I want a Japanese Girlfriend

I want a Japanese Girlfriend

Uh, sure you do

I made a lot of mistakes with Saki, my first Japanese girlfriend. The most notable of which was attempting anything resembling a conversation.

“So you said you’ve got a sister, right?” I asked. “Does she live in Tokyo too?”

“I think so, maybe.”

“Well, when did you last see her?” I continued.

“Yesterday.”

“Huh. Okay…well, um, does she live by herself? Does she have a boyfriend?”

“Mmm,” she said, “I’m not sure.”

“So you don’t know where she lives then, your sister?”

“Mnnnn,” replied Saki, “maybe Chiba?”

In the Land of Tiny Cakes

We were sitting upstairs in a tatami room in a cafe in Azabujuban, having tiny cups of green tea and even tinier cakes. My legs were killing me. Why a nation renowned for its technology has yet to embrace the chair, I’ll never understand. And hey, I’d voted for a round of darts with some spicy fries and beer, but somehow that motion got overruled. Now all we were lacking was a Victorian doll house and a couple teddy bears. Care fo’ a spot o’ tea, Mista Pibbles?

But Saki was remarkable for two things. The first was the eye- and lip-liner she’d had tattooed to her face. Hey, that’s time efficiency, which I appreciate. If you still think tattoos are limited to yakuza, you’re living in the 1990’s. Younger Japanese are picking them up like wildflowers, onsen be damned.

Saki also had a wildflower tattooed on her outer thigh. I thought it looked godawful, but that just goes to show what Ken Seeroi knows about fine art.

That wasn’t the second remarkable thing though. That thing was that Saki seemed to possess almost no knowledge of her own family. At the time, I thought this unusual.

“So your father,” I continued, “what does he do?”

“Oh, he works for a company,” she replied proudly.

“Great, and what’s his job?”

“Ummm, he’s a salaryman,” she answered.

“So, uh, you don’t know what your dad actually does? Is it a new job?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Huh. All right, um yeah, does he speak English?”

“May….be…” she said.

And that, right there, is the trouble.

The Trouble with Japanese People

Now, don’t get me wrong. Japanese folks are great. Well, except for the ones who aren’t, but whatever. As a group they’re pretty okay. The challenge, however, is actually knowing them at all.

Here’s what I mean. Particularly if you’re an American, the instant we meet, I start to pick up things about you, like…

  • Republican, Democrat, or one of those crazy Bernie Sanders people
  • Atheist, Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Christian, Scientologist, Pagan, or whatever
  • Hummer, Tesla, or AstroVan
  • Smoker or non-smoker
  • Gun or forgot yours at home
  • Vegetarian, vegan, or just enjoy chewing animals
  • Anti-abortion or anti-choice
  • Pro-marijuana, pro-crystal meth, or pro-martini
  • Went to Columbia, LSU, or failed high school shop class
  • “Support our troops” or want a world overrun with Commies
  • “Build the Wall” or prefer not to pick your own lettuce and strawberries
  • What you think about the stock market, universal health care, food stamps, the World Wildlife Fund, Fox News, fake news, iPhone versus Android, thick crust versus thin, chunky versus smooth, and a thousand other things.

And by the way, this isn’t a shopping list. I’ve got friends both Christian and Muslim, Gay and Straight, supporters of Obama and Trump, and everything in between. Being in one camp or the other doesn’t make you virtuous or deplorable—it just tells me something about you. It’s a start to actually knowing you. Who you are.

And when I meet a Japanese person, here’s what I learn…

  • How hot or cold the weather is
  • How delicious this food is
  • How much you want to speak English with me

Usually, that’s about it.

You can easily see why Japanese folks are so keen to meet “foreigners.” Within one minute—boom!—you know everything about ’em. You don’t even have to ask; it just oozes from the foreigner’s every pore, saturating clothing and car choices, the red trucker hats, college sweatshirts, Jordan high-tops, rainbow bracelets, NRA bumper stickers and NPR bags.

