Welcome to Tokyo Meet Market

I’ve been in the dating scene for 10 years now. A decade of dating…

When you’ve been doing something for so long, for example, eating pizza for 10 years, then you know what you need to enjoy it to the fullest. For example, for me to enjoy eating pizza, I need a crispy pizza crust specially made in the brick oven. I’ve eaten pizza in many places, authentic Italian pizza that I ate in Rome, big fat cheesey chicago pizza, late-night NYC pizza in the ABC street, Shakey’s all you can eat pizza in Tokyo, pizza in the university cafeteria… but I know that I need certain things to enjoy a slice of pizza: crispy crust, tabasco, cheesy mozerella cheese, glass of Chile red wine or a bottle of heinekken.

Just like that, I have my basic necessities for me to enjoy dating scenes…. and most of them were not found in the Tokyo Meet Market, unfortunately.

1. a great ab

Everyone loves guys with great abs… right? When I was living in the US, my girlfriends and I would sit together in brunch talking about how much we love beautiful toned men’s body – especially the abs.

I used to enjoy having a glimpse of the guys in the gym walking around with their proud 6 packs… Every time I go into Abercrombie store, I would secretly be hoping to catch a glimpse of great abs of the Abercrombie boys… I still watch Usher’s music video to admire his abs… Dancing in a late night under ground club, feeling his solid rock abs against my back was just so yummy!

Well, not here. Japanese men don’t have the urge to tone their body, work out on their abdominal or their arms. It is more preferred to be slim and skinny than to be tough and mascular. You rarely see Japanese men with good body and NEVER with great abs.

(Japanese) men want to be slender, vulnerable and protected. Young males between the ages of 18 and 30 make up the slimmest segment of the population and the ideal fashion weight as decreed by the apparel industry is 57 kilograms, or about 125 pounds, for a height of 175 centimeters, or 5 feet 8 inches. Many men try to adhere to that figure and some claim they want to be even skinnier.” – By Kaori Shoji, International Herald Tribune

Oh How I miss the great abs!

2. Dancing

Dancing has always been an important part of mating in various human societies. Dance is an important  form of nonverbal communication between humans, and is also performed by other animals to build mutual attraction. When 2 people move their body together to the music, it is instantly recognizable if there is mutual attraction or not. And if there is, then dance can build on that attraction and eventually develop strong desire. C’mon, you know what I’m talking about! 

You go to a club on a Saturday night with your friends, you get on the dance floor feeling sexy and beautiful, dancing to the music sipping cosmopolitan, laughing with your friends, then you see him. He sees you. He comes over with a smile and asks you to dance together. You smile at your friends who are encouraging you to go, and you take his hand and dance together. And you move your body together to the beats and he’s looking at you with a smile, and you look up into his eyes and…

Well… there’s none of that in TMM. I mean, there is. But it’s only for “those-clubbing-people” which is just a small percentage of people who repeatedly go to the club every weekend and it’s not part of a normal social culture. Meeting people in club is not a norm, people actually look at you weird when you tell them you met your bf in a club. Dancing culture in Japan is marginal, here is all about sitting in a restaurant together with group of friends-of-friends (gokon) and converse together.

3. Kiss and tell

Once  you are 20-something, have a career and start thinking “may be it’s time to be serious and look for a boyfriend,” and you start hanging out with similar friends who want “serious” then forget about kiss and tell… at least in Tokyo. People get all serious and focused on eachother’s career, salary, and background. They are more attracted to the resume of eachother than the physical attraction itself.

And once your interest is focused on the resume of the guys, there is no more accidental hook-ups or unexpected passionate kiss. I have NEVER EVER EVER heard of anybody ending the night after gokon with a kiss. NO, it does not happen. Ending the night with text message “tonight was fun, I want to take you out for a dinner sometime” is the most dramatic story I have ever heard of.

The closest thing to konkatsu, as the word itself already implies, is job hunting. You do not sexually harass the applicants who want to enter the company, right? When you are just evaluating the candidates based on the resume, you are just looking at the resume. Once you kiss someone or rush into any action, then that means you have made the deal with him. Everyone is so careful of making deals in Tokyo Meet Market — so no kiss and tell.

