important step BEFORE getting married – it’s quite the opposite in Japan.


In more recent years “semi-cohabitation” has become increasingly more popular. As the name suggests, this is a middle ground in which those dating will spend half the time or weekends at their partner’s homes.


Meeting the Parents Usually Signifies Marriage


In Japan, while dating, if you decide to take the plunge and meet the parents this usually signifies marriage.


This is not always the case, some families are just close and have that sort of relationship, whereas others will only introduce themselves when marriage is on the cards.


Dinner Etiquette for Dating in Japan


Dating in Japan, especially when it comes to dinner etiquette, is vastly different from the Western world.


This may be the one aspect of dating in Japan that is liable to trip you up, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with the etiquette and customs as to avoid any dating mishaps.


Dating Means Splitting the Bill


While comparisons have been drawn considerably from the Western world, it’s helpful to understand the clear differences between dating in the West and dating in Japan.


One of the most crucial differences is dating in Japan means splitting the bill. Of course this differs between generations and isn’t a written rule, but younger couples see this as a way to keep things fair and equal.


With that being said it is known for men to pick up the tab on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas and so on.


No Tipping


While tipping is seen as courteous and polite in Western culture, when dating in Japan it’s quite the opposite. Tipping in Japan is not only uncommon, but can be seen as rude and insulting.


The majority of restaurants require customers to pay at the front desk rather than leave money for the waiter/waitress.


The last thing you want is to come across as is a ‘baka gaijin’, translating to “stupid foreigner”.


Sitting


Typically (not always) Japanese eat at low dining tables requiring you to sit or kneel in line with proper etiquette. If this is the case you will be presented with a cushion placed on a tatami floor – essentially a mat.


In more formal situations men and women are both required to kneel, while in more casual situations such as dating men sit crossed legged and women sit with both legs to one side.


Respect is Important


Respect is vitally important when dating in Japan, both for your date and those around you. Whether you’re being courteous and polite to your date or the waiter, it is crucial to be polite to ensure your date goes to plan.


Omotesando in Tokyo is another popular dating area.

Japanese Dating Sites/Apps for Foreigners

 

If you’re looking to date in Japan (especially as a foreigner), dating apps are going to be your best friend. There are many different dating apps to choose from in Japan, so it’s worth going through and finding the right one for you – or them all!

 

Whether you’re looking for a serious partner, or just want to have a crack at the dating scene in Japan; dating apps widen your pool dramatically to help you spark that special connection.


Tinder

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 3.8/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

The first dating app we’re talking about is the infamous Tinder – in some way or another, we have all heard about this dating app titan. Tinder is the perfect streamlined dating app with a simple UX, giving you the ability to simply swipe and match with possible partners online.

 

Tinder is extremely popular for travellers, or foreigners in Japan, and even English speaking Japanese residents. Helping people to find love no matter where you are.

 

Tinder enables you to set your proximity to eligible singles, as well as your age range to help you find the perfect match. There is of course also the option to pay for Tinder Plus to unlock premium features such as unlimited likes and the rewind feature in case you were a bit too trigger happy.

 

Available in Japanese as well as English, Tinder enables you to meet people all over the world. Tinder is also available for gay and bisexual users by setting the sexual orientation preferences.


Bumble

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 4/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Bumble is the dating app famously known for enabling women to make the first move in hetrosexual matches. In homosexual matches, either users can make the first move.

 

Bumble, while fairly new to Japan, is great for meeting new people. Whether you’re looking to make friends, dating, networking – you name it. Much like Tinder, Bumble has adopted the swiping mechanic to help you quickly and efficiently manage your roster.

 

There are some notable features on Bumble that separates it from other dating apps in Japan. The first is Bumble Bizz: helping you to find people in the same profession, mentor, seek a career change or just chat!

 

The other feature is called Bumble BFF, and as the name suggests helps you to create meaningful, long-lasting friendships. This is especially useful if you’re new to Japan and looking to make friends.


OKCupid Japan

 

Operating system(s): iOS and Android

 

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

OKCupid is an app built on science, and is often referred to as “the best dating site on Earth”. This is because it is much more intricate and specific when compared to other Japanese dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder.