Your Foreign Boyfriend

So I was having lunch with a Japanese colleague, a rather unremarkable mid-30’s unmarried office worker, when she blurted out a familiar refrain: “I want a foreign boyfriend.” So I thought I’d follow this up a bit.

“Does it matter what country he’s from? Like, Spain, New Zealand, Greece?”

“No,” she said, “Probably anywhere’s fine.”

“Jewish, Muslim, Christian…?”

“What’s the real difference?”

“Fair enough. Would you care if he was Democrat or Republican, in the Navy, wore hemp pants, owned a dog or a cat?”

“I just want to meet a nice guy,” she said. “Okay, maybe with a dog.”

“Well, you know,” I said. “Everyone’s nice at first.”

I want a Japanese Girlfriend

On the flip side, I hear this a lot, especially from guys online. And I wonder, does it matter…

  • Region: whether she’s from Gifu or Ginza
  • Religion: Kofuku-no-Kagaku or Souka-gakkai
  • Politics: Jiyu-minshuto or Minshinto
  • Food: tonkotsu ramen or shoyu ramen
  • Booze: shochu or umeshu
  • Fashion: Louis Vuitton or Hideo Wakamatsu
  • Make-up: Gyaru or suppin
  • Language: Osaka-ben or Tohoku-ben
  • Occupation: OL or freeter
  • And what she thinks of immigration, the aging population, China, Korea, whether she speaks English, actually cares about you learning Japanese, wants to move into her parents house after marriage, wants kids or not, will insist you do the laundry and the dishes, and a thousand other things

My sense is no. Just so long as she’s “Japanese,” that’s good enough. Frankly, I’ve seen tons of couples rush to get married without even understanding basic information about each other. Hey, nothing wrong with hooking up for a night or two, but when it comes to shacking up, I mean, you might wanna…I’m just sayin’…ahh, nevermind. I’m sure it’ll all work out just dandy.

But I Still Want a Japanese Girlfriend

All rightee. Then you’re facing several hurdles:

  1. It’s not easy to understand a wholly different culture, especially if you don’t speak the language. What do people notice? What do they care about, and why? Will anyone even clue you in to what’s significant? Does it matter if you carry a pocket handkerchief, put your wet umbrella in a plastic bag, or pour beer in your own glass? (Pretty much all yes.)
  2. Then there’s the Japanese language, with at least ten different words for “I” and “you.” Your entire interaction depends upon which you choose. Forget speaking—can you even pick up on the differences when you’re listening? Whether someone refers to you as “dude,” “sir,” “ma’am,” “girl,” “boy,” “fatty,” or “mofo” tells you a lot about who you’re dealing with and how they view you. This happens every day in Japanese, only you’re blissfully unaware. Everyone just seems so polite. They’re laughing with you, not at you, right? Yeah, let’s just go with that.
  3. Japanese folks tend not to talk about themselves much, or at all, even to their close friends and family members. A lot of conversation is mind-bendingly superficial. They’ll reveal surprisingly personal information, yet hide things that you’d think were unimportant. I don’t want to say they keep a lot of secrets, but well, they keep a lot of secrets. Don’t tell anyone I told you.

More than One Kind of Japanese

So if you want a Japanese girlfriend, at least know that there’s Japanese, and then there’s Japanese. Okay, so they look kind of similar. This may be the biggest secret nobody talks about.

Think about it from a Japanese person’s perspective. To them, Americans are just one big group. They don’t know Bakersfield from La Jolla, Chevy from Tesla, Wrangler from Dickies, Italian-American from Mexican-American, shit from Shinola, or the difference between “y’all,” “you,” “yuns,” and “you guys.”

Japanese people know they’re not all the same. And honestly, a lot of the “Japanese” women you’re likely to date or marry aren’t all that Japanese. They’re choosing foreigners because they themselves don’t fit into this society very well. Maybe they look subtly different, like there’s a touch of Korean, Dutch, or Mongolian blood that you don’t notice. Hey, Asian is Asian, right? But everyone around them notices, and lets them know. Maybe they lived overseas for years. Maybe they were even born overseas. Or maybe they just watched a shit-ton of “Sex and the City.” But somehow, in either appearance, thinking, or attitude, they’re not very “Japanese” any more. And that’s why they’re choosing you.