4. Compliments

Stereotype is right. Japanese people are not expressive. I am always reminded of that every time I go to the movie theater to watch movies and everyone would just silently watch the whole movie without laughing /crapping their hands/cursing/or crying. They would sit quietly without making any sound… whatever Jim Carrey does, no mater what Shrek says to Donkey, and even if Leonardo Dicaprio Romeo dies tragically leaving Juliet desperately alone.

The same goes for Japanese guys who see a amazingly beautiful woman with charm, wit, and humor. They would just stand there in a same way ugly Betty is standing there. They just cannot compliment, but they love compliments. Before he would compliment Angelina Jolie’s beauty, he would expect Angelina to compliment on his… well… his career or academic background or his new Paul Smith PC bag. Then, may be then, he would say “thanks, you are not so bad yourself”

5. Eye contacts

Out of the 5 things I listed, THIS is the thing I missed the most.

How come Japanese people are unaware of The Power of communicating with eye contact. Are they so shy that they cannot look at eachother in the eyes? Do they not know that sharing extended eye contact produces powerful mojo for a couple?

I was once told that it is actual impolite to look at people in the eyes in Japan. If you are talking to your boss, or if you are interviewing for your job and talk to the interviewer, then you should have your eyes focused on the knot of the tie. Do not look into the eyes, it’s rude. So may be that’s why the guys look at everything but my eyes when they are talking to me.

But I still believe, and am sure of it, that eye contact is the most powerful means to communicate affection, not the sms. And it was finally the man with a beautiful pair of dark, wet, passionate sparkly eyes who looked at me and told me that he is so lucky to have found me… (yes… definitely not Japanese)

I knew I could happily leave TMM behind without any regret.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed it: I’ve lost interest in PARTICIPATING in  Tokyo meet market.

It’s been a long time since I last went to a gokon, or engaged in text message flirtation, or try to set it all up to make a Japanese guy ask me out. It just didn’t work out for me.

Personally, I don’t find Tokyo Meet Market stimulating or attractive for my personal romantic interests. I guess I have to admit that I tried but it just wasn’t for me. And it seems to work both ways. The Tokyo Meet Market doesn’t seem to need me as I don’t demand anyone from the TMM.

I’ve asked around for advices and opinion, why it didn’t work for me. Am I not Japanese enough? Is my English-fluency, or my career and background, or the place of residence too intimidating? Do I not fit in the scene? I’ve been told by my female friends that I may come across too tough. Japanese men aren’t impressed by “sexiness,” “attitude,” and “confidence” as the Western men. If and only if I can find a way to hide them away in a little box and focus on being impressed by a guy, instead of impressing them… I will find a Japanese guy wanting to make me their girlfriend. And then they would buy me gifts and take me out on dinners and ask me to cook for them on weekend nights and let me clean their apartment.

… great. sounds fantastic.

Japanese boys… I never really understood them and probably will never understand them. I give up on you guys but will be watching over from a far. I must go on, because there are so much more to explore around the world and I cannot focus on this little island until I unfold the secrets of mysterious Japanese culture.

adieu et bon chance to them.

I will, though, continue to research about the Tokyo Meet Market from secondary resources, as I have been recently updating you guys with social studies, online survey results, and magazine articles. I am still here, close by Tokyo Meet Market and I will keep my eyes and ears open to observe and analyze this unusual people. I think they are still very interesting as sociological perspective. So I hope you keep enjoying my blog posts!

Based on survey conducted for 20,000 Japanese women on Niko-Niko-dohga (smiley movie)…

What are the signs you send to the object of your affection?

  1. Complement him (41.1%)
  2. Ask if he has a girlfriend (28.7%)
  3. Casual physical touch (16.6%)
  4. Eye contact (7.2%)
  5. Insert hearts in text messages (7.2%)

Girls seem to have various strategies for each sign. For example, girls who complement guys have the strategy to make him feel confident and appreciated, and then find common interest so that he has confidence to ask them out. Women who find out that the guys have girlfriend don’t give up on them either. They continue to build strong relationship, based on casual friendship, but when he is tired and shows doubts in his relationship they will sneak into his heart and win him over! whoa! girl power!

