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guide to dating in japan 2023

A Guide To Dating In Japan For Foreigners In 2024

Living in Japan offers a variety of new and exciting chances to expand your mind and world, and among the best, most poignant, is dating. Dating a Japanese man or a Japanese woman is a chance to get to know them beyond the friends level, to let the sparks fly, have a little fun, to see love from another angle. And all of that while exercising a new language and navigating a new culture in the fashionable and modern Japan. We can practically hear your hearts already beating “waku-waku” at the thought.

Well, exciting for some. While some people can’t wait to experience the dating side of life as soon as possible, others shy back, imagining, on top of normal dating difficulties, dealing with understanding Japanese dating customs, language barriers, proper etiquette, and even just finding the right dating app in the first place.

Whether you can’t wait to jump in feet first or feel apprehensive, this guide is for you. For young people, for more seasoned people, for the shy and the bold, we’ll cover everything from casual dating to embarking on your first romantic relationships in this definitive intro to dating in Japan.

How do people start dating in Japan?

Start with new friends

Though not the only way Japanese couples get together, Japanese people, and many asian cultures in general, start dating the same way it happens for Western couples: One’s acquaintances through work, family members, and close friends. Getting to know each other through natural face-to-face interactions can really help ease people into dating life. And, if you are completely new to Japan, making friends with people can sometimes lead to dating Japanese women or men and can be a good way to initially grow your understanding of cultural differences through personal connection before jumping into the dating scene.

Meeting people when you are new to a country is not always easy. If you are there for work, you’ll be thrown right in whether you’d like to be or not. However, if you are just visiting, we’ve still got a couple tips to help you get started.

Go to meetups

Go to meetups in Japan to meet new people.

While Japanese people tend to have a reputation of being wary of other cultures, many are interested and excited to spend time with people from other countries. From sporting activities to couch surfing events to language meetups, even if you are in Japan for a short time, looking for meetups online is the perfect way to begin making in roads to new friends and social groups. Whatever you are interested in, there is something for you.

Go out for a night on the town

Japan nightlife offers an array of options for food, drink, and can be great for socializing with foreigners and Japanese people. For young people in their mid twenties, there are the nightclubs to be found in any of the major cities, famously in places like Roppongi, Tokyo or Chuo, Osaka. Then, for any age, there are various kinds of bars and restaurants. One example that stands out in recent years are the standing Izakayas – bars where you can drink and order food but don’t have seating – that exist in popular areas alongside pubs and karaoke drink establishments.

Join speed dating events

Speed dating events that mingled Japanese and non-Japanese people pre-covid used to be quite easy to find. Popular bars that catered to foreigners, for example, were places known to host them. Now they seem to be a bit out of fashion, but still keep an eye out for them if you are interested face-to-face meetings.

Use dating apps

Use Japanese dating apps.

Japanese and foreign made apps are great for meeting, starting a chat, and getting to the first date. While the concept can still seem uncomfortable to some, you are bound to find the right one for you given a bit of research.

One fair bit of warning: Japanese apps do tend to focus more on the serious side of relationships, and often require a bit of Japanese. So if long term and deeply cultural isn’t what you are looking for, you might consider trying an app made outside the country. We’ll cover these more coming up.

Also be sure to check out our list of the best dating apps in Japan.

Which online dating sites or dating apps should I use?

Popular Japanese dating apps

As mentioned earlier, many people meet naturally through real life events. However, also like most countries, dating apps, and Japan dating site options are growing in popularity in Japan. We’ve broken down a few of the most popular so you can choose the right app according to your relationship expectations.

Dating apps for serious relationship expectations

If you are looking for a serious, committed, and otherwise longer term partner, we’ve got a few Japanese dating apps for you. These are apps for people looking for at least a stable, good relationship, and are possibly marriage conscious. If thats the dating scene you are looking for, here are the top picks for popular dating apps.

Pairs for a bit older and serious relationship seekers

According to Statista, Pairs was the second most downloaded dating app in 2022 (right after Tinder, which we’ll get to later). The target of the app is Japanese women, with their strategy seeming to be that if they get enough women on the app, men who will pay will follow. And so far, it seems to be working. The internet is full of epitaphs by women of all the reasons to use the app, from not having to pay, to security and privacy, to actually finding a long term partner.

While popular and highly recommended, it does have a drawback, especially to those new to Japan. The app, as mentioned above, targets the Japanese audience to the point where many English speaking users don’t feel like its a valid option (despite being able to search by “foreigner” category). If you speak Japanese and already can navigate Japanese dating culture somewhat, you will likely have a better chance of scoring a date here.