The Right Japanese Girlfriend

So I was having lunch in Ueno Park with a friend of mine recently. And since he’s a “foreigner,” of course we both enjoy sitting outside even though it’s hot as eff, unlike Japanese people who are allergic to sweat. And over a plastic bag full of onigiri and a couple cans of cold coffee, we talked about this stuff.

“Look,” he said, “I get it. But whatever…I want a Japanese girlfriend, what’s wrong with that?”

“Nothin’, man. Okay, so what if she was like Chinese or Vietnamese, but, you know, looked ‘Japanese’?”

“Well, nah, that’s not the same.”

“So ‘Japanese,’ that’s all? That’s the only requirement?” I asked.

“Well, I mean, yeah, as long as she’s not a total bitch.”

“So okay, someone nice,” I said. “What if she’s born in Japan, but raised overseas?”

“Yeah, that’d probably be okay,” he said.

“Born overseas, lived there till she was five, then moved to Japan?”

“Does she look Japanese?”

“Is that all that matters?”

“That and that’s she’s really Japanese. Pretty much, yeah,” he said.

“Man, we are some superficial people,” I said.

“Welcome to the human race.”

“So humans are really all the same?” I mused. “Kind of ironic, isn’t that? Anyway, what time you got?”

He looked at his watch. “Way past beer-thirty,” he replied.

“Thought so,” I said, standing up. “Let’s go get some booze and Japanese girls.”

“Does it matter what kind?”

“Of course it matters,” I laughed. “I only drink Asahi.”

“Seeroi, you’re one picky motherfucker.”

Yeah. Yeah, not very often, but sometimes I am.



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48 Comments

  1. Because I am so happy to see a new post from you my friday is saved now! (and It just started)
    Donated a little bit for you!
    Keep them coming!

    Cheers

    • Ah, thanks much. Wow, you’re fast—I was still editing it when you commented. Hopefully I caught all the typos. I really appreciate the donation!

  2. MotoGP and a new post from Seeroi-san, good day. Also Asahi is THE best beer!
    I would like a Japanese girlfriend, but it’s too late for me now. Which might be for the better all things considered…

  3. To be honest, I would be somewhat afraid to get a Japanese girlfriend, but that is probably I think too far into the future with the chance of her becoming my wife. And then, what about the kid/s? Seems risky. I mean, we could get a Keanu Reeves, but it seems like most results are not so lucky. And if we are living in Japan that kid is definitely not going to be “Japanese” in the eyes of his school mates. It would be a tough and confusing life. Probably would be better to be a full-on blond, blue-eyed, white gaijin kid in Japan than some random mix in Japan. Just a thought.

    • I agree with you and this is also one of my concerns.
      The “you’re not one of us” would be too much for me, i would not want my child to experience something like this.

    • Yeah, you are getting a little ahead of yourself, although you’re probably right.

      I should mention I’m not discouraging anyone from dating Japanese women. Rather, I’m encouraging folks to actually try to know them. The same goes for men, and all relationships in Japan.

      The U.S. is so open, on a variety of levels. Every person on earth knows who the President is (for better or worse). The values and behaviors of the society are thrown wide open in movies and music. Japan’s the polar opposite.

      Most people—including visitors to Japan—would struggle to name the five major islands, not to mention the political parties or even half a dozen actors or singers. So there’s a lot of homework, just learning the basics of the nation.

      Then when it comes to personal relationships, there’s a whole other set of values and beliefs that come into play. It takes me years to know a Japanese person as well as I know an American in five minutes.

  4. Ken.
    More GOLD.That first paragraph had me and my (no longer Japanese)Japanese wife on the floor in stiches.
    I know it’s a huge call but can you somehow explain the thought processes that result in answers that we non Japanese find incredible.
    Is it an inability or reclutance to tell us what your father does? who he works for? Where your sister lives? Or as my wife loves to say..Is your arse on fire?
    My favorite is….
    I’m at (name your place,bar,izakyua etc) OK we’ll come and meet you,where is it?
    I’m not sure.
    But your there now aren’t you?
    Yes.
    Well where is it? How did you get there?
    I’m not sure.
    Beer tickets on the way,thanks many.Ken.

