If you are a female English teacher in Japan or in other parts of Asia, you may find that the dating situation here is a bit different than back home. However, different doesn’t have to be a bad thing and dating in general here can be an interesting experience. Before even entertaining the thought of getting a Japanese boyfriend, you should be aware of the current dating culture in Japan.

Currently, you can buy any part of a relationship that you want. Places like cuddle cafes and hostess/host clubs exist and thrive in Tokyo. I only have my first-hand experience to account for why this is, but I think it’s because dating in Japan is now so, so difficult. Why try to build a relationship with someone when it’s easier to just buy what you want?

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I have worked in Japan as an English teacher for two years now. I speak Japanese well and consider myself a decent catch, yet I’ve been single for a long time (and that’s not from a lack of trying). With a language and culture barrier to overcome, non-Japanese people are already at a disadvantage when it comes to dating. Still, nothing is impossible and if you’re ready for an uphill battle, I have compiled a list of 5 ways to help you find a man in Japan.

1. Introduction from a friend is a good way to date in Japan

While your co-workers may be a no-go, they may be the most reliable way to find a date. Co-workers or friends are usually more than willing to try to hook you up with an eligible bachelor. I have even had girlfriends ask their husbands if anyone at their company fit my type. She got back to me with three or four pictures of guys, their names, and ages. While none of them worked out for me, this method can be very promising!

By asking friends, it ensures that the guy won’t feel “threatened” by a strong, independent woman. The way your Japanese friends will talk to a guy will be in a way he is used to being treated: he is comfortable with the language your friend is using and how he is being asked about a somewhat sensitive topic.

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On the other hand, will he be directly approached by a non-Japanese woman, there is a good chance he will panic. It will undoubtedly be a new situation for him and he won’t know how to react properly. Even if say a woman speaks great Japanese, there are just some things that are better told by native Japanese people.

I speak Japanese well and don’t like to admit it, but the direct approach has not worked well for me. Simply put, let your friends do the work for you on this one.

2. Taking the ‘Gokon’ route

In case you are wondering, Gokon is a group blind date. Typically, all members are related by at least one degree so everyone is pretty much guaranteed to not be ax-murderers. Two people set up a Gokon: one guy and one girl. The girl asks her girlfriends to come and the guy asks his guy friends to come. Everyone meets at the same place and usually drink together for an evening. At the end of the evening, everyone trades contact information.

Gokon are great because all members are connected somehow, personality-wise there is a greater chance of finding someone you click with. Plus, often times, friends invite friends of around the same age- which means everyone has a similar social standing and knocks out that bothersome junior-senior relationship to some degree.

Gokon are popular amongst university students in Japan and become less common after graduation. However, you can set up a Gokon yourself! There is a website that sets up Gokon. First, fill out a basic profile with a name, your age, profession and a hobby. Then search open Gokon; search by age group, similar profession, interests or more something more superficial, like “all attending men are over 5’ 7”.

3. Join an activity

Make the time and find a hobby. If friends have failed you, then proactively seek out guys in their natural habitat. Even for working adults, there are most likely a plethora of groups or activities available in your area. I play a sport which happens to be a male-dominated sport. While I wouldn’t touch any of the guys I practice with even if the survival of the human race depended on it, those guys have connections to other guys who I would consider saving the human race with. Make friends with the friends of your friends.

If sports aren’t an option, cooking classes, musical groups and dance circles are other great choices. The point is to get out of your room and be visible. The more people you talk to the wider your connections will spread and the higher the chance you will find that special guy.

4. Using dating apps

Dating apps are widely used in Japan, but be warned. Apps and websites are split into two different types; the hookup sites and the I-want-to-get-married-now sites.  When I was looking for a boyfriend, neither were very helpful to me.  Apps like OkCupid and Tinder will work for you in Japan with about the same or less success than in a western nation for similar reasons.

I would steer clear of the marriage websites unless you are serious about getting married to a Japanese man in the near future. Those websites are last-ditch attempts by lonely Japanese people to find happiness and interfering with that seems cruel.

Still, if a hook-up is what you want, that is what you can get. When looking for a non-Japanese boyfriend, I have had good luck with Craigslist. Japanese people aren’t very aware of Craigslist or how to use it so the majority of posts are written by non-Japanese looking for similar. It’s easy to become frustrated with trying to date a Japanese guy and no one would understand your struggles more than another foreigner living in Japan.

5. Aiseki restaurants

Of course, Japan would come up with an idea like “companion-seat” restaurants. For singles who just can’t meet others, this might be the perfect solution. Companion-seat restaurants all have different systems, but the principle is the same; the restaurant will seat single men and women diners together.

In Tokyo, a chain restaurant called “Aiseki” has an appealing offer for its female guests. Women who choose to sit and eat at a companion-seat table will eat up to 1,500 yen (around $15) for free. The man that comes and sits with you will pay for your food. After he is seated at your table, you sit and talk for a minimum of 15 minutes, then the female guest can either choose to have him leave or stay. While there are various types of companion-seat restaurants, why not choose the one where you can get free food?

Think of companion-seat restaurants as speed dating. It’s a Russian roulette of men but with slightly better odds, but if you don’t like him, he will be gone in a few minutes. However, consider this, your new male friend decided to come to a companion-seat restaurant which is an indication (at least in part) that he is looking for a friend. What’s not to say that he isn’t looking for something more?

Final thoughts

Dating in Japan can be a frustrating endeavor for not only non-Japanese people but for native Japanese men and women as well. Foreign residents looking for love sadly lack the proper language and cultural skills to navigate through the already difficult dating scene of Japan. Still, as a non-Japanese person, you are unique. In a level playing field, your uniqueness will stand out in a positive way. So if you are a female English teacher in Japan, give yourself a chance. Try these five options that Japanese people use and make them work for you! Good luck.

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Julia Whipple