Tapple for scheduling and planning dates

The Tapple apple is quite popular for online dating in Japan.

At the time of writing this article, Tapple, like Pairs, is only available in Japan. And like most other Japanese dating apps, it’s completely free for women but requires men to pay for chat and other features. It also boasts a UI not too dissimilar from other such apps. So why use it? Well, the draw is its scheduling features.

While other dating apps have focused more solely on the match by picture or interests, which Tapple includes, its number one boasted feature is matching based on availability, and allowing you to plan the date in the app. Dating culture in Japan can often and famously come with the expectations of longer time frames than many foreigners’ own customs. Throw in the busyness of Japanese culture and life, foreigners and Japanese people find both the upfront scheduling and planning component a breath of fresh air.

With* for younger, longer term dating

Another popular option with similarities to Pairs, With* dating app caters to those looking for something between a casual and serious relationship. As the fourth most downloaded dating app of 2022, it succeeds in being many users first entry into dating life. Some websites claim as many as 75% of the app’s user base in Japan are under the age of 25.

The appeal of the app to the young crowd and has to do with ease of use and emphasis on psychology and personality. The app boasts needing only 6 quick steps to get started and begin conversing with a possible Japanese partner. It then seeks to match you up based on your person. The internet is full of testimonials of success, so for those seeking a Japanese partner who are themselves on the younger side of life, this could be a great dating app to try.

Apps for casual Japanese dating

Tinder for casual dating in Japan

Of the apps we discuss here, this is the most casual. Tinder was 2022’s most downloaded dating app in Japan. Tinder is sometimes considered to be among the more shallower apps as it relies often more on pictures of ones face and body to start a conversation than anything else, coming in stark comparison to the Japanese dating apps described above.

While in the West Tinder often has a similar reputation for non-serious meetups, in Japan it is taken to the extreme. Tinder is considered pretty much only good for flings and hookups. While western girls and boys may have a more nuanced view of Tinder, Japanese people often have a more singular view of the app.

If you are interested in dating non-Japanese people as well, Tinder might be a good choice. In addition, if the reputation that proceeds Tinder is what you are looking for, then it could also be the right choice. With this knowledge in mind, if it’s your thing, download and swipe away.

Bumble for mixed intentions

Bumble is a good app to meet Japanese women and men.

Bumble isn’t necessarily for casual dating in Japan, but it doesn’t carry the explicit or implicit intention for making forever couples either. It’s an easy to use app that is fairly popular with both foreigners and Japanese men and women. Also, for people dating and looking to date in Japan with limited to no Japanese skills, this can be a good app as Japanese people who both want to date and practice English create profiles here.

If you haven’t heard of the app before, its number one feature is that women have to make the first move. For foreign men this means you need to make a good impression through your profile to start a conversation. For women, it can mean you more or less get to choose who you talk to.

Other dating apps

There are many other dating apps, both of Japanese origin and western origin, being used in Japan. Given the current trend, the existing number is likely to continue. Try a few out to find the one that best matches you up for first dates.

What is a date like in Japan?

Now we are coming to the real, feet-to-the-ground part of dating in Japan. You’ve either met your Japanese person through life or through an app, and you are going to go on the first date. Your heart is beating, things are getting real, your senses are alive and you don’t know what to expect. No worries, we are gonna cover some important expectations so you can have that perfect date.

Physical touch comes later

No playful walking arm and arm, or good night caresses or kisses. It pretty much doesn’t matter how well the date goes, in general, the first date is expected to be a conversational affair. Making the mistake of going for physical contact too soon can cause some really awkward dating moments.

In general, public displays of affection are not welcome. You will see people holding hands. Every now and then you might catch people kissing, but it’ll be more rare. This is because of the conservative attitude towards touching in public, whether we are talking about younger couples or not.

Time expectations

Sometimes Japanese women, and potentially Japanese men, have the expectation of half-day to all day dates, but not always. For many foreigners, a couple hours of dating, especially if it’s a first date, is often considered a sweet spot. Many Japanese people actually feel the same.

If you want to plan an all day date, great, let the person know and be sure to have a good plan. Otherwise, dinner, lunch, or maybe drinks, with just enough time to feel each other out and connect, can be fine.

Splitting the bill

Generally, there’s an unspoken understanding that a Japanese man on a first date will offer to pay. While western girls may or may not take this for granted, foreign men shouldn’t be too surprised if a Japanese woman offers to split in the same situation.