    • Hey, thanks for the donation—I really appreciate that.

      So I had a couple friends come to visit me. I was in LA at the time. They took a taxi from the airport to their hotel, dropped off their luggage, then took another taxi to meet me for dinner.

      At the end of the night, I said, I’ll drive you back to your hotel—where is it?

      And they’re like, We don’t know.

      Okay, what street’s it on?

      No idea.

      New city, fair enough. What’s the name of your hotel?

      The guy takes the room card key out of his pocket, and guess what? No hotel name on it. I guess that’s for security reasons or something. Now, this is before the age of smartphones, so we can’t just search through email for some reservation. We literally spent two hours driving in circles through LA in the middle of the night, while they were like, I think this looks familiar…maybe if we make a left…no…okay, let’s try a right…

      These were two successful Japanese adults, and as you noted, this particular incompetence is common among Japanese folks. Try this out: ask for simple directions to a place you both know. I’ve done this hundreds of times in language classes, in both English and Japanese. The typical Japanese person is absolutely incapable of simply saying, “Go down two blocks, make a left, and it’s on your right.”

      I believe I can provide an explanation for this phenomenon, so let me know if you really want to hear it.

  5. I can’t get a Japanese girlfriend, my wife would kill me…

    Thank you, I’ll be here all night (and probably the rest of my life).

    • A guy complains of a headache. Another guy says, “Do what I do. I put my head on my wife’s bosom, and the headache goes away.” The next day, the man says, “Did you do what I told you to?” “Yes, I sure did. By the way, you have a nice house!”

  6. Man, you’re legendary!

  7. You accurately summed up why I dislike Americans so much. I had to sit next to one guy from New York on a bus from Nari ta to Haneda and before we had got to the expressway I had heard about his traumatic experience with a spider when he was five years old. By the time we got out of Chiba I knew more about him than my own brother.

    On a flight from Chicago to Dallas I was surrounded by total strangers having the most intimate conversations imaginable.

    • Yeah, that’s a weird thing about Americans. They just won’t shut up. I sit down next to a guy in a bar, and within two minutes, he’s showing me pictures of his family and cats. I’m like, I think I need to go stand over there now…

      But yeah, every strength is a drawback and every drawback a strength. I just wish there was some place on earth a little more balanced that the extremes of Japan and the U.S. Maybe Finland…

  8. Please keep writing about culture shock. It fascinates me so much. Thank you Ken for your intriguing articles.

    What’s your take on Japanese passive aggressiveness? You know, being allergic to saying no, etc

    • I’ve frequently read that Japanese people have trouble saying no, which I really can’t understand, because they say it to me all the time. Maybe says something about the women I choose to approach.

      I hear Japanese folks say no and chigau—that’s wrong—all the time. While Americans, for all their seeming forthrightness, are often quite vague and non-committal when it comes to plans and schedules. “Yeah, I’ll call you; we’ll do lunch sometime.”

      Maybe the two cultures are just vague and direct about different things.

      As for passive-agressiveness, absolutely. Japanese people are masters of that.

  9. Yo!

    Just a quick question Ken, next year I’m going to Korea for about a week and then I might hit up Japan. I’m not really into touristy travel? If that makes sense, I like to see monuments and pretty stuff but I much rather would enjoy experiencing the culture and good food.
    If I come for about a week, any place you recommend I go to see in Japan for the first time? (Also, my plan won’t be as flexible for Korea because I’m staying with a Korean friend but any places you like?)

    Thanks as always man,
    enjoy some black pepper chips and Asahi on me!

    ~Noah

    • Hey there Noah,

      So first trip to Japan, only here for a short time…

      I’m going to give you a surprising choice, and I’ll tell you why. Sounds like want a place that’s got both nature and a few attractions, somewhere not too touristy, but also not so “real” that you just spend all day long on the dock of a tiny fishing village or staring at a rice paddy.

