Storytime: my first date in Japan (with a Japanese man)
Written by Méline

A date with a Japanese man: my story

Culture shock in dating... an interesting experience! ...

Dating… If you’re above 14 there is a high chance that you’re familiar with the concept, but you may not be aware of the subtleties of dating in Japan…. because I wasn’t.

How we met

Everything started in a random club, where I met this nice and cute Japanese guy. We got along pretty well, as he has been studying in Canada for a couple of years so he spoke English fluently. He was interesting and fun, and I was definitely interested. 

The party went on (as did the alcohol), and we end up kissing in a corner ; I am used to club hook-ups, so naturally I asked him if he wanted to finish the night together. 

It was rather unexpected, but he answered: ‘Sometimes it’s more exciting not to have everything’.

Upon hearing that, my body was sexually frustrated, but my heart and brain were very impressed by his behavior, and it showed me he was interested in more than just sex. We exchanged contact information, and I left the club a bit shamefully, embarrassed by my failed proposition, and experiencing for the first time what guys experience on a regular basis (I assume).

A few days later, he sent me a message saying: ‘hey, I meant what I said the other night, let’s go on a date soon!’. 

And that’s how the next Sunday, I ended up going with him to a matsuri (Japanese summer festival). 

The big day

First, let me say I was super stressed, because (sadly?) I have to admit that I am more used to the have-sex-then-consider-dating thing, so this way by the time you’re sitting alone with a guy, well, you’ve already pretty much broken-up all the boundaries. So I didn’t really know what to expect, I had never dated a Japanese before, and I felt really out of my comfort zone.

He seemed very relax when we met, greeted me with a smile, but quickly offered that we’d get some beers at the konbini before going to the matsuri - so after all maybe he too was nervous, and needed some alcohol to relax a bit. We eventually made it to the matsuri, and this is when things became very unusual for me.

For a first date, I was expecting us to take it slow, but he strongly insisted that we took each other’s hands, a practice that I never really liked. Even when I tried to make him understand I wasn’t comfortable with it, he didn’t seemed to care and kept dragging me around.

I felt kind of like a trophy, and this act leaded everyone around to believe that we were a couple, which I didn’t appreciate ; but he wouldn’t let go of my hand and I didn’t want to seem difficult, so I let him do it.

Second surprise: I didn’t expect such a crowded place for a first date, but rather an intimate place where we could talk (matsuri are very popular and hundreds of people gather in small streets). I guess, maybe to avoid awkward small talk, he thought somewhere we could barely communicate was a good idea… But it made me felt even more awkward, holding hands without a word, surrounded by the matsuri noises and other’s conversations.

At some point we decided to head for dinner, and this was another surprise: he insisted on paying, even though he was a student without any income, unlike me. I tried to insist but felt like I would hurt his pride if I paid for my dinner, so I let him pay everything, which one more time is quite unusual for me, and made me a bit uncomfortable.

It was late already, so we walked back to the station ; at some point we stopped to chat a bit, and this is when he kissed me, in public, which I always believed Japanese wouldn’t do. I wasn’t really against that kiss to be honest but wasn’t expecting it, neither feeling it, the mood wasn’t really there I guess, and I felt like he did it because he thought he had too, rather then because it felt right.

Will I see him again?

I don’t want to see him again, I think I felt too much pressure into being ‘together’ during this date, even though we never mentioned being a couple or anything. All along, he was leading me to places and taking all the decisions, with the aim of pleasing me of course, but the fact that he endorsed all responsibilities, paid for everything, insisted on taking my hand all the time, made me feel a bit infantilized and I think that’s what put me out of it.

I don’t know if this way if acting during a date is typically Japanese, I think the paying and taking care of everything parts might be what Japanese men always do, and are expected to in Japan. Women just have to follow and get leaded, which might seems strange for some foreigners.

Will I ever go again on a date with a Japanese?

Of course, but I hope to come across someone that is less on his ‘ways of doing’ and can make some compromises when realizing things are a bit odd for me (and of course I shall do the same).

In the end, this was a good experience and I don’t want by any mean to diss this man, who did what is thought was best for us to have a perfect date, but I think didn’t pay enough attention to our cultural differences and things that might make me feel uncomfortable. 

Or maybe is it me, that didn’t adapt enough? I guess we’ll never know…

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