Dating abroad is pretty different, but one guy thinks he has the ultimate tips to pick up girls in Japan - do others agree?
Who Did We Ask?
Looking for romance abroad is a dream held by many - but sometimes cultural differences and language barriers can get in the way!
So we got some dating tips from a man with years of experience dating Japanese women. Our guru, G (26, Australian), has had a lot of experience dating in Japan, from one-night stands to long-term relationships, and of course even the occasional rejection here and there.
But how effective is his advice? Do other guys in Japan think they work? We also asked a few other young men for their opinions of G’s advice, and got some extra tips along the way!
Our respondents are:
M (25, Japanese)
L (26, Australian)
T (24, Japanese)
R (30s, Brazilian)
S (30s, Japanese)
(The following is based on the opinions of the respondents only)
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 no one “best spot” to head to! So what did our guys have to say about this tip?
Tip 1: Guys' Responses
M: The power of alcohol is pretty important.
L: I agree that having a good Japanese wingman is paramount in the moment and to setting up future opportunities!
T: For people that speak competent Japanese there are many. Otherwise, clubs or [places with lots of foreigners] would be the only areas.
R: Completely agree with this one. Of course, it all comes down to what the guy wants. If it's a one night stand, then clubs are the place to go. Otherwise, meeting a friend of a friend is one of the best options given that there's already some common ground.
S: Girls who go to clubs are basically quite open people, and there are also girls who go specifically looking for foreigners! On the other hand, more demure girls definitely won’t go to clubs.
Sounds like everybody agrees: alcohol and socializing are pretty effective! One opinion that stands out across the board is that shy girls don’t go to clubs, and the girls that do are pretty open and might already be interested in foreign guys. If you’re also an outgoing person, it sounds like it’s time to hit up the clubs! If not, maybe follow the advice to get a Japanese wingman; G, L, and R all seem to approve of this technique.
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!”
Tip 2: Guys' Responses
M: It’s possible she doesn’t know how to say anything other than her name (and she’ll probably force a smile so you might not notice). I think it’s better to use lots of body language.
L: I find that sarcasm landing or not can really depend on the person. Don’t be afraid to give it a try and explain it if it doesn’t seem to be landing.
T: Yes, I believe this strategy to be socially effective in closing the distance with Japanese people.
R: I've never tried approaching someone in English (or any other language), but I do believe making fun of yourself (within limits) can be a good thing. It's a mixture of a joke and a sign of confidence at the same time.
S: I think this is a good idea! Even Japanese people who are bad at English can answer “what’s your name?” If she’s not good at English then she might get nervous about what you’re going to say next, so it would be better if you then spoke in Japanese to her (even if it’s not perfect).
Overall the lads seem to think this is a good strategy, but as M and S both said, there’s a pretty good chance she might not understand much more! Try to speak at least a little Japanese to her, and she’ll probably appreciate it even if you’re not totally fluent! The jury is out on jokes and sarcasm, so maybe dip your toe into the waters of humor and see how things progress from there.
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: Guys' Responses
M: Isn’t hygiene the most important thing? Even if you’re cool, wearing worn-out clothes is gross.
L: Couldn’t agree more! Being clean-shaven can also make a big difference.
T: I would say generally less exposure, less obvious attempts to show off physique are better for Japanese people.
R: Couldn't agree more. Also, as a perfume lover, I appreciate people who smell nice even more. Up your scent game.
S: I think this is a really good point! One thing to be careful of: Japanese people’s opinions on excess body hair are very divided! Also, short sleeves and shorts are often thought of as tacky.
Most of the guys agree you should wear what you like, which keeps things simple; no massive wardrobe overhauls needed! However, keeping it modest, considering having a shave, and making sure you smell your best are also great tips! Japanese people do tend to be on the conservative side and clean-shaven, as T, S, and L suggested. Clean-cut guys may have a bit of an advantage here.
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: Guys' Responses
M: I think that high fives are more effective than handshakes. You can’t shake hands more than once, but you can high five multiple times and get more and more excited.
