Kokuhaku - What is it? Can I avoid doing it? How do I do it?
Written by Jeff

Kokuhaku: everything you need to know about Japanese way of confessing love!

So….What is it?

I actually....really like you *blushes* ... When do two people actually become ‘a thing’? When do you decide if you two are casually seeing each other, or if you are actually a steady couple? In some Western Cultures, this can sometimes be tricky, as this is normally decided with the first “I love you” or directly asking “Are we a couple now?”. This can be disastrous if you and the other party aren’t on the same page at the time, and can often lead to premature breakups. In Japan however, this is less of an issue, due to a culture known as ‘Kokuhaku’. ‘Kokuhaku’ means confession, and in this context, it refers to the confession of your feelings for another person. This is similar to what many people all over the world do in their childhood romances (at least that’s what it was like when I was a kid). Unlike in the rest of the world where people slowly progress from “I like you” to “Do you want to go hang out sometime?”, much of Japan retains this culture of confession. That isn’t to say that they can’t also casually start by inviting someone out for a drink, but even if you’ve been seeing each other for some time, most Japanese people wouldn’t consider the two of you as a couple until you’ve properly confessed your feelings to them.

Er…. Is it different for men and women?

Technically….no. Personally, there are a few trends that I have noticed. Kokuhaku made by women are more likely to be conducted to start the dating activities between two individuals, whereas kokuhaku done by men tend to be done at the spur-of-the-moment, or later in the dating stage. (Editor’s Note) Of course, some couples in Japan can make the natural progression from dates to couples without an actual confession, but in my experience, some Japanese women tend to ‘hold a grudge’ to a certain extent, that they’ve never received a confession, and tend to bring it up from time to time afterwards to tease you. To put it simply, it’s more of a symbolic action like having a wedding ceremony, where many couples don’t really feel the need to do it, but it has the possibility of nagging at your female significant other like they’ve missed out on something afterwards.

Fine, I’ll do it….. What do I do? (For guys)

Have you ever seen those american prom-posals? Well you can relax, because no one is expecting you to go that far. If you’ve read our other articles before, you will be familiar with the fact that Japanese people don’t like things that stand out or gathers public attention to them. It is better to aim for something small-scale, but shows your sincerity. Whether or not these would work depends from person to person, but here are a few suggestions!

1 - Get him/her a present.

For Men: Don’t be a moron. It’s too early for a ring, even if it’s not a proposal. Still, having something to commemorate the occasion isn’t a bad idea, so something like a bracelet or a necklace isn’t too bad of an idea. It’s normally better to make it something with a simpler design, and doesn’t stand out too much. You want something that she would be happy to wear often, and wouldn’t make her embarrassed.

Furthermore… many men just have no taste in fashion, so let’s play it safe. For Women: For women, giving out random gifts during confessions isn’t really that common in Japan. However there are certain exceptions to that rule, and that is during Valentines, birthdays and Christmas… which brings us onto our next point.

2 - Make it special (For both men and women)

Timing is everything. Early on in the article, I’ve described the differences in relationship stages where kokuhaku is conducted when dating Japanese men and when dating Japanese women. The specific timing in which this is conducted however, tend to converge on; Birthdays, Valentines, and Christmas.

Valentines

Valentines may seem self-explanatory at first glance, but is actually slightly more complicated, as Valentines in Japan is different from that in the rest of the world. Whereas Valentines in other countries can be a nightmare for males, in Japan, the culture dictates that the female side is the one that should provide the chocolates and confessions on this day. Technically speaking, males are supposed to return those feelings a month later on White Valentines (March 14th), but any confession made during Valentines is normally met with an answer straight away. So get those handmade chocolates ready and let’s see how it goes! Also, make sure to let them know it’s “Honmei” (serious) chocolate that you give to someone for romantic purposes, and not “Giri” (obligatory) chocolate, which women give to friends and acquaintances.

Birthdays

Many stories you’ve heard about working in Japan are true, and people tend to do a lot more overtime than in other countries, or at least western countries. Given that not everyone is lucky enough to have a birthday on a weekend or holiday, if you are thinking of dating a co-worker, asking them out for a small celebratory drink after overtime isn’t a bad option. Do be careful however, as it is their birthday, if it doesn’t seem like you guys have a connection between you, nothing ruins a birthday quite like an unwanted confession.

Christmas

To be honest, if you have a chance to spend Christmas alone with your crush, you’re pretty much halfway there. Christmas doesn’t have much of a religious meaning in Japan, and it tends not to hold the same meaning to families here than it may to families in the West. As a result Christmas Celebrations tend to be between gatherings of friends, co-workers, or just a date between two people. Note: A lot of Japanese men and Japanese women get desperate around Christmas time, and don’t want to spend it alone. So if you aren’t already dating, perhaps you should time your confession roughly when christmas songs start playing around you, rather than on Christmas eve itself.

In the end...

As always, this is just a general guide, and may not necessarily apply between you and Japanese man/ Japanese woman target. In the end, not just in Japan, but all around the world, it all comes down to whether or not you can tell that there’s a connection between you two. An unwanted confession won’t get you anywhere no matter how well you do it. On the other hand, as long as you don’t overdo it, if you have feelings for each other then he/ she won’t be too fussy as to how you do it. Now go out there and spread the love!♡

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