Letters from Japan: ‘Dating an expat In Japan’


Excerpt: 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

Hi Hilary,

I’ll just start out by saying that I’ve had nothing but horrible experiences dating in Japan for many reasons. I’ve continued to keep an open mind and have dated many Japanese men, but I’ve finally come to accept that the cultural differences are just far too different for me, especially when it comes to expectations in relationships here. 

That being said, I find it even harder to date foreign men here because it seems they are only interested in dating Japanese women—at least from my own personal experience. At this point, I’m wondering if there are any social/dating groups, websites, or meetups for foreign men/women specifically looking to date other foreigners? 

I’ve thought about asking this within the expat forums on social media, but it feels really weird to put myself out there regarding such a sensitive and personal topic. I want to be culturally sensitive and make it known that I’ve genuinely tried, but realize there are just too many differences I’m comfortable with. Of course, these same feelings and issues can happen just as well by dating someone from your own country, but I’d be really excited to find someone who has the same understanding of where I come from. 

Keen to know your thoughts on this topic and any advice you might have regarding it. I really would love to find any groups that are geared towards ex-pats finding relationships within the ex-pat community itself. 

Sincerely, Affection Starved Westerner

Dear Affection Starved Westerner,

Cultural differences and expectations in a relationship can lead to dissatisfaction, can’t they? As you said, you’ve tried to keep an open mind and not had any luck, so you’re wanting to date someone closer to your own culture now is understandable. Everyone has different relationship requirements.

Usually I would have plenty of links to groups, events or even speed dating parties for ex-pats to share with you, but unfortunately for yourself and countless others looking for love, we’re still in the throes of a pandemic.

Most of the tried and true means for meeting people have been closed or under restrictions until very recently, and (at the time of writing) several groups for hobbies and activities in Japan are on hiatus or have had their websites and public profiles inactive for years now.

There’s also the added issue of fewer people coming to Japan for work and international tourists being banned outright at present. While restrictions on bars et cetera have been lifted, they could come back depending on the infection rates, so there are fewer events and activities being planned for the coming months overall as well.

The dating pool can seem more like a wading pool given the circumstances, but there are more options than you might think.

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Making the immediate conclusion that expats only want to date Japanese girls because they don't want to date the writer is too presumptuous. Sure, on one side it would be understandable that foreigners want to date someone that is well adapted to the culture and environment of the country and a native is the obvious choice, but it can also be that the writer is just not that good a catch so guys are just dating elsewhere, and being in Japan this means Japanese girls are by much the most numerous nationality from where to choose.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Yes Phil I agree on the numerous part. I used to often get asked by ojisans in bars and izakayas if I like Japanese girls. I would answer that I like all girls, nationality doesn't matter to me but in Japan there are mostly Japanese girls!

Then I became a married gaijin ojisan myself, so I guess I need to start asking the young guys!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Real honest relationship takes time to develop, & can be a long time. Dating is for good time/sex possibly potential for long term relation, & starts with appearance, status, and conduct.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I really would love to find any groups that are geared towards ex-pats finding relationships within the ex-pat community itself. 

Good luck! I suppose it is possible maybe perhaps. Need to understand in the first place why she can't get along with Japanese men.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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