Dating in Japan for Single Expats: Where to Meet Single Japanese

Dating in Japan for Single Expats Where to Meet Single Japanese

When you live in Japan, sooner or later you may want to enter a relationship.

The dating scene in Japan can be confusing for both foreigners and Japanese.

You might wonder how it works since Japan is a land rich in culture and traditions.

Interracial relationships can seem challenging. However, they do work. There are many interracial couples in Japan, including me and my wife.

In this article, I will discuss some nuances of dating culture in Japan and provide tips and links that might help you find a date. I will also share my insights on the dating scene here, based on my experience after many years of marriage to a Japanese woman.

This article will take approximately 14 minutes to read. Don't have the time right now? No worries. You can email the ad-free version of the article to yourself and read it later!

Disclaimer: This article may include links to products or services offered by ExpatDen’s partners, which give us commissions when you click on them. Although this may influence how they appear in the text, we only recommend solutions that we would use in your situation. Read more in our Advertising Disclosure.

Understanding the Dating Scene in Japan

The dating scene in Japan is similar to that in other countries; it is influenced by factors such as age demographics, socio-economic status, location, personality, and the good fortune and random luck often involved in meeting someone special.

Japan has become more globalized, making international exchange somewhat easier, but it largely remains rooted in its traditions.

While international couples are not rare, they are not the norm. With modern, instant access to international content and an increase in the foreign population throughout Japan, foreigners no longer possess the same “mystique” they did as desirable romantic partners 20-30 years ago.

That said, there is still some exotic appeal associated with foreigners for many Japanese people. It is worth mentioning, though, that foreign men and foreign women experience stark differences in their dating experiences while living here.

Similar to many parts of the world, it can be easier for foreign men to find a date in Japan.

On the other hand, it can be challenging for foreign women to find a date here. This is because Japanese men may not be fully confident in their English skills and can be too shy to speak English to Western women.

Where to Find Japaneses Dating Foreigners

Depending on factors like your interests, lifestyle choices, and whether you prefer traditional methods (meeting someone in public or being set up by a friend) or more technology-based approaches (using a dating app or online matchmaking service), here are some common ways to meet potential dates in Japan.

Social Circles and Group Activities

One social event that is great for relaxing and socializing is a “nomikai” (drinking party). It is a staple in Japanese social life and is organized among coworkers, university classmates, or groups of friends.

These nomikais happen seasonally throughout the year. A great example is at the beginning of Spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom, people spread out blue sheets in the park by the hundreds, drinking and socializing all day.

cherry blossoms in Japan
Cherry blossoms in the beginning of Spring is a great time to do “nomikai” in Japan.

If you enjoy alcohol, getting a bit tipsy, and are generally outgoing, this can be a great way to make new friends and find a girlfriend/boyfriend.

Nomikais and drinking aren’t for everyone, though, and if you don’t drink alcohol, there are plenty of other ways to meet new people.

Language Exchange Events

These events occur in cities and prefectures throughout Japan and are a good opportunity to meet Japanese people interested in foreign exchange. 

Often they include food or alcohol and are quite casual. It really depends on what you are looking for in a date, but this could be one option to make a new friend.

You can find language exchange events from a site like MeetUp.

International Bars/Pubs

While these tend to draw a specific type of crowd, these spots sometimes attract a mix of locals and foreigners. However, in more urban areas, you can encounter less ideal situations.


For example, multiple groups of foreigners competing for the attention of potential Japanese partners, often while drunk. 

If bars and drinking are your thing, and you’re confident, it couldn’t hurt to go out on a Friday night and see what it’s all about.

The Workplace

Many people meet their partners through their workplace, but you should think carefully about what you say to your co-workers. It is not worth ruining your work environment by hitting on your male or female co-workers, or making inappropriate comments that could offend them.

You should also consider that if the relationship does not work out, you will have to see this person every day at work, which could be awkward.

Matchmaking (Omiai)

Omiai involves arranged meetings with the intention of marriage. Traditionally, this was a practice in Japan arranged by the parents of two families, but in modern times, marriage agencies are used to find compatible partners. There are also Omiai parties that you can pay a fee to participate in.

These are typically all Japanese events, and not English friendly in the least.

Moreover, many of the women/men attending these events are seeking stability – something that a majority of foreigners living in Japan simply can’t provide (due to short-term work contracts, language barriers, and non-citizen status).

The cost varies considerably. Online services like the Omiai app charge a monthly fee; it is often free for women, but costs men about 1,980 yen per month. Physical matchmaking events or services may have different pricing structures.

Dating Apps and Websites in Japan

There is a long list of dating apps in Japan, all vying for your subscription money and time. Apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Tapple are a few examples, and these seem to be the most widely used and advertised.

You know the premise: you make a profile with some appealing points about your personality, an array of pictures of you doing different activities, and you’re off to the races in your search for a partner.

However, the issue for many foreigners using these apps is the lack of English-speaking partners. Your default popularity as a foreigner will only get you so far, and for people looking for a girlfriend or boyfriend they can communicate with on a meaningful level; if you don’t speak Japanese then you are out of luck.

Unfortunately, among the foreign and single friends around me, I have seen almost no success stories. However, it surely has been the right move for some people, and the fact that these services exist is a testament to people having good experiences using them.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but rather than a cleverly crafted profile, I believe just going out and meeting people through chance encounters is a better method of showing a potential partner your true self.

Group Dates “Goukon”

You might get asked to join a goukon date (group date) by a Japanese friend.

Goukon is a fairly distinctive social custom in Japan; it is a combination of traditional matchmaking and group dating, usually with a group of six people. The aim is to take away the awkwardness of a one-on-one date, and create a more casual, party-like atmosphere with more people.