 

With the average time to fill out your profile taking around 45 minutes, it’s clear from the word go that there’s much more than just swiping going on behind the scenes.

 

OKCupid asks you everything about your life to find out exactly what makes you tick; and to partner you with someone that shares the same interests or has similar personality traits. This information is then used to gauge your personality match with strangers, ranging from 0-100%.

 

OKCupid is also available for the LGBT community and even allows you to set your preferred pronouns.


Match Alarm

 

Operating system(s): iOS and Android

 

Rating: 3.8/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

If you thought Match Alarm sounds like an alarm app, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. While a dating app, Match Alarm suggests a new person to you every morning at 8am. If you then both find each other attractive you can then start chatting and you have until the end of the day.

 

Match Alarm is a Japan specific app, and in contrast to other dating apps takes the hassle away from the users and suggests matches for you. They believe in quality over quantity, and their unique functionality enables you to wade through the noise and find the right match for you.


Omiai

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 3.8/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Omiai is one of the few apps that specifically leverages the social networking app Facebook. And also one of the very few apps that has the intention of marriage rather than just casual dating.

 

‘Omiai’ refers to a custom in Japan where users are introduced to each other with the thought of marriage. According to their Facebook page, Omiai is one of the largest online dating services in Japan and enables you to search for your desired partner using a whopping 24 criteria.

 

Omiai is free for women, but costs 1,980 yen per month for men. As well as through Facebook, Omiai is also available to download for iOS and Android.


Pairs

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Pairs is by far one of the most popular dating apps in Japan. With over 10 million users, and over 1,000 communities based on different activities, it’s not difficult to see why.

 

Pairs also has a balanced ratio of male and females, as opposed to other Japanese dating apps with more 60% male and 40% female ratios.

 

With special features such as ashiato/footprints, swipe/like, community and community chat – Pairs is the perfect app for you to find your perfect, well, pair!


Tapple

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 3.8/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Tapple is another popular Japanese dating app similar to Tinder, but with some unique features. While sharing the swiping feature, Tapple also allows you to search for a match based on your interests.

 

Tapple is also the perfect app for foreigners looking to date in Japan, as they have a specific category for foreigners. Enabling local women/men to search by this category and find you. There is also the functionality to build a community to help like minded individuals find each other based on specific criteria.

 

Similar to other dating apps in Japan, the app costs a monthly fee for men but it is completely free for women.


YYC

 

Operating system(s): iOS and Android

 

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

YYC has been around for over 12 years and is regarded as one of the largest online dating services in Japan. YYC, opposed to other Japanese dating apps, works more like a social networking site; allowing you to update your ‘wall’. Combining both blogging and influencer lifestyle aspects to create the YYC experience.

 

YYC is an app that attracts mainly young professionals that are looking for a serious relationship. The app rewards those that are willing to put in the work with a points based system.

 

As with other Japanese dating apps, YYC is free for women but charges a monthly fee for men.


Frigg

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Web

 

Rating: 3.8/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Frigg adopts an approach similar to Omiai helping singles to find a serious match, an eligible marriage partner. This is also presented in a similar fashion to the dating app Match Alarm, in which you are presented with one match per day.

 

After you have completed over 100 questions covering personality, lifestyle, interests etc. you will then start the process of finding your perfect match. You are also able to exclude specific criteria such as drinking, smoking and gambling, for example.


Hatch

 

Operating system(s): iOS

 

Rating: 3.5/4

 

Age requirement: 18

 

Hatch is an app similar to Bumble in that women make the first move. That move has to be made in the first 24 hours or the match disappears. For same sex couples the first move can be made by either party.

 

Hatch can be used to make friends, find relationships or just chat. It is an app that is mainly used by young professionals that want to broaden their social circle.

 

Other Notable Japanese Dating App Mentions

 

While we have gone into detail about the above mentioned dating apps in Japan for foreigners, it is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

Here are some honourable mentions for other dating apps in Japan for foreigners like yourself.

 

  • My-Qpit
  • Zexy Koimusubi
  • MeetUp
  • Dine
  • Zexy Enmusubi
  • with
  • Match.com
  • eveeve
  • CROSS ME
  • marrish
  • youbride
  • mimi
  • PoiBoy

 

Again, we’re sure that there are many more dating apps out there in Japan – but these are enough to get you started!


