Here is an interesting perspective on dating from a new-comer to dating, romance and marriage in Japan. What do you think?
The divorce rate in Japan is quite low, I’m told. That tidbit of information conjures up lovely images of fidelity, trust and respect in one of the world’s most revered and common social institutions — marriage.
So upon my arrival in Tokyo a few months ago, I reveled in the idea of finding my soul mate, a man who would be devoted to me and our future family. Being a bit older and with a built-in family of my own, I thought that I might be lucky enough to be “the one” for an available, dedicated, and loyal man. I’m petite, professional, outgoing and American. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?Due to the nature of my career, my workplace is not an appropriate place to meet a potential partner, nor do I really like the bar scene. In America, I had success using the internet, so I went for it — Craigslist Tokyo, Gaijinpot, Flirtbox, etc. The contacts flooded in, and in a few short days, I had a plethora of potential suitors. They were young and old, short and tall, skinny and full-bodied, Japanese and international — a fabulous salve for anyone needing an ego boost. Dozens of emails and phone calls later, I whittled the list down to a handful of gentlemen that I wanted to meet in person.
Date one: Kubo, a sexy Japanese man, raised in Brazil and Australia. We hit it off fabulously — chemistry on all levels. I was looking forward to more, until, on our second date, I also learned about his wife. Yeah, I don’t swing that way. Sayonara, Kubo.
Back to my list. I charged forward with date No. 2. This man was older, established (i.e., has cash), and took charge of planning the entire evening. “OK, this is why I like older men,” I thought as I tried to psych myself up for a night on the town. We planned to meet at Gonpachi after our respective work days.
The table was ready and, while waiting for our wine, the conversation began with several general topics: “What do you do?” “Where do you live?” When I asked, “Do you have any kids?” I was half expecting, “yes,” and I wasn’t wrong. Alarm bells started going off in my head — Japanese men rarely, if ever, get divorced, especially if they have kids.
OK, so his kids are older, I thought. No biggie. Maybe he’s a widower? The wine arrived, and exactly one sip later, I blurted, “So, I have to ask: are you married?” Pregnant pause, sheepish grin, and an honest disclosure, followed by effusive apologies for not telling me sooner.
“I would not have come had I known you were married.,” I fumed. “What in the world are you doing here with me?”
Ticked off that I failed to properly screen again, I took a few more sips of wine to give myself time to think of my escape. Should I be dramatic, throw the wine on him, and stomp out? Quietly put my glass down, excuse myself to the restroom, and never come back? Holler out to everyone else in the restaurant that there was a two-timing jerk sitting across from me?
I decided on none of the above. “You’re paying for dinner,” I said, and proceeded to order the most expensive items on the menu, as well as more wine and dessert. (Hey, I don’t get out much.) I then blessed him with two hours of philosophizing about love, commitment and marriage. Sayonara, Rich Guy.
I went back to my list, but this time with less enthusiasm, and I soon put it aside. Then, a few short weeks later, I met “him.” Intelligent, hot, attentive and, you guessed it, married. It was much harder to say goodbye to this one. We shared so many interests, and there was definitely chemistry. Fortunately, he was supportive of my position and we pledged to remain friends. He still gets to go home to his wife, and I get to peruse my list. I may revisit it again soon.
One of my email dates remarked that it was much easier for foreign men to date in Japan than foreign women. I am inclined to believe this is true. The divorce rate in Japan may be low, but I imagine that’s because the affair rate is so high. Hey, no judgment from me one way or the other. I’m just hoping that I’ll find a wandering eye of my own some day. Perhaps he’s reading now?
Anne Weinberg is on an exchange program studying government affairs in Tokyo.
This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).