Looking for love in Japan is difficult! So we asked an experienced dater how to pick up girls - but what did the girls have to say?
Lots of men come to Japan in search of some international romance. And why not? Whether you’re in search of the thrill of a quick fling or something more long-term, travel offers the perfect opportunity to meet loads of new people while having fun.
We’ve got our tips from a man with years of experience dating Japanese women. Our guru, G (26, Australian), has experienced everything from one-night stands to long-term relationships, and even the occasional rejection here and there. But how do actual Japanese girls feel about his tips and tricks?
Tip 1: There is no one ‘best place’ to pick up girls. There are many.
“The most common places to pick up girls are clubs, bars and night-life areas. If you aren’t confident in your Japanese, you’ll find more Japanese girls looking for “foreign friends” in places frequented by the foreign community (Roppongi, HUB and certain infamous clubs in Tokyo).”
G told us to hang out with girls and guys at bars; “being a part of the ‘in-group’ is important in Japan, and making friends with guys will help you become part of their mixed-gender ‘in-groups’ at that bar, or sometime in the future. On that note, drunk guys will often try to talk to you – view it as an opportunity. If they’re with a group with girls, ask to meet their friends and bam, you’re in the group. If they’re with a group of guys, steer the conversation towards picking up girls. Having a good Japanese wingman helps a lot!”
He also told us to leverage shared interests and head to sports clubs or use language and dating apps. He mentioned that although sometimes successful, approaching a girl on the street is not recommended.
It sounds like there’s not one “best spot” to head to! So what did our Japanese women have to say to this tip?
Tip 1: Girls' Responses
K: My good friend who wants to date foreigners goes to English cafes and exchange events at the embassy, apparently because clubs are scary.
R: I agree with K. People who just want to get to know foreigners might go to safe places, such as English conversation schools and events, where foreigners are going to be.
E: I actually have a friend who is dating someone she met using a dating app, so I think apps are good and easy to use.
Y: Japanese girls may be a bit more on edge if you talk one-on-one, so this is a good technique!
S: Yeah, I think a lot of people meet at bars. I have a few friends who met foreign men at a bar or club, became friends and are now dating!
The consensus seems to be that while G’s advice is good, your average Japanese girl might not be partying it up in a club or bar. Quieter places like cafes could be your best bet, but our last respondee did suggest that more typical nightlife spots aren’t totally out of the question. If they’re more your scene, go for it!
Tip 2: “Hello! What’s your name?” (in English) is a surprisingly good icebreaker.
“Believe it or not, “Hello! What’s your name?” is actually a pretty good opener. It’s different enough from the (Japanese) competition, and in case you don’t look like a foreigner, it lets girls know that you are (in a good way – you’re different, interesting!)” Additionally, this is a level of English that just about any girl can deal with, giving you the chance to get an idea of how smooth communication is likely to be between you.
He added that self-deprecating humour is effective, since humility and self-awareness are considered desirable traits in Japanese culture. For example, G likes to introduce himself with a joke about his name, since it rhymes with a vegetable. This quirky opener probably also makes him more memorable!
One important note on humor: “the vast majority of Japanese people don’t understand sarcasm so they will just take what you said at face value. Explaining sarcasm makes for an interesting conversation topic though!”
So far this doesn’t sound too difficult or different from other countries’ dating scenes, with the possible exception of sarcasm. Here’s how our Japanese ladies responded:
Tip 2: Girls' Responses
R: I think if I were suddenly asked for my name by a stranger I would probably hate it, lol.
It’s better to start with a slightly more natural conversation.
E: I think this would be fine at a club, but at other places suddenly asking a girl’s name might get her guard up. Start with a question, such as asking for directions or sightseeing recommendations, and I think you might be able to get a nice girl to answer you.
K: I might be surprised if someone suddenly started talking to me, but if it were in one of the places mentioned in Tip 1, it could work.
Y: If a Japanese man were to ask a lot of people wouldn’t answer, but if asked in English I feel like a lot of people would! Lol
In Japan, most people won’t make dark jokes unless they’re really close to someone, so it’s important to make them in moderation.
S: It’s good when someone takes the initiative to talk to you! I think mixing a bit of humor in when you introduce yourself is a good icebreaker. But, as he (G) says, using too much sarcasm isn’t good, lol.
Uh oh! Looks like jumping straight into asking for her name isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. On the other hand, the ladies mostly seem to agree that it depends largely on where you are. Read the room and assess the situation before rocking up to anyone for a chat. Keep in mind that two of the girls suggested that, while it’s ok to approach a girl, you should maybe start with a natural topic of conversation.
Tip 3: Dress to Impress!
