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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please advise me. Since moving to Japan three years ago, I didn’t have as much of a cultural shock as everyone said I would. I felt like I fit into the rhythm of things here quickly. That was, until I tried dating. I soon discovered that many men here have a very different idea of “loyalty” than what I was used to. I’ve now heard too many people say: “it’s just physical, so it’s not cheating.” What’s worse (if that’s possible) is women allowing it because “men have needs like that.” I was fundamentally shaken. My home country doesn’t even have a red-light district (that I’ve heard of) but the ones here are absolutely enormous!
As for my personal experience, my ex cheated on me without so much as a sorry. Whether it was some services, an acquaintance or go-kon [groups dates], I don’t know, but he completely hid the fact that he actually didn’t think of those things as cheating and had blithely admitted it at some point, actually hoping I would consent. I felt like I had been naive, trusting and stupid. I then started to ask friends, and checked online and realized just how unfamiliar for me it gets here. From sketchy “massage” parlors, fuzoku [sex trade], to papakatsu [sugar daddies] and all kinds of perverted, either legal and illegal services, and how a huge portion of men take part in it. And how a surprising number of women allow it (even when most of them still dislike it). Not to mention I got groped on the train twice as well. Something I never had to deal with.
Did you know the age of consent in Japan is 13 for females? That’s the third-lowest in the world. And if a man over 20 slept with a 14-year-old it would just be a misdemeanor. What’s with that?! I’m not against people doing what they like, if they’re two consenting adults, but it feels like there are often darker things going on here. I read that an estimated 50% of females have been molested on trains and 95% of crimes go unreported. Not to drag all that into this but, when I started going down the rabbit hole, things just got stranger and stranger.
Obviously, it’s now extremely hard for me to trust anyone, although I logically know there must be good men out there. I just feel completely shaken to the core by all this all at once. How do I find a guy that doesn’t lie, and actually really won’t go there? Let alone, a few years down the line of marriage (where everyone tends to drift apart a bit, get older and look less attractive to their spouse etc). How do any men here stay loyal? Family life isn’t even emphasized here… And apparently, older men sometimes prefer to talk out their worries at one of the numerous snack bars instead of their wives. Help.
I thought about shortening your message, but you made a lot of valid and important points that people should take into consideration before dating in general—let alone dating in Japan.
The statistics and industries you mentioned exist all over the globe; they aren’t uniquely Japanese whatsoever. While I don’t know where you’re from originally, I can almost guarantee you that there are red-light districts of some kind there, to say nothing of sex workers. The sex industry itself is a subject fraught with debate and discrimination the world over, which makes it even more difficult to speak of in regards to a different culture.
Aside from your ex’s possible use of said services, his admission and potential hope for your consent on the matter is what I want to focus on. I’m not sure how long you two were dating, but I assume that you considered it a serious, committed relationship. Unfortunately, either he didn’t feel the same way or he did but assumed you wouldn’t have the nerve to call him on his behavior. I’m glad that you did though. You shouldn’t be with someone that treats you like that.
I previously wrote an article on adultery and how it may be changing. Off the top of my head, I can think of five previous Ask Hilary articles that dealt with cheating by either the Japanese or foreign partner.
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