Dating In Japan With Melissa Feineman


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  • Some of the most common questions asked in Tokyo Podcast are the following: What is dating like in Japan? Is it the same as dating in a Western country? Are Japanese girls shy? Do Japanese guys flirt?
  • Intercultural dating is always fraught with challenges – dating in Japan is no exception. To guide the audience through this dating minefield, on the show is Melissa Feineman who wrote the ‘Let’s Date’ column for the Japanzine magazine. She explains how dating in Japan works and its advantages and disadvantages for foreigners and locals alike.

It’s that time of the year again when anxious boyfriends usually scout for cosmetics and other appropriate gifts for their girlfriends – but not in Japan. The writer of the ‘Let’s Date’ column for the Japanzine magazine Melissa Feineman shared her experiences dating in Japan as well as some of its peculiar practices in meeting members of the opposite sex.

Valentine’s Day in Japan is when women give gifts to their men. Melissa cited chocolates as the most common gift given during this day. When a woman gives a man some store-bought chocolate, this would mean she likes him a little. Whereas when she makes it herself, it must mean she likes him a lot. Thus, department stores would have huge displays for items needed in making homemade chocolate.

This doesn’t mean that boys are not required to do anything. A month later, on the 14th of March called White Day, men would have to reciprocate or give something back to show they are interested.

Melissa also described how Japanese people would find someone to date. In the West, bars are a place to strike up a conversation with a stranger. In Japan, bars are composed of private rooms, providing no chance to meet people or get to know them. Japanese people tend to be very shy, but they have their way of meeting new acquaintances. A friend or colleague can set up a group date to shake off the initial awkwardness of meeting for the first time. This group date or goukon gets everyone involved by having rounds of introductions, hence the chance to talk with anyone in the group. It may also have some games or activities to have something to do or talk about.

When it comes to dating foreigners, Melissa gives her perspective as an American female that they don’t approach guys much. But it is considered okay to make the first move since it is hard to read signals if Japanese men are interested or not. In the past year, Japanese men have been called either as shoshoku danshi (vegetarian men) or niku danshi (carnivorous men). Vegetarian men were considered to be passive; they don’t make decisions or never make the first move. Meanwhile, western men are also considered to be niku danshi with no qualms approaching women and are aggressive. Because it can be hard to take the initiative towards Japanese shoshoku danshi, Japanese women like westerners and it works to foreigners’ advantage. Some Japanese men do approach women on some occasions; Melissa has also experienced this and has been pleasantly surprised that they can also be outgoing.

For foreigners to get into the dating market, it is necessary to learn Japanese. The quality of one’s dating life would be better. It would also be useful when meeting friends and family. One must also be open-minded and flexible. To reach a compromise in the relationship, it is important to let go of some things and go by their rules.

Which system do you think is better: women giving gifts to men on Valentine’s day or is it the other way around? Do give feedback on the podcast again – Anthony thanks everyone who commented on iTunes. Reading through these is fun and helps the page rank up in viewership ratings. Tune in again next week for Anthony’s interview with a man who documented the highly private Yakuza and made an amazing photobook on them!

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