There are three extremely important attributes of Japanese culture that everyone should be aware of before getting into a romantic relationship:
- It is extremely important for a Japanese girl to be able to claim that she has a boyfriend. Otherwise, she might end up having a low self-esteem and her friends would think of her as not attractive enough.
- In certain groups of women, it is even fashionable to have a gaijin boyfriend. Thus, Japanese girls will sometimes have relationships with no emotional attachment at all. If they need to be physically intimate to maintain it, they will do that too, without necessarily feeling any love for the man.
- Finally, Japanese people try to cause minimum embarrassment to others and saving face is extremely important. Thus, when the time has come for them to move on, they literally "move on". Going through an emotional drama of crying/hugging/kissing/shouting or a mix of all of these at the time of a breakup, as you might see in a movie, does not happen with Japanese women most of the time.
Wong, a Singaporean currently studying in Australia, had a similar experience with a Japanese girlfriend, Natsuko. He met her at his college and as they started having lunch together, they almost fell in love with each other. He writes, "I never admitted to her but I think I slowly got some feelings for her. I have had several broken relationships that did not work for one reason or other and that is why I was simply not ready to commit to another girl".
While Wong was still struggling with his feelings, Natsuko showed up one day and told him, "I will be going home to Japan now. Thank you for the time we spent together. If you want me to stay I will, but if you don't tell me I will not know." Since Wong was too confused to say anything and wanted some more time, he could not make himself say anything but realized later on that she had this conversation with him minutes before leaving. Before Wong could get back to her, she was gone, with no contact information. As nice as Japanese people are, Natsuko did leave a jar of handmade stars for Wong as a gift. Wong writes, "It was really sad that even before I could decide to keep her here in Australia, she went back to Japan. I was very sad and I am still sad and lonely without her. As I was the only person in the college who was closest to her, I couldn't get her contact details from anyone. The only thing that remind me of her are the stars . Pictures of her were not taken, as we didn't go anywhere special that needed a camera. But one thing is for sure. The stars are there for me to remember her. And I also gave her a necklace. I know that necklace would help her remember me too." Wong is still interested in meeting Natsuko and he informs us that "If one day she sees this article she may find a way to contact me or I could contact her again."
Another MYNIPPON member Joe fell in love with a Japanese girl Etsuko who actually was ready to marry him. During the course of their romance, she got an opportunity to attend coaching classes at a school in Tokyo so that she could try to enter Tokyo University. Joe encouraged her to move to Tokyo despite the fact that they would not be able to see each other often since he himself was planning to move there in an year and he wanted her to succeed in her career. Once she moved to Tokyo, she called him once and even came to see him once. She promised to call him back as soon as she got her phone hooked up. He informs us, "I never heard from her again. I did have her number at her parent's home but I did not think it was appropriate for me to call them and ask for her number. If she did not want to call me, I could not impose myself on her. After 12 years, I still do not know what went wrong. I wish she had just told me something or given me a chance to make amends."
Japanese people seem determined to keep the gaijins out of their lives. The word means 'the outside people' and at every point, the Japanese will make it harder for the foreigners to integrate into the Japanese mainstream life. In Japan, almost all the important things are never said. It is not just the language (which lets readers and listeners draw as many conclusions as they want), it is the whole Japanese psyche that revels in ambiguity. The foreigners constantly stumble in Japan because they are so used to clear thoughts and words and what is not said is not heard.
Warren from Canada had an awful experience dating a Japanese woman there who lied to him about her problems and did not disclose that she was married and had a kid. He writes his sob story to us, "I should have learned more about Japanese culture before I got involved with her but now I know. Gaijins who want to get involved with a Japanese girl, should be really careful and learn more about the culture before getting involved with one. I still like Japanese women and if I meet a good one then I will be really careful and ask such information right in the beginning. Anyway be careful, they can be heartless!" Is there no hope?
We always recommend that foreigners should treat their romance with Japan as an adventure and everyone's experience may be different. Of course, a better understanding of culture and language is always helpful and can definitely make one's life easier than someone who is not culturally sensitive and wants the Japanese to change instead. Incidentally, there is a group of women that likes foreign men and if one speaks the Japanese language then that group is even wider. There are also a lot of decent Japanese people who are trying to better understand the foreigners. Thus one might feel lonely once in a while especially in a remote area but overall most foreigners in Japan will have a very rich experience enjoying this novel culture in a safe society.
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