      I’d suggest Kyoto. You can dial in the “tourist” level pretty easily, by going to big name temples or ones nobody’s paying attention to. It’s a physically beautiful city, and it looks like “Japan.” The food’s good. You’ll like it.

      Mostly though, it’s obvious. You can go to a lot of cities, get off the train and then say, “Okay, now what?” But with Kyoto, there’s so much stuff to see and do that you’ll be enthralled.

      By the way, if you go, use taxis to get around, not the city bus. The convenience and time saving is well worth the extra money.

      • Thanks a ton Ken!

        I’ve actually always favored the old capital and wanted to go but was willing to take your choice over that. So somehow it ended up being both! lol

        Thanks for the extra advice too. Promise to take a taxi rather than city bus.

        • I think you’re seriously going to love Kyoto. If there’s a city you could visit that would make you fall in love with Japan, Kyoto would be it. I’d suggest going to Ginkakuji, then walking down Philosopher’s Path to Nanzenji. Kind of hard to go wrong with that program.

          • Just remember, if you’re taking a taxi, then Ginkakuji sounds a lot like Kinkakuji. With a foreign accent, the taxi driver may just assume you meant the place all the tourists want to go for pictures of the pretty gold building and you’ll end up someplace completely different from where you intended to go.

  10. Ken..To quote you…”I believe I can provide an explanation for this phenomenon, so let me know if you really want to hear it.”

    On behalf of all and sundry,please give it to us,we want to hear it.

    • Well all right. It’s gonna be a bit long. Sorry about that.

      So I had this Japanese girlfriend who was really into food, even beyond how crazy most Japanese folks are about it. Like for example, looking at a sushi roll, did you know there’s an “inside” and an “outside” to the seaweed—nori? (There is, ask your wife.) Then she’d note how thick or thin the seaweed was, whether it was old, making it dry, or too chewy, meaning it had been exposed to moisture. Then how did it taste? Was it roasted, flavored seaweed, and if so, with what, or simply plain? Where was it from? Did the restaurant know the farmer?

      And that was just the seaweed. Then she’d do the same thing with the rice, fish, soy sauce, wasabi…I was like, Can we just eat food?

      Nope, she’d examine every single thing in excruciating detail. She had exceptionally good eyesight. We once went to a Chinese restaurant and she was like, What’s in the sauce? And I said, Uh, it’s Szechuan sauce. And she was like, No, what in it? What’s it made from? We called the waitress over. She had no idea. Took us like 20 minutes to order something.

      She was constantly finding moldy lettuce on our plates, even little bugs and stones. It’s all there, you just have to look. And she’d look, at everything, and think about it. If you watch Gordon Ramsey, you’d get some idea. And she was about 10 times more critical and knowledgeable than that guy.

      Okay, now let’s look at how typical “Americans” eat food. In a word, they just shovel it down. A meal in Japan could easily last three hours. Try that in an American restaurant and they’ll be heaving you bodily out the door. There’s a lot of focus in America on things that aren’t food—tablecloths, silverware, lighting, conversation, the waitstaff’s attitude. Nobody’s asking, Where did the grain for this pasta come from? Was this shrimp flown in from Thailand? Was the lettuce washed with preservative to keep it fresh? I never noticed how much beer glasses tasted of sanitizer until we dated. I learned a lot from her, really.

      Okay, now what does any of that have to do with why Japanese people can’t explain the simplest things? I’m sure you’ve already surmised that it has to do with focus and practice. Take navigation—most stuff in Japan is near the train station, so all you have to do is remember the station name and the exit and you’re about 90% there.

      If you are lost—and in the days before smartphones this happened plenty—you don’t ask a person. You ask many people. You’re like, “Where’s the Waldorf Astoria?” And they don’t say, “Two blocks down, make a left, and it’s on your right.” They say, “See that fruit stand? It’s past there.” So you go to the fruit stand, then ask somebody else. Japan’s very communal in that way. That’s a good thing.