In a group, while mingling with everyone, get closer to her by private messaging her on Line or something.
L: I hadn’t thought of opening with a hand shake before! I agree that in Japan, slow and steady seems to be the best game plan.
T: Very likely to make Japanese people uncomfortable, not just the person you're touching but everyone around. Plus it's like screaming you’re a foreigner, which again girls looking for that might like that but is otherwise a bit off.
R: I do believe it's nice to maintain my identity and do something the Japanese don't normally do, like touching someone's shoulder or arm during conversation (nothing invasive, of course). As for actual PDA, Japanese girls are extremely reluctant to do anything in public; they just can't relax knowing that there are loads of judging eyes.
S: This is also true! A lot of Japanese people hate kissing in public. However, Japanese people who go to clubs are different, lol.
It’s a tough one, but you’re going to have to read the room and go with your gut on this one. Japanese people aren’t very physically affectionate in public in general, so you’ll want to avoid making everyone (from the girl you’re talking to to the people around you) uncomfortable. The Japanese guys have all emphasized that she’s not likely to enjoy physical touch, but R also said that he basically doesn’t want to conform completely to Japanese standards. Handshakes and high fives might be acceptable ways to get closer, but of course, don’t push it if she doesn’t seem into it. Maybe start by chatting on a messenger as M suggested.
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: Guys' Responses
M: Warning: confidence and arrogance are different. Being confident is fine, but if you’re bragging endlessly it’ll be unpleasant.
L: A little liquid confidence can help to make first meetings much easier to navigate due to the loosened nerves!
T: A little confident (seemingly) but responsive is a good line?
R: In my opinion, confidence is essential. Not to the point it turns into hubris, but in the sense that you believe in yourself and your abilities. People don't particularly find self-commiseration or low self-esteem attractive.
S: If you push a girl who’s also not much of a drinker to drink, she might worry you’re going to get her drunk and take her home. At first, it’s a good idea to get her social media or email so you can get her to relax and talk without having to make direct eye contact.
So confidence is great, but G, M, T, and R all make a point of warning against being overly arrogant. Don’t doubt yourself, but also don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re the most interesting person in the room! As for alcohol, S, L, and G also emphasize moderation and caution; don’t scare her off by trying to get her drunk! It’s understandable she’d be more than a little uncomfortable.
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: Guys' Responses
M: I’ll pay in the end, but there’s something I pay attention to: whether she takes out her wallet or not. Girls who take it as a given that their meal will be paid for are awful (and used to it), and even if they’re cute, you should abandon ship. Ideally, she’ll take out her wallet and then you can make a deal for her to buy you a drink at a cheaper place. That way you’re making sure there is a ‘next time.’
L: While in most cases paying for the meal on a first date is best, some girls prefer not to, so be careful!
T: Always good to be on the safe side regardless of country/culture.
R: I will happily pay for the meal/drinks, but I totally disagree with the expectation that men should pay for everything. If she's a working person just like me, she can pay as well. Sure, it may have been so in the past, but I don't believe it should apply now.
S: This is also correct. Most people who choose foreign men as their partners do so because he’ll escort her and treat her like a princess! Japanese men are bad at this. A lot of people think it’s natural for a foreign man to pay the bill.
Sorry guys, sounds like the general consensus is: pay up. Maybe not in every case, but it is the norm in Japan and some girls will expect it. However, M has provided an interesting litmus test for the kind of girl she might be! As L also suggested, some girls actually prefer to go dutch, so be receptive to what she’s saying as well. Offer, but don’t force it!
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: Guys' Responses
M: I think if your language skills aren’t quite up to par there will definitely be misunderstandings as a result. First, if you don’t get it into your head that your cultures are also different, things will be surprisingly tough. If you’re ok on that front then everything else will basically be fine. Either one or both of you have to make an effort with the language.
L: Regardless of linguistic ability, I’ve found that clear and effective communication between both parties to be the key to a healthy relationship.
T: I do think that for a long term relationship a certain competency is required, but that seems pretty obvious.