While G did say to “wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident, because comfortable and confident is attractive,” he also mentioned that Japanese men and women both make an effort with regards to appearance. Dress for the occasion and put a bit of work in. He added that you don’t have to dress exactly like the locals, though; you get a bit of a free pass for being foreign.
Tip 3: Girls' Responses
E: I think hygiene is more important than anything. Plus, Japanese people don’t really get BO easily whereas foreigners do, so I think it’s important to be careful of how you smell.
K: I agree with this tip. I think you should wear clothes appropriate to the time, place, and occasion.
R: As long as you’re hygienic and dressed appropriately for the situation, you don’t need to worry about being stylish. (You don’t need to wear high-end clothes or have very refined taste).
Y: It’s quite important to put effort into your appearance and clothes to give yourself confidence! That’s probably universal, though.
S: That’s totally right! Japanese people pay attention to appearance and of course your clothes are part of that, so it’s important to express who you are without trying too hard. “Comfortable, confident, and hygienic” are precisely right.
Looks like G hit the nail on the head when it comes to fashion. None of the girls seem to care about how men dress as long as it's appropriate, so feel free to wear whatever gives you confidence!
It’s also worth pointing out that three of the girls specifically mentioned hygiene as a key factor! Hopefully this goes without saying, but the importance of freshening up can’t be overstated. Japan can get pretty hot and humid in the summer, so keep some deodorant close at hand.
Tip 4: PDA - yay or nay?
G said that public displays of affection are rare amongst both men and women, so don’t expect anyone to initiate it. “However, you’re not Japanese, so shaking hands is a great excuse to naturally introduce touch early in the relationship, as well as take someone just a little out of their comfort zone (shaking hands with a foreigner, exciting!)”
He also emphasized the importance of ‘reading between the lines’ and inferring others’ implied meaning in Japan. This means that women may not reject you outright in an attempt to avoid being too direct, as this is seen as rude. So what are you supposed to do if the girl you’re interested in isn’t giving you clear signals one way or the other?
“Take it slow, but make clear your intentions to escalate. She will also be more comfortable saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ outside of a group situation, where she doesn’t feel as judged. Finally, use common sense/courtesy. If she’s smiling and laughing and doesn’t pull away when you casually touch her, maybe she likes you. Escalate a little. Don’t go immediately sticking your hands in someone’s business because they accidently made eye contact with you.”
Tip 4: Girls' Responses
E: I agree with this. It’s rare to shake hands with fellow Japanese people, but by shaking hands with foreigners, you can accomplish some casual physical contact.
R: Even if they’re a bit uncomfortable (lol), there will be a lot of people who force a smile for the sake of the other person, but that doesn’t mean that they like them.
K: I think that if they’re someone who wants to show off that they’re dating a foreigner, then you could probably get away with it in public places!
From an onlooker’s perspective, if it’s a Japanese couple then it’s a bit uncomfortable. But if it’s a foreign couple, or at least one person is foreign, then people won’t really care.
Y: I agree! lol
Japanese people aren’t used to shaking hands, so whether they enjoy it or not, they’ll be nervous!
If you want to get close to them, I think it’s a good way to make them aware of you.
‘Taking it slow’ is not limited to just romantic relationships; being able to infer meaning is very important when communicating with Japanese people.
S: “Reading between the lines and inferring other’s implied meaning” is difficult, but it’s the most important thing. Avoiding mistakes in assessing the atmosphere of the place/situation and the other person’s behavior is key.
G once again seems to have cracked it. It won’t always be easy, but the respondents all seem to agree that physical contact in Japan is rare, so you’ll need to do your best at reading signs, inferring meaning, and understanding that just because a girl smiled at you doesn’t mean she’s into you; she might just be being polite! But two of the ladies did say that shaking hands isn’t a bad plan, so you could possibly get her heart racing that way.
Tip 5: Confidence is key. Or is it?
While confidence is helpful and generally considered to be attractive, G reassures us that you don’t have to be confident to have dating success. Sure, confidence will encourage people to think more highly of you as they will think you value yourself more, but “don’t worry if you’re not very confident. Most Japanese aren’t either. Due to the cultural values of conformity (trying not to stand out) and self-effacement (putting the group before yourself), most Japanese people, especially girls, tend to be very shy. So your bar for success is lower. Go get em, tiger.”
He also added that “a moderate amount of alcohol can help you stop overthinking – that’s why it’s so accepted and widespread social lubricant in an otherwise socially (f)rigid society.”
Tip 5: Girls' Responses
E: Many Japanese men aren’t confident. On the other hand, if you come on far too strong, I think she’ll be quite taken aback. By being modest, keeping an eye on how she’s reacting, and being self-assured, I think you can beat the Japanese men around you.
K: There are lots of passive Japanese people (at least in my circles), so I think it’s ok to be assertive!