I’m surprised eye contact is not among the top 3. For me, it’s definitely eye contact. Make eye contact with the person you are interested in, then look away. But immediately after look back, hold your eye contact, and then smile.  spark!! Whether in a club scene or over a friendly casual dinner parties, I’m sure this will work. Even if he doesn’t come talk to you straight away, he will come talk to you eventually😉

What are the signs you receive from guys who like you?

  1. “I feel comfortable when I’m with you” (52.8%)
  2. “I dreamed about you lastnight” (13.6%)
  3. “You smell good!” (13.0%)
  4. “I bet you get so many guys” (12.7%)
  5. “Have you changed your hairstyle lately?” (7.9%)

Not so surprised here! I don’t see much cultural difference between what the guys say to the girls they like. I think I’ve heard most of the lines up here from guys that I’ve dated from different countries. Not a pickup lines, but more like guys who are trying to start something with girls they already know they like!

Signs you send to let them know you are not interested/it’s over

  1. Do not reply to his text messages (40.5%)
  2. Keep telling him you are busy (36.9%)
  3. Talk about other guys (9.9%)
  4. Cancel on date at the last minute (7.3%)
  5. Look sloppy for dates with him (5.4%)

Other strategies include purposely making him angry to make him hate me and telling him straight up to go back to just being friends. Telling him straight up is very uncommon in Japan though. Japanese people are generally not expressive about emotions, even more so with negative feelings so they would avoid to express negative feelings under any situation. The ever so famous “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m in this stage of life where I have to concentrate on my life” or the break up talk starting with “This is not working… We need to talk” don’t really come up in Japanese love culture.

Rather, “it’s over” is sent through subtle signs in text messages and amount of make up a girl wears for dates… so difficult to read the signs! No wonder everyone is stressed interpreting what he/she means by doing so and so. No wonder they spend hours interpreting eachothers text messages and writing perfected text messages to their loved ones!

Japanese people love to categorize people.

Sado vs. Maso, horoscopes, blood types, Chinese astrology, herbivorous vs. carnivorous, gal-type vs. onee-type (hip or princess), Kikokushijo vs. Jun-Japanese … it’s pretty much because if we don’t categorize ourselves, we are all the same homogeneous Japanese race with same height, same hair color, all from middle classed and mostly with some job and some money.

So we classify people to remember that we are all different. I have been writing about some of the category of Japanese boys, but it seems they just keep coming! So I made a new page to sum up the 8 different types of Japanese boys observed and reported by Momoko Shirakawa in the famous love consulting online-guide on Ozmall. Ozmall is a internet-based magaine targeted 20-30 something business girls.

So check out the 8 types of Japanese boys here! J-boys guide

We never really say I love you.

It’s true. We don’t say I love you to lovers, friends, and even family. I don’t even say it. I say it sometimes to may parents in English, but I never say I love you in Japanese to my parents. Love is not a everyday word in Japanese.

Instead,the closest thing to Love is Daisuki – lots of  likes or I like it a lot. This is the closest to love. This is the most common way to express your love for… cocktails, movies, fashion brand, friends, boyfriends too. While “Aishiteru” the formal way to say I love you is rarely used. I guess it sounds too formal, very serious. It does not appear in every day scenes, only in dramatic occasions… like… moment before an old man is dying, he tells his wife “Aishiteru”, a crying man to his angry girlfriend about to leave him for better life, says “Aishiteru”, a woman who sees her ex-lover from 20 years ago tells him “Aishiteta” (I used to love you)… You see, it’s so formal and so powerful it’s almost saved to be used as a last-resort.

Apparently, this last-resort phrase, “Aishiteru” was voted as the least romantic way to say I love you in the world in a pre-Valentine’s Day survey of language experts…. while “AMOUR”, the French word for love, has been voted the most romantic word followed by “amore”, the Italian word for love, although Italian was named the world’s most romantic language. Italian words also dominated the top places in the list of most romantic words. The survey was conducted by London-based Today Translations which polled over 320 of its linguists.

