As I was in Tokyo this past weekend to observe the marathon, I found myself going through the ultimate cliché for a foreigner in Japan: having a drink at the New York Bar on the top floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel and waiting for Scarlett Johansson to look at me longingly.
Despite the appeal due to Lost in Translation, it is a nice classy joint to enjoy a drink, sample some $30 snacks, and stare at the skyline.
On this particular night, however, I was just about to take off; I had ordered a beverage far beyond my years in maturity, and had given the waiter enough to do by practicing his English and refilling the complimentary bowl of assorted nuts three times. With even the lights of Shinjuku beginning to wane from the northern view, and Scarlett nowhere to be seen, it seemed like a good idea to call it a night.
It was at that point that a guy about my age was ushered in and found himself a seat to my left. Wanting to be a good neighbor, I struck up a conversation.
Coincidences of coincidences: he was from Austin. Rather, he split his time between Canada and Austin, but I loved the fact that I actually ran into someone from Texas, in the Tokyo Park Hyatt of all places.
We get to talking about Japan and the quality of life here, and he poses a question that makes me carefully consider the answer: What is dating like in Japan?
Interesting... I try to be fair. It's difficult, I say. And why?
1. Some Japanese girls are unashamedly attracted to foreigners (yes, some are, critics), and to such a strange degree that it makes me feel uncomfortable. After all, from my perspective, they're not interested in me, just my green eyes, tall stature, and light brown hair. Furthermore, how can you form a serious relationship with someone like that, if you know they're just targeting foreigners, without consideration to anything else? They don't even care if you speak Japanese, so long as you're willing to play their games. If you want, I can point you towards two girls like around the clubs in Hiroshima, as well as two in Kagoshima; I'm sure they're still there doing their thing - it's hard to stay unnoticed when you like to hang off the arm of a different gaijin (this time, it's appropriate) every weekend.
2. On the reverse, many normal Japanese girls believe all foreign men are only after sex, and have no intention of ever forming a serious relationship with them, let alone marrying them. There are some that do this (see below, "Charisma Men"), and muddy the waters for all of us seeking something more. Of course, many people are open-minded, but it's one more hurdle to get across.
3. If you're considering dating another foreigner over here, there are any number of things that can happen: many people come over, leaving significant others waiting back home; many only intend to stay a year or two, and don't want to find anyone; many are so overwhelmed with living in Japan and adapting to life here that they simply can't handle a relationship or even dating; after living so long in Japan and slowly meshing with Japanese culture, one finds that your personality may not be the same western one you used to know, may not be one compatible with foreigners anymore (by the same token, being saturated with charisma from the Japanese dating scene).
The main reason I'm not dating any Japanese girl right now is because I know I can't come across as anything other than a charisma man with my broken Japanese sentences and half-hearted attempts at cultured conversation in a foreign tongue. As a result, I'd only feel comfortable seeing someone who could speak fluent English with me, so there wouldn't be any confusion as to each of our intentions and feelings. Naturally, this is only temporary until my JLP rises, but it significantly reduces the eligibility pool. If I wanted to just act like a gaijin, I could head up to Fukuoka, barge into the nearest nomihodai club, drink until someone starts to look attractive, and whisper five words of lighthearted Japanese (do you like Japan? Are you tired? Do you want to dance? Can I buy you a drink?) until her foreigner interest was peaked... shallow foreigner, shallow Japanese. Charisma men and gaijin magnets. Thoughts?
Other websites dealing with dating in Japan
Debito, "Gender Issues"
Sour Grapes (response to Charisma Men)
Japan Probe: Charisma Men?