R: Yeah, I think being assertive to a certain extent will win you some affection (but being overbearing is a bad move). If you aren’t confident, I think it’s best to not let that show too much.
Y: Hmm, I wonder.
Whether you’re confident or not, being modest is important. There are lots of shy girls.
S: It’s not good to have too little confidence, but it might not be that important to Japanese girls. Actually, if you have too much confidence she may pull back, so moderation is very important.
Like G said, confidence can be good, but three of the ladies actually felt that being too confident and coming on too strong is a big no-no! Two girls even mentioned that modesty is very important. It does look like it’s true that Japanese men are generally shy and passive, and so it’s easy to stand out; just don’t take it too far!
Tip 6: Pick up the tab, at least on the first date.
You may need to open both your heart and your wallet on your dating adventures throughout Japan, as G said that “on a first date, paying for the meal will reflect on you positively.” It should be specified that it is quite common for men to pay for meals on dates, but there are couples that go dutch.
He went on to say that, “buying girls drinks is a nice gesture and a good opener,” but for first dates, he feels that “lunch at a restaurant or café is easy to organise and a good environment to get to know each other.” He also emphasizes that, should you spot something like an ice-cream store or boba, you could take the opportunity to ask if she likes those sorts of things. Alternatively, you could find that out ahead of time through conversation, and then buy her what she likes on a date.
But food isn’t the only way to a Japanese girl’s heart! “A more unique gift could be something from your country, it’s exciting and makes for good conversation material.” So it might be a plan to dedicate some room in your luggage to local gifts and snacks.
Tip 6: Girls' Responses
R: I think generally if a man invites you out, he pays (or pays more), but it depends on the person.
E: If you split the bill, I think that she might think, “ah, so we’re just friends.” You don’t have to pay the whole bill, but paying as much as possible will probably increase your chances of success.
K: I care less about sex than about age. I think it’s probably best to pay for people who are younger than you. On the other hand, if they’re older than me I’ll get them to pay, lol.
E: I think a girl would hesitate to accept anything too expensive, big, or serious. Chocolates, small gifts, or some really good sweets are fine.
Y: Lots of Japanese people can’t or won’t clearly say what they like, so it might be difficult to get that information at first. But I think she’ll be happy that you’re thinking about her, so don’t worry too much about it.
Try things like small souvenirs or items that will give you lots to talk about!
S: Yeah, if a man were to be smooth and pay at the end of the first date, I would be happy and I’d have a good impression of him.
Presents are also effective in creating a good impression. No girl is going to be unhappy to receive one.
Well, this is good news! Once more, restraint and moderation seem to be the name of the game. It looks like most girls would be happy for a man to cover all or most of the cost of a dinner or give her a small gift or two, but it’s best not to go overboard. Lavishing her with gifts might put her in an awkward position or make her feel uncomfortable. Keep it simple and sweet; your love life and your wallet will thank you.
Tip 7: You don’t have to speak perfect Japanese to get a date.
Of course communication is the key to any relationship, so speaking the same language is crucial. But if either your Japanese or her English isn’t quite up to scratch just yet, don’t despair. G reassured us that “not understanding each other perfectly at first is fine; in fact, it creates the perfect opportunity to talk and learn about each other, and improve your respective language skills.” In fact, he thinks that dating a Japanese girl is a great way to improve your Japanese.
When it comes to long-term relationships, “misunderstandings happen all the time between people even with the same native language. You can expect your relationship to have even more, due to language and cultural differences, as well as personal. The important thing is to accept that this is normal, and strive to resolve misunderstandings peacefully.”
A quick caveat to language not necessarily being the be-all and end-all of a relationship: he did say that his current relationship is his best so far, and that they both speak English and Japanese fluently.
Tip 7: Girls' Responses
E: I think it would be good to invite her on a dinner date, with the goal of having her teach you Japanese. I think there are a lot of Japanese girls who want to learn English.
K: There are lots of Japanese people who can’t speak English, so as long as what you’re saying gets the point across I think it’s fine!
R: I think a lot of people will like a person who tries earnestly to communicate with them even if they can’t speak the language. Also, teaching each other your language might be a good way to get close.
Y: I think this is exactly right! In learning a language, the feeling of wanting to speak to someone is important. Even if you can’t communicate very well, as long as you’re both trying to understand each other it’ll probably be OK!
S: I agree with G. While dating and getting to know each other, your language skills will naturally improve. It’s not necessary to be fluent from the start.
G and all the girls have spoken: you’re fine even if you don’t speak Japanese. Do keep in mind that everyone also mentioned ‘learning’ and ‘trying’. It’s not enough to rely on dictionaries and pointing at things for the entirety of your relationship; you’ve got to work at communicating in the long term.