Participants share the cost of the date, with each member joining the party with an open mind and no set fixation on any of the other participating members. To break the ice, games are often played, and everyone tries to dress their best.

A successful goukon could lead to an exchange of contact information, and the hope of a one-on-one date with one of the members at a later time.

What to Know When Dating in Japan

Dating in Japan has nuances and customs that are a bit different than dating in Western society. 

These are always based on the person you are with, but certain general rules apply to Japan that you might not be aware of.

Cultural and Language Barriers

When a foreigner dates a Japanese person, they often encounter a mix of cultural and language barriers. These barriers can seem like 50-foot-tall walls, but from personal experience, if you can overcome them it is truly worth it.

Japanese women in Kimoni
Cultural difference is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to dating in Japan. If you want to be successful, be patient and learn to adapt.

To break this wall, it requires patience, and work from both partners, but mostly from you as the foreigner.

As you are living in another culture, the onus falls on you to adapt, and again on you, to work to make the relationship work.

Communication Styles

Japanese communication is often subtle and indirect. Although you cannot apply stigmas to every person in a country, direct confrontation, especially expressing your feelings explicitly, is less common.

This is probably why Japanese people don’t verbalize the words “I love you” to their partners, except on special occasions and anniversaries.

Instead, people often convey their intentions and emotions through hints or kind deeds for their partner. One skill that you can try to work on is “reading the air”.

Reading the Air

“Reading the Air” (kuuki wo yomu) refers to the ability to understand unspoken social cues and societal expectations. It can be difficult to read the air in many situations for foreigners, especially without a working knowledge of the Japanese language.

In fact, the perception of foreigners is that they are something called “KY”, which means “kuuki wo yomenai” (can’t read the air). Being able to do this takes time living in Japan, and often learning from many mistakes in different settings with different people.

Your ability to pick up on subtle hints that someone is not interested in talking to you, or the opposite, that they are interested in you, will help you greatly.

Confession (kokuhaku)

Confession (kokuhaku) is unlike some cultures where relationships evolve gradually from friendships, or more organically.

In Japan, it’s pretty common for a person to “confess” their feelings for another person very suddenly. Don’t get me wrong, people meet and naturally fall for each other like anywhere else, but confessing your feelings has meaning in Japanese culture.

It can be the starting point of a relationship, and it shows your partner that you have the bravery to risk embarrassment and tell them how you feel.

Public Displays of Affection (PDA)

I would advise against kissing or being overly affectionate in public. Aside from holding hands, you very rarely see two Japanese people kissing in public. If you try to do this in public, your date might get embarrassed and push you away.

Gift Giving

As for gift-giving, birthdays, Christmas, and 1-year anniversaries are typically when couples exchange gifts. Birthdays have more significance in Japan, and you should be prepared to spend some money on your partner.

Valentine’s Day and White Day

This Western holiday is celebrated in Japan, but with a twist. There are two days, Valentine’s Day and White Day. On Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th, it’s traditional for women to give chocolates to men. 

These chocolates fall into two categories: “Giri-choco,” or obligation chocolates (friends, colleagues, and family), and “Honmei-choco” (romantic chocolates). The romantic chocolates are often homemade to show that they put time into the chocolate gift before giving it to you.

White Day is one month later, on March 14th, and men are expected to reciprocate the present they received from the women. The tradition is that the present the man gives should have three times greater worth than the present they received.

Who Pays on Dates?

Traditionally, men were expected to pay for dates in Japan, especially on the first date, and in the beginning months of being together. However, modern dating practices are a bit more flexible, with people splitting the bill on first dates, and sometimes women offering to pay.

You can use your judgment in this situation, depending on what feels right for you.

Jealousy and Expectations of Dating

Like any relationship, it is best to set the boundaries you are comfortable with verbally. This works in most countries, but in Japan, it is a bit more implicit.

Unlike some Western cultures where dating often begins with conversations about the clear nature of the relationship, Japanese couples may not verbalize their commitment until the relationship has progressed significantly.

golden yellow tree in Hokkaido
There are lots of places to go on a date in Japan, like watching the leaves change color in the fall.

This can lead to a lot of misunderstandings, which can turn into jealousy fast. These feelings of jealousy may not be expressed through words, but they will be expressed through action.

Japanese partners are extremely good at “ghosting” you if things take a turn for the worse. 

By “ghosting,” I mean slowly and gradually becoming busier and busier, making meeting up with them nearly impossible. After a long enough time has passed, it will be up to you to figure out that the relationship has ended.

Messaging Apps

To maintain your relationship, my advice is to use your messaging apps wisely. The preferred messaging app is Line; nearly everyone in Japan uses this app.

Familiarize yourself with the etiquette of using it, learn to use emojis and stickers when you communicate, and make sure your messaging game is on point.

Long-term Relationships and Marriage

First, understand your partner’s expectations about the future. After a few dates, things can ramp up suddenly depending on your partner’s age, and conversations about marriage might suddenly come up.

This is also a regional factor, as women/men in the countryside seem to want to get married younger than single people living in major cities.

Don’t be surprised if this topic comes up, and try to be honest with your partner and yourself about the possibility of it happening. You wouldn’t want to waste your partner’s valuable time.

Now, on to You

While it may seem challenging, it’s possible to find a date in Japan. The key to success is understanding the cultural differences and developing the relationship one step at a time.

Of course, learning the language can help increase your chances of success.

If you want my advice on the dating scene, please feel free to ask in the comment section below. Or if you have your dating experience to share, please feel free to do so as well.

Good luck!

Avatar photo
After living in Japan for more than a decade, I didn't just learn to speak Japanese; I got to know the culture deeply. My journey in Japan has been full of learning and exploring. It's helped me grow and given me lots of interesting stories to tell. I hope my writing helps others feel a bit of the magic I found in Japan.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.