Japanese Dating Sites/Apps for LGBTQIA+ People

 

Dating in Japan is rather exclusive and as a result, there are a tremendous number of means for LGBTQ+ to date, not just hetrosexual people.

 

Below you can find some of the LGBTQ+ dating apps and sites that are available in Japan. You can either download them when you’re there, or some allow you to ‘jump’ to the location to start making friends ahead of time.


Jack’d

 

Operating system(s): iOS, Android and Android Sideload APK

 

Rating: 3.9/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

A self proclaimed app about diversity, inclusivity and more than anything, fun! This amongst other features is what separates Jack’d from other similar LGBT dating apps in Japan.

 

Available in languages for all over the world (including Japanese), Jack’d is the perfect app to download if you’re looking to live or travel in Japan. As an independent, LGBTQ+ owned and operated company, you know Jack’d has your best interests at heart.

 

Whether you’re looking to make friends, date, start a relationship, or keep it casual; Jack’d is the perfect place to do just that. With features such as worldwide chat, swiping, profile insights, anonymous browsing and so much more – Jack’d is waiting for you to dive in.


9Monsters

 

Operating system(s): iOS and Android

 

Rating: 2.6/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

9Monsters is an extremely popular LGBTQ+ app originating in Japan with a central focus on the Asia-Pacific. This Japanese dating app has two features completely unique to them: breeding system and auto translate messaging.

 

Breeding is a simple communication system. If you find a guy you’re interested in, simply press the breed button enabling you to find: your type, which category/monster you think you belong to, and who likes you.

 

Auto translating as you can imagine as a foreigner in Japan is a lifesaver, no need to crack open Google Translate or the nearest language book. 9Monsters also has another feature called Spot Jump which allows you to ‘jump’ to a location ahead of your travel to make new friends, or just learn more information about your surroundings.


Grindr

 

Operating system(s): iOS and Android

 

Rating: 4.6/5

 

Age requirement: 18

 

If you ask any LGBT person, they will most likely have heard of Grindr – it is by far one of the most popular LGBT dating apps on the market. And this is no different in Japan.

 

When it launched back in 2008 it was actually one of the first geosocial dating apps for gay men, and has only grown since reaching global fame.

 

The purpose of Grindr is to create a profile that attracts gay men in your local area, and presents them on a cascade. You can message, tap and even create group chats to build strong relationships with possible connections.

 

Grindr, while predominantly in the West, is just as popular in countries like Japan. So if you’re looking for something a little more casual, Grindr is your option for dating in Japan as a foreigner.



Tips for using Dating Apps in Japan for Foreigners

 

While using dating apps particularly in Japan can feel like a science – the truth is anyone can do it. So if you’re on the lookout for dating in Japan as a foreigner, follow these simple steps to ensure you’re getting the most of your profile.


Use a Simple Bio

 

So many people make the mistake of inputting their whole life story in their bio. KISS. ‘Keep it simple stupid’ is a methodology that should be adopted when on dating apps. People want to browse at their leisure, and with thousands of profiles you need to stand out in a matter of seconds.

 

Keep your bio short, snappy and to the point. Your future partner will thank you.


Get the Pictures Right

 

You may be wondering what we mean by this, and to tell the truth there are a couple of mishaps you want to avoid when it comes to pictures.

 

The first is to ensure that your pictures are good quality, there’s nothing worse than scrolling through photos that look like they were taken on an old Nokia. If you have to take new pictures just for the sole purpose of this, do it.

 

The next is to make sure to avoid having too many group photos. We’ve all been there, trying to figure out which one you are in the picture and in most cases finding your friend more attractive. It’s okay to have one or possibly two, but keep group photos to a minimum.

 

The last is to show your personality through your pictures. Pictures are your first (and possible last) chance to make a good impression. Do you have a hobby that could be shown through a good image? Have you visited somewhere that would make others green with envy? Have a cute dog that you like taking pictures with? Use them!


