Letters from Japan: ‘Communication issues’


Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Send it to

Hey Hilary,

I’m American and dating a Japanese guy—we both live and work in the same industry in Europe. We’ve been dating for three months and I think I’m the first non-Japanese person he’s ever dated. I’ve dated Asian American guys before without trouble, but I’m really having communication problems with him.

We met online and chatted fine, obviously started casually dating in person and things are going really well. He’s a total sweetheart when we’re out together, we have similar hobbies and interests, do activities together and we can talk for hours in person.

We had no problem talking on the app, although we only talked on it for three days before meeting up. Like I said we talk for hours in person but he’s horrible when it comes to texting. He leaves me on read constantly, forgets to reply and doesn’t check in on me like other guys I’ve dated. We both work stressful jobs and he apologizes when I ask why he didn’t text back but it’s kind of annoying.

How am I supposed to handle his texting problem? Is it just a Japanese thing? 

—Text Checking

Dear Text Checking,

It sounds like you lead a pretty fascinating life, which is awesome!

It’s great that he apologizes for not texting you back but I can understand the frustration that can cause. This is a fairly new relationship, you and he are likely still figuring things out in terms of it being casual or serious, so there are bound to be some bumpy patches as you two get to know one another.

Communication issues are a common complaint from women when it comes to men overall, but the number of non-Japanese women who have this problem with their Japanese partners seems disproportionately high. Just doing a quick poll of acquaintances, I counted 20 couples that consider this an issue.

There are three typical reasons for this that have applied to numerous couples including the 20 mentioned above.

The first is simple: he really is that busy and struggles to text or use his phone when he’s not working. It happens. Perhaps you’ve been guilty of the same before. Some people consider their phone an extension of their work and avoid looking at it when they’re finally free for the night or weekend. Others might read a text, get distracted/busy and forget if they’ve replied or not. How long is the average time you have to wait for a reply from him?

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© Savvy Tokyo

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Tell him how you feel and try to meet in the middle.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

She sounds pretty needy, just give him a call or give him a break!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is a big problem, communication with Japanese. There is a culture in Japan of "reading the air"... This drives all non Japanese crazy as we have to develop a sixth sense or something like telepathy to read minds, a guessing game. What Budha wanted to say when stayed in silence? It's crazy, it is a big issue that demands to clearly say that you are not Japanese and so you have no superpowers to read minds.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Perhaps he prefers fax?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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