      So if somebody calls you and asks, “What restaurant are you in?” and you don’t know, well, you don’t have to know. Any more than an American has to know what the salad dressing’s made from. You just call the waiter/waitress over and hand them your phone. Knowing the name of the restaurant is their job, and they should be able to guide the other party to the nearest fruit stand, whereupon they can ask somebody else.

      Japanese people don’t practice giving detailed directions because it doesn’t come up very much. It’s just not that important. Looking at food, oh man, that’s every day. If you couldn’t tell the difference between katsuo dashi and kombu dashi people’d think you were retarded.

      Let me point out one more way in which Americans are clueless, and it’s not a trivial matter: money. I’ve got a Chinese friend who frequently asks me, Why isn’t anyone in the U.S. worried money? Do they even know how much they spend every month on food, clothing, coffee, or alcohol? How can they just charge things they don’t need on credit cards? And I’m like, Hmmm, good question. Then when I ask my friends and family about it, they’re like, Eh, don’t worry, everything’ll work out. And now Asian me is like, Work out?! What the fuck is that? You just spent three thousand dollars on a bicycle! Even the helmet was like two hundred bucks! How’re you gonna pay that off? Do you not understand interest? Work out? Money doesn’t just “work out,” it’s math! And they’re like, Jeez dude, you worry too much. Everything’ll be fine. Drink a beer. Here, I’ll put it on my credit card.

      That optimism, wow. But thanks for the beer.

      I guess it comes down to a society’s values and culture. Different nations seem good and bad at different things. So the conclusion is, if you’re going out to eat, you want an American find the restaurant, a Japanese person to order the food, and a Chinese person to split the bill. That’s what I’ve learned. Thanks for asking.

  11. Professional Gaijin

    Ah, yes. Japanese passive-aggressiveness. Which would bring you to the myth of the submissive Japanese woman.

  12. hi Ken and everybody!

    I just read the blog today.
    It is so entertaining I read for hours and started building up a little rant in my head. excuse me if I explode here:

    I have been living here for more than ten years and trying to make something for myself.
    I have to say that most of my friends are foreigners and all my colleagues are Japanese.
    I keep my personal life away from my colleagues to avoid anybody spreading words about the money I make.
    I do not know if I would do the same back in Italy but I may not have the same work and business opportunities I found here.
    like most of us the spirit of adventure brought me here to Japan and my new family kept me here.

    don’t know if I would be happier anywhere else but I think I will fight my way through what I started and see what comes out of it.

    I will teach some school kids (and my kids) about electricity at the kominkan close to where I live and the people I met are helping me out with the project.
    I do not have any close Japanese friend yet but that could be part of my character. I guess that in my life I am looking for some special people that click with me and that may not be easy.

    would love to hear some more stories or meet more people that shared my experience. could be fun!

    • Welcome, Misserotti!

      Ten years is a long time. Honestly, I can’t believe it myself. I’m glad you’re here and enjoying life in Japan. It reminds me to appreciate the good things more. Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  13. thank you Ken for your answer.

    I live in fukuoka and I was about to ask you if you think that people that decide to stay for a longer period of time would kind of try to justify the fact that they are there in the first place. I think this would be called a confirmation bias burt I am not sure.

    it’s like starting to like the person that asked you a favor for the first time. the loss of energy due to doing them a favor has to be justified inside yourself somehow. You end up “convincing” yourself that you like them.

    I think president Benjamin Franklin was famous for leveraging on this judgement fallacy.

    • Seems to me that people often try to rationalize the situations they find themselves in. I guess it rather colors reality, but then truth and happiness never did get along all that fabulously.

      So yeah, living in Japan long-term seems like a textbook case for making the best of a challenging situation. There’s a lot of good things about living here—no doubt about that. But you give up plenty as well, and I think that’s the hard part. But hey, that’s life, in Japan.

  14. Hiroshima style Okinomiyaki!!! Can’t go with a girl who likes Osaka style……..

    • This is 100% correct.