Things change a bit for regular dating in Japan. Japanese women expect and are expected to more often split the bill on dates. Foreign men sometimes feel awkward about accepting, and foreign women might feel taken aback if asked to pay. Just know this is a difference with other countries, and if you are a man who is use to paying, you might have to only spend half as much from time to time.

The three date rule

The rule states that after two dates a couple moves to the third date, where the couples tend to confess their intentions. The Japanese word for this confession is kokuhaku. Its from this confession point that you are now considered boyfriend girlfriend, and your true dating life can start.

What are some popular dating locations in Japan?

There are some more considerations for fun date ideas that are common. These could be used for either a first or later date, or to extend your date. It’s always good to have another plan in your back pocket!

Go to a theme park

Japanese theme parks are a fun date idea!

Theme parks in Japan are fun, clean, and great for dates. Depending on your location, you likely have at least one option, and maybe many. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, to Universal studios, and even the recently opened Ghibli Park, are exciting and solid options. There are also a number of smaller parks scattered throughout Japan.

Fireworks on special occasions

Japan loves fireworks (hanabi), with women and men on dates or as friends clamoring for great views of the impressive displays. Fireworks can be viewed multiple times through the year in any region. Since viewing spots are competitive, be sure to plan ahead.

See a movie at the theatre

Movie theaters (eigakan) are in regular supply throughout Japan and work as part of dates. There are likely to be western culture movies with Japanese subtitles, so it works even one person doesn’t speak Japanese. Besides being something fun to do, movies also give the couple something to talk about as the date progresses.

Stay in for home dates

Dating in Japan doesn’t always have to mean going out and spending money. It can be quite romantic to stay in and enjoy each other’s time at home. This could include cooking for the other person or together, playing games, or maybe even watching a movie with popcorn from the couch.

Endless possibilities

There are so many choices for dates in Japan we can’t list them all here. Other ideas are karaoke boxes, aforementioned restaurants, dancing, fashionable cafes…the list goes on. With so many options, you are sure to find something that matches your Japanese dating style.

What are some uniquely Japanese dating experiences?

Like every culture, Japanese dating culture has its own share of unique ways to meet significant others. Deeply apart of the dating scene, these events are often reserved for Japanese people only. However, if you know the right people and have the right in, you could find yourself invited.

Konkatsu and the marriage search

Konkatsu literally means “searching for a marriage partner.” It’s an important concept in of its own, with websites and apps talking about the term in connection to all things match making. It is also the name of a common, in-person event knowns as konkatsu party.

Konkatsu parties are held throughout Japan by matchmaking companies, private companies, and even towns and local governments. The idea is simple: Get single people together to talk, eat, and maybe drink, and let them exchange information if interested. Quite a number of people become acquainted this way, so don’t be surprised if you meet Japanese people who met at such an event.

Gokon for fun

Gokon are group dates in Japan.

Gokon are blind group dating events for Japanese women and men meant to be more casual and relaxed. They are more or less a kind of dinner and drinking party traditionally put together through a single person or couple for friends and acquaintances. Now, there are also companies that specialize in this particular kind of matchmaking event.

Gokon’s can be more or less organized. Sometimes there are specific times set up for talking to each person, or even games. At other time, it’s all about the drinking, conversation, and getting contacts.

What are some key Japanese dating culture aspects?

Valentine’s Day chocolate

This is a difference from our western world. Valentine’s Day is a great day for giving chocolate, but in Japan, it is more women who are giving the chocolate than men. Instead, in Japan there is another day for Japanese men to deliver the chocolate goodness: On White Day.

If you are a woman, there are a couple different groups of people to who you might be delivering chocolate. This includes “giri” and “tomo” chocolate. Giri chocolate, which means obligation chocolate, is given to coworkers and acquaintances and does not carry any special meaning other than politeness.

Then there is friend chocolate, also known as “tomo” chocolate. Similar to its giri sister, tomo chocolate can be given to male or female friends. Sometimes people handmake these to put a little extra love into them, and to save money.

Finally, there is honmei, true feeling, chocolate. This is the chocolate given to someone you like-like or your partner among Japanese couples. If you aren’t dating yet, then it can be quite exciting to see if they recipocrate on White Day.

White Day chocolate

There is a mutual understanding that if you receive chocolate in Japan on Valentine’s day and are a guy, you will be reciprocating on White day. The chocolate given back can be of equal value in the case of giri or tomo chocolate, but if the Japanese person you are returning the favor to is a love interest, you should up the stakes. Its common to return a gift to a woman you are interested in that is 2-3x the Valentines’ day gift.