Ask for Feedback

 

A common mishap of dating apps is going in with tunnel vision. Having an idea and sticking to it. The best thing you can do is ask your friends for feedback, because something you may think is a good idea might actually be putting people off.

 

Get your friends to go through your pictures and rate them, ghost write your bio if you’re really struggling.

 

The best part about dating apps? Your job is never done, feel free to update your profile whenever and wherever you think necessary.


Don’t Just Say Hi

 

This one is pretty self explanatory. Out of the tens, maybe even hundreds of messages your matches are receiving every day, saying just “hi” just isn’t going to cut it.

 

Put thought into your messages; see something on their profile you have in common? Talk about it. Dating apps are about quality not quantity, you may have 1,000 matches but it doesn’t matter if none of them are entertaining your messages.

 

Offline Dating in Japan for Foreigners

 

In Japan, offline dating is just as rife as online dating. And there are many events or customs to help you out in finding your special person. The majority of these are group events in which you are being introduced to someone you don’t know.

 

Let’s have a look at the offline dating options in Japan for foreigners.


Goukon

 

Goukon is essentially Japan’s version of speed dating. A more modern version of group blind dates. Goukon is usually organised in groups of six or eight people, however, this number does have to be even so everyone can pair off.

 

Usually this means having both a male and female organiser to bring their single friends to meet. The venue, while not limited, is usually arranged at an “izakaya” which is essentially a type of Japanese bar – with many offering specific menus and private rooms for the exact purpose of Goukon.

 

The event is kicked off by a toast and introduction by each member, this then transitions into group conversations. The group is then broken down into pairs and this is when the ‘dating’ aspect starts.

 

If the night goes well, the group may go off to other venues to drink. The night usually ends with exchanging contact information and maybe even organising a similar event.


Machikon / Shumikon

 

With the success of Goukon, businesses started their own style of this but on a much bigger scale called machikon. This, unlike Goukon, is much more ‘speed dating’ esque, and can be enjoyed by anyone if you pay admission and meet the age criteria.

 

As well as machikon, there is also a similar event called shumikon. Shumikon differs slightly from machikon in that yes, groups are gathered, but it is meant for people that share similar hobbies or interests to do them as a group.


Aiseki Izakaya

 

Aiseki Izakaya enables you to share tables with complete strangers, drink, eat, laugh, talk. It works with the men being charged per half hour at a standard rate, while for the female it’s free. This is because the system relies on gathering more women.

 

There is something called ‘table exchange cards’ which are found in the restrooms. These are used by customers who have decided there is no spark on their current table. Simply hand these to the waiting staff and they will make up an excuse as to why you need to be moved elsewhere.



Reasons for Dating in Japan as Foreigners

 

 

Whether you’re new to Japan as a foreigner, are just looking for new friends, or are looking for that special person; there are many reasons to consider dating.


Dating Means Meeting New People

 

If you’re new to Japan as a foreigner and are looking for new people to talk to, dating is the way to go. Even if you’re not looking for love, by putting yourself out there you are meeting new people and ones that you could form solid friendships with at the very least.

 

Dating is also a great way to relax and forget about the stresses of adapting to a new country and culture. So, say no to culture fatigue, and yes to dating.


Dating is Fun!

 

While for some people dating can be a chore, for others it can be one of their most treasured pastimes. We all know the ‘serial dater’ who enjoys meeting new people and the act of going on dates.

 

As mentioned earlier, it is frowned upon to date for fun or to have sex without being in a relationship – but that doesn’t mean everyone thinks that way. Whether you’re looking for friends with benefits, friendships or love – dating can be enjoyable.


Dating Means Companionship

 

The main reason why people date is to settle down and find ‘the one’. Dating means companionship. Finding someone with similar interests and someone you can’t wait to spend the rest of your life with is the top reason why people look to date.

 

While some people are perfectly content on their own, others get lonely and look for companionship. If you’re looking seriously, you can use dating as an opportunity to narrow the pool of eligible bachelors to something more manageable.

 

In conclusion, dating in Japan especially as a foreigner can be quite complex but hopefully our guide helped you understand the rich customs and cultures involved.

 

Any more questions about dating in Japan as a foreigner? Get in touch with us!