Tip 8: So you’re speaking the same language. Now what do you talk about?
G gave a few examples of some topics that work, and some that definitely don’t. The topics to start with are: “hobbies, exercise, sports, music, movies/TV, food, travel, work/study, about your country/culture, why you like Japan, how all the above are different in your country and Japan.” And, maybe most importantly, you should be asking her questions about herself! Make sure that she’s contributing to the conversation, and it’s not just you doing all the talking.
Some topics that are not going to fly were: “sex (until you’re about to do it), drugs, politics, crime (yakuza, the Japanese mafia), controversial topics (whaling, comfort women, etc).”
None of this seems too surprising, and is generally not too different from what would be expected in a lot of English-speaking cultures. But did our Japanese women agree?
Tip 8: Girls' Responses
R: If it’s someone I’ve just met and it feels like they’re hitting on me, I’d probably be cautious about personal information (like my address and stuff).
K: Depending on the person, the topic of sports might also be best avoided. If there’s a team you’re passionate about, it could lead to an argument. For example, the Tokyo Giants vs. the Hanshin Tigers.
E: It’s the same in the English speaking world, but talking about religion might also be an issue.
Y: I rarely talk about the sorts of topics that can lead to an argument or debate, and I don’t think a lot of girls would be able to answer even if asked. They might be surprised and be like, ‘what’s wrong with you all of a sudden?’
S: There might not be much of a cultural difference in terms of topics of conversation. You start with something light, and once you know each other well you’ll be able to talk about deeper things.
The topics that either do or don’t make for good initial conversation are pretty much the same across the board, with G and all the ladies being mostly in agreement. The one interesting exception is the mention of sports. As previously established, Japanese people like to take things slowly and to be a bit restrained, so perhaps avoid any topics you’re super passionate about to begin with.
Tip 9: Make her feel special!
When asked if compliments worked or not, G replied that they are “a big part of Japanese culture.” And that, of course, everybody enjoys being complimented. As you might expect, he did warn against being fake, although Japanese people may well give you fake compliments!
If you’re going to compliment her on her appearance, he said to focus on the effort she’s made to look nice, such as “your outfit/hair is very cute” and not “you have nice legs.” He did say that more general comments such as “you look beautiful” are also OK.
Tip 9: Girls' Responses
R: As long as it doesn’t feel like lip service I think she’d be happy. I think complimenting her on the things that are good about her personally, rather than just her outward appearance (saying she’s cute or pretty), will make her happy.
K: As long as it isn’t excessive flattery or lies, I’d be happy to be complimented!
E: Just focusing on her appearance might lead to misunderstandings, so when you really want to woo her, I think you should compliment her on who she is on the inside.
Y: I think anyone would be happy to be complimented, but focusing on the effort she’s made is a good way to go about it!
S: There are no girls who wouldn’t be happy to be complimented. She’ll be glad to be complimented and she’ll immediately feel a bit more positively about you, so it’s good but don’t exaggerate.
Yet another area in which exercising restraint is crucial. Three of the girls talked about the importance of not exaggerating, but everyone agrees that being genuinely complimented is nice. Three of the girls also agreed with G that it’s nice to be specific, and to focus on her personality and the effort she’s made to look nice.
Tip 10: Just be yourself
When asked if he has different ways of approaching different ‘types’ of girls, G replied: “yes, there are different ‘types’ of girls, but everyone is unique. It doesn’t change the way I approach interactions. Changing yourself because you think it will make someone else like you is a recipe for disaster. Be yourself and you will attract people who appreciate the true you.” Looks like this one’s a cliche for a reason; it’s true!
Tip 10: Girls' Responses
K: There are some people who change their clothes and preferences depending on who they’re dating, so I feel it’s OK not to label people too much. The Japanese are generally a race that adapt to other people.
R: There’s no manual on the correct way to approach a girl, so an important attitude to have is to want to build a good relationship by communicating properly with her.
E: People will be attracted to you if you value who you are. You should just be yourself as you are, without trying too hard or trying to be perfect.
Y: I think this is true for both men and women! It’s important to both be who you are and have fun!
S: Yes! Your personality is the most charming thing about you, so surely you’re fine to just present yourself exactly as you are.
Three of the ladies affirmed that the old adage is indeed true. While one woman did mention that Japanese people tend to adapt to whoever they’re dating, the message from everyone overwhelmingly seems to be that there is no need to try to change yourself, and that your personality is your greatest asset.
Dating advice across the world has some common threads, it seems. Be yourself, take an interest in your date, and take care of basic hygiene. In Japan, though, you may face certain additional issues around communication and different expectations in social settings. See this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and get to know people, and you’ll have a lot more fun than if you see it as a hindrance!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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