Men are also expected to return chocolate to female friends. However, the original intent behind Valentine’s chocolate isn’t always clear. Japanese men may spend quite a bit of time contemplating which kind of chocolate they received from the women in their lives before choosing the right gift to return.

Meeting parents

It is uncommon for a Japanese woman in Japan to casually introduce her boyfriend for girlfriend to her parents. It’s usually only once marriage is being considered that your partner’s parents enter the picture. This can be relieving to some Westerners as it means there are no expectations to have awkward dinner nights with your boyfriends family members when you aren’t yet serious.

On the other hand, if you have been dating for some time and your partner wants you to meet their parents this could be a sign they are thinking quite seriously about your relationship. In that case, be prepared to bring a gift and be polite. If you don’t know any Japanese, you might want to brush up on some polite words for the occasion.

Christmas and Dating in Japan

Christmas in Japan is much different than other areas of the world.

Christmas Eve is for dating in Japan. Restaurants are likely to be packed and full, with many considering this the most romantic night of the year. You should definitely make a reservation in advance if you plan on going out for Christmas.

Christmas cakes are another fun tradition for couples. The cake is usually a strawberry sponge cake.The combination of red and white is considered auspicious, and its a delicious way to celebrate with your love interest.

Couples living together

Traditionally in Japanese culture, Japanese couples do not live together before marriage. While it is not exactly taboo anymore, and is becoming more common, most couples still refrain from moving in before officially tying the knot.

Instead, there is a culture of semi cohabitation in Japan. While dating, you might take turns spending days at a time living out of your partners place and then switching main residences every few days. In this way you never formally or officially live together, but still spend most of your nights in the same residence.

Be sure to check out our full guide on Japanese dating culture.

How can can I make a good impression on my Japanese partner?

Be on time

In Japan, people are very time conscious. While it is okay to be exactly on time, it is much better to be a few minutes early to any appointment. Dating is no exception, and being on time will help make a lasting impression.

Make a full plan and be flexible

As we mentioned, dating for a full day is common in Japan. But, you need to be sure you have the plan lined up and ready to go. If you’ve invited a person out, don’t expect them to also figure out the plan with you on the spot.

Even with the best laid plans, things can go awry. The restaurant you intended to go to suddenly shut, or the weather changed, or any number of things could happen. Being ready for small upsets could really help make a strong impression that you are dependable.

Think about conversation topics beforehand

Low tension when dating is a common complaint in Japan. When people say this, they basically mean that there was little excitement. Usually this has less to do with the date plan itself, and more the lack of connection between people. While there can be various reasons for “low tension,” a common given reason is lack of conversation.

Dating in Japan, like any country, can be awkward and hard. It’s normal for conversation to lag for a bit. Being able to broach a topic and keep interest and learning about each other as the date progresses can really make the difference between forgettable and memorable.

Like planning for rain or making sure you have enough of a plan to fill the time you’ve set aside, keep some conversation topics handy. This way you can keep things natural and quick even if it is hard to think of something to say.

Show genuine interest in Japan

People in Japan are are very proud of their culture. Their food, their history, their language and belief in hard work are all examples. Showing genuine interest in what Japanese people love, i.e. their own culture, can really help set the stage for a good time.

An easy way to show interest quickly is to learn some Japanese. Take the time to learn a few phrases you can use on the date. It is almost guaranteed to be a hit and help make the date memorable.

Dress well

Make sure you look presentable when you arrive for your date and dress well.

Japanese people tend to put a lot of time and care into their looks. This includes hair, clothes, and for the women, makeup. Both men and women are likely to quickly take into account how you are dressed when you meet.

For the foreigner, this doesn’t mean you have to dress expensively or formally. It pays off to be simple, but put together well. Also, consider where you will be dating. While suits are great, you probably wouldn’t want to wear one to a water park, for example.

Summary

Dating in Japan can and should be an exciting new experience to add to your time in the country. It is one of the best ways to see the sites, get to know someone, and have unique and memorable experiences.

Try out some dating apps, get out there and meet people, and you are almost guaranteed to have an adventure. And who knows, you could just end up meeting the love of your life!

Be sure to also check out our list of the best Japan dating Sim games.

Jonathan Mcnamara

Jonathan is a veteran of the Japan and Korean expat life. He lived in Japan and Korea for almost 10 years, and speaks Korean and Japanese. A blogger, a writer, website maker who's had his share of relationships while living abroad, he's now turned his attention to helping others navigate traveling, living, working, and relationships in Japan.

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