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Dating culture in Japan through anime and manga

When you’re single and living in a country with a declining birth rate, which is true of Japan, there can be tons of pressure to find a spouse. Even if you don’t practice a religion, you still take the beliefs of your parents, grandparents, and closest friends to heart. You want to fit into your culture, but you should always stay true to your personal goals.

Understanding Japanese culture

Japan has a very formal society where social relationships and proper rituals are important. For example, having good manners and treating one’s elders with great respect is paramount. However, Japan’s population is aging, and its workforce is declining. Japan has an average rate of marriage of 30 years old, and a large percent of the single population consists of adults who will never marry because they simply do not have the time (because of endless work) nor the will of contacting another human being with such “rude” matters. While modern platforms like Iwantdating use matchmaking algorithms are trying to change these population trends and decline in simple interpersonal communication leading to them, it remains a reality that Japanese young adults are more likely to play dating sims in their free time instead of going on real-life dates.

Dating in Japan is serious: first dates take place in a group meeting - goukon

For a successful goukon, imagine that the number of men and women (i.e., for heterosexual dating) need to be equal. In the US, when attending a group blind date, you meet other people of the opposite gender, as organizers are creating an event for you to meet and match, either with some monetary compensation in mind or simply because of goodwill. Goukon is a bit different, and a lot of animes visualize this custom (and make fun of it). It is a formal tradition, a group date organized by a man and a woman (although gay and lesbian singles too meet according to that custom) who want to see if they are compatible, but they invite their friends to a group date to not be left alone and see how their conversation works out. The potential couple and their friends will have a chance to build a conversation in a relaxed setting and see if they gravitate towards one another. If not – their friends can always provide them with a way out.

Professional matchmaking returns

Another option for Japanese singles is to hire a professional matchmaker. This person or service accepts applications from single adults, many of whom are in their twenties to forties and have an established career and independent lifestyle. These matchmakers have their own methodology for finding people who have similar hobbies, values, and lifestyles. Then, you are set up on a first date with each match. While you must pay for their service, yet the highly tailored matches can lead to success! This profession remained mostly due to the Japanese valuing their tradition; guys and gals with a bit more modern mindset prefer the way to meet their match through the way we’ll describe in our next point: online.

Online dating has become more popular due to the pandemic

Since the COVID is hitting Japan hard and meeting your matchmaker is out of the option, more and more people adopt this approach. Online dating can be the key to bringing Japanese adults together despite recent social distancing trends. Due to recent events, the idea of meeting online with the help of the similar algorithms pro-matchmakers use to find a match for a single interested in relationships is more mainstream these days, even in Japan. There’s no time to feel embarrassed about how you meet your next loving partner, especially using a dating app in your free time. Instead, go with the flow and enjoy any romance that ensues that fits your needs.


Public screenings, casual acquaintances are more common in the USA, but not in Japan

In the US, you have lots of options to meet a partner. Go to the movies and talk with the girl who seems excited about the film afterward, meet in the club or in a bar for a great night, but Japanese relationships are much more complex. It’s still an innocent dance of feelings without definitive “yes” or “no.” For example, to gain an insight into the mind of Japanese youth, you can look to anime and manga popular in Japan that represent the so-called “slice of life,” which is a genre in itself. What can we learn from them? That the intimate encounter often comes at a much later stage of the relationship than in any of the western countries, that to start a relationship, a formal confession is required (from one or both participants, as Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai brilliantly shows) and that man and a woman staying alone can be seen as a lewd act by others, not to mention touching or flirting. And when courting is that complex, for many Japanese focusing on the job or hobbies seems like a much safer move to live life compared to finding a partner.

Since this society is not as open as the US, and people are mostly reserved, changes come slowly to it and to them. They value their relationships and social norms. If you don’t follow dating customs, you could miss out on dating a great person. And while casual dating is still frowned upon in Japanese culture, you can always use dating apps responsibly to find authentic romantic connections and attract attention from someone who shares your hobbies, like an anime lover. This is a great way to build a connection and pursue romance without unnerving physical contact, making later dates feel like finally meeting an old friend. Online matchmaking may bring the paradigm shift to the Japanese view on relationships, as it already has in the Western World. Even the Japanese government already develops dating apps to bring single adults together to combat loneliness, so the future of online matchmaking in Japan looks bright.

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