In the same poll, the firm asked its linguists to pick the least romantic-sounding way to say, “I love you” in any language. The winner was Japan’s “watakushi-wa anata-wo ai shimasu”, ahead of the Welsh “rydw i’n dy garu di” and “qaparha”, which, the firm noted, is Klingon, as spoken in the Star Trek universe. (Reuters)

I don’t know you guys… I’m starting to find Japan to be bit desperate when it comes to romance… I think Japan used to be very romantic when I read Tale of Genji (12th century) or Makurano Soushi (11th century)) or when I see erotic Ukiyoe.  But the contemporary Japanese culture needs a new way to express romantic feeling… well, unless they tell me they’ve got all they need with the smileys and the sms using their cell phones.


I’m proud to be the first on the internet to introduce the  emerging trend of new type of guys, the girly guys. Otomen (オトメン/乙男) is a pun made of the Japanese word otome (乙女), meaning “young lady” or “mistress”, and the English word “men”. Like the Soshokukei Danshi (Grass-eating boys), the description of Otomen is really very close to what you would imagine to be gay. Otomen is type of guys who like cute sweet things traditionally thought to be girls’ taste. Pastel colors, flowers, sweets, chocolates and cakes, teddy bears and bunny rabbits, to cooking, sewing, and all the lovely things. However, they are straight in their sexual preference. Otomen is a straight man with feminine taste and sensitive mind.

Originally, the word Otomen was first popularized by a comic book Otomen. It became such a hit that they even made a TV show on the life of Otomen, Asuka Masamune. Here goes the story: Asuka is a badass. He is a tough, cool, 2nd year high school guy who is also a master at kendo. He exudes an aura of manliness that is difficult to deny. .. at least that’s what everyone thinks.  But for Asuka, life is torture, because he can never show the REAL Asuka to the world. While he is phenomenal at kendo, and looks very cool, Asuka’s manly lifestyle is a lie to hide his real self. He actually prefers much more girly things: knitting, cooking, sewing, staffed animals, shoujo manga (girls romance comic), plushies, cute things – he loves them all. When he was a child, this worried his mother very much, as Asuka’s father abandoned the family after declaring he wanted to be a woman. The shock made his mother so ill that Asuka swore to become a more manly man… or at least act like one. So he falls in love, with his classmate, a manly girl who is tough and strong. The rest is a romantic comedy of the couple struggling to get along with gender roles and expectation and with the approval of their classmates and family. (see more on Otomen official page)

However, the trend of otomen did not stop with comic books and TV drama. Well, it actually started from the real phenomenon of guys who are becoming more and more girly in their tastes, hobbies, and action. And since the word Otomen became popularized by the media, it seems the trend of girly men are spreading out the media into the society.

As women are becoming stronger and tougher, men are going the other way around, becoming weaker and softer. With the emergency of strong women to lead the men, men no longer need to lead the society. They can relax and enjoy their life, decorating their apartment, indulging tasty sweets and herbal tea, reading books and day dreaming. The emergence of Otomen is actually welcomed by most women, according to a study conducted by Ozmall. 75% of respondents approved Otomen and would consider Otomen as their potential life partner, mostly because of their expectation for Otomen to support them with their femine side – to take on the traditional female role of cooking, cleaning, and laundry. And they expect to enjoy spend time together with men who can share feminine taste.

What about you? How do you like see your boyfriend wearing a pink sweet PJ cuddling a fluffy teddy bear?

OZmall, a Web-based magazine for women in the 20’s conducted a survey on Tokyo’s working women on the level of their manliness in love life. “Have you felt your manliness you’re your love life? If so, when and how?” 42% of the respondents answered “Yes” and provided some insights in their growing masculinity in love life.

When do you feel that you are becoming masculinized?

  • “I no longer play hard to get”
  • “I don’t sleep in his arms, he sleeps in my arms
  • “I can’t be bothered to send sms to guys”
  • “I no longer feel shame”
  • “I prioritize work to celebrating our anniversary or birthdays”
  • “He says he’s lonely because I’m too busy
  • “When we got in a fight, I confronted him and he started crying
  • “My bf wanted to have a Romantic Christmas together, so I planned the whole day – the restaurant, romantic bar, present