R: If it's just a fling, then language barriers shouldn't be that much of a problem. However, if the aim is to have a more serious relationship, then they both must speak a common language up to a certain level. On the other hand, I find the language and cultural exchange of international relationships fascinating.
S: Japanese girls are maternal, so they’ll want to teach you Japanese and help you grow.
When you get into a heated fight, if you get too emotional she might get scared, so be careful.
Conveying the feeling that you love her is more important than any words.
So language is an issue, but it’s not the main concern. Making an effort to communicate clearly should be a goal in any relationship, but between the linguistic and cultural differences, it’s going to be even more crucial here. Three of the guys (including G himself) recommend taking the chance to do a language exchange with her, and to enjoy the process of learning each other’s mother tongue. Of course, as R mentioned, none of this will be a problem if it’s just a quick fling!
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.
Tip 8: Guys' Responses
M: I basically agree. The majority of girls will withdraw if you make dirty jokes from the very start. There are also girls who are cool with it, though.
L: Hobbies, interests and cultural exchange are all solid bets for conversation, but remember that silence doesn’t have to be awkward - let the conversation be natural.
T: Of course what you talk about will depend on the individuals involved. It's probably more important to stay away from some subjects and keep in mind that the things you think are "right" aren't always shared.
R: I do ask the typical questions to have a starting point, but I also do the opposite of what G says. I tend to ask questions and talk about things that people normally avoid, be it religion, sex, philosophy, etc. And many Japanese girls that I met were actually curious about many topics. I suppose it's something they're afraid of talking about or don't have the chance to do very often.
S: Japanese girls are generally chatty, and want to be listened to. When a girl is talking to a foreigner, she also wants them to talk about themselves. It’s also good to talk about their dreams for the future.
Everybody seems to be in agreement that it’s good to start light, but a lot of our respondents also want to keep things natural. Don’t force a light, uncontroversial conversation if it’s not right for you. M and R both let us know that some girls are totally fine with more difficult or crude topics. But as G and S said, make sure to also listen to her! Don’t just talk about yourself or about general topics.
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: Guys' Responses
M: Compliments are important, but some people will hate having part of their body (like their legs, for example) complimented. So it’s probably better to compliment her actions. For example: “I like your laugh”, etc.
L: Commenting on outfits is a safe bet, and be sure to keep an eye out for subtle changes like new hair cuts!
T: I do think this is easier for foreigners in some sense since it wont sound so trite and overdone.
R: Compliments lose their meaning if done in excess, they just sound like pure cajolement. But I do agree with his point about complimenting the effort. I also like to say that the date itself was very fun or that her company is very pleasant (if it's true, of course).
S: Yeah, I think it’s fine as long as you don’t say anything suggestive.
Everybody loves compliments, of course. Keep it clean and focused on her actions rather than her body, and you’ve got a winning formula. R and T also said to not overdo it, which ties in with what G said; don’t lie! But if you want to say something nice and you really mean it, fire away.
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!
M: Yes. I totally agree.
L: Being cliche isn’t always a bad thing - changing yourself may work in the short term but it can and will implode eventually!
T: True, but don't be too gross.
R: Absolutely agree with this one as well. If a girl is trying really hard to be someone else or behaving in a manner just to please me, then I'm automatically put off. Be yourself, have opinions, have beliefs, tell me what you like and dislike. This also makes for a much more fun conversation/date.
S: Yeah, in large part because they like you precisely because you are different from other people! However, hot-tempered people are generally disliked.
While a couple of the men warned against being hot-tempered or gross, everybody agrees. Pretending to be someone you’re not is a recipe for disaster, and you should be looking for someone who likes you for you. It’s good to be sensitive to and respectful of cultural differences, but make sure you’re not totally changing your personality!
Dating advice the world over 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!
Ultimately, the main thing is to balance cultural sensitivity and being yourself. Be clean, but don’t change your entire look; keep conversation light at first, but don’t be afraid to branch out; make her feel good, but don’t force it; and be confident, but don’t steal the show!
But, all this means nothing if it doesn't work on girls right? So what did our Japanese respondents have to say... read below to find out!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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