      Also watch out for the Souka-gakkai ones. You’ll have English-language pamphlets and magazines in your hands by the second date. Haven’t met a Happy Science cultist yet.

    • Funny ’cause it’s true. Although maybe what’s most amazing is what a large role food plays in the Japanese consciousness. Apparently you can tell a lot about people by how they like their pancakes.

  15. Great article! Funny and insightful, as usual. 🙂

    I’m kind of curious about this part, though:
    “They’ll reveal surprisingly personal information, yet hide things that you’d think were unimportant. I don’t want to say they keep a lot of secrets, but well, they keep a lot of secrets. ”

    So, any moments that you heard “surprisingly personal information” that you could share?

    Also, on the “keeping secrets” part, I’d be interested on hearing more about on relationships (actually dating; not just wanting to), things between couples that would be obvious to talk about elsewhere, but not in Japan.

    • So I met these two girls in the train station. Long story short, they invited me to a party at the one girl’s house (she was married). I hadn’t been there half an hour before she told me about cheating on her husband, who happened to be in the next room.

      Now, if this sounds like some sort of come on, I can assure you it wasn’t. Sigh. Rather, it was just a random factoid, like “Last Saturday day I went to the dentist, then bought cheese at the supermarket, and oh yeah, slept with my old boyfriend.”

      So I’ve heard people reveal all kinds of things about themselves. Particularly when it comes to infidelity, it’s not nearly as big a deal in Japan as it is in the U.S. To be really honest, Japan’s just way less sexual than the West, and for that reason (in my opinion), cheating on your partner doesn’t mean all that much. Japanese folks just don’t care that much about sex. Again, sigh.

      As for what couples do share between themselves, in comparison to the West, I’d venture to say damn near nothing. You’d be lucky if you knew the first names of your partner’s parents. It’s pretty taboo to ask personal questions, even of your closest friends and lovers. If asked, not answering is also a popular option.

      Though, strangely enough, Japanese people seem to share more with foreigners, speaking English, than they do with other Japanese. Perhaps it just seems safer, or less real.

      • I had been wondering about the cavalier view toward infidelity. In a country where seemingly meaningless ‘rules’ such as ‘brush your teeth after lunch’ are almost universally followed, why is something that is ostensibly written in the marriage contract regarded as (far) less sacred than tooth brushing ?

        The converse of course also applies, i.e. why do Americans consider fidelity to be such a big deal ? Christianity or other … ? At least to me though, I didn’t quite see how that written rule is softer than other unwritten ones.

        Sex is not very important ? Maybe, but I imagine you’ve heard the same stories about high school girls that I have …

  16. Hey! I’ve been loving the blog and am still in the process of finishing my degree to come teach. In the meantime I have saved up the money to come for a visit and was thinking of Osaka / Kyoto area. I was hoping to be able to buy you a beer(maybe a few if you don’t break the bank) but I have no idea what area you are in.

    • Thanks much. I’ve moved around a surprising lot in Japan–I’m on my seventh apartment , plus interim weeks crashing with friends around the nation–so I’m never sure what part I should say I’m currently in. Also just for reasons of privacy, I tend not to broadcast it too loudly. Although the lure of beer is admittedly strong.

  17. Seeroi-dono

    What will change Japan? Can Japan even change to begin with? I think that it all begins in the workplace. But how can a country’s work ethic change when the sheer amount of unproductive companies dictates a culture of overwork and everything that accompanies it. Certainly not exclusively a problem of Japan but in many ways the magnitude of dedication’s second to none. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-12/zombie-hordes-thousands-of-japanese-firms-dodging-bankruptcy

    Cheers

  18. I remember 25 years ago chatting to my Japanese girlfriend about families. She more-or-less said: There’s my mother and father and I’ve got a sister… and that was it. She was amazed when I reeled off my brothers, my parents, my paternal uncle and cousins and their children, my maternal aunts and uncles, my paternal grandparents and my great-aunts and uncles, my maternal grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great aunts – all alive at that time, and then continued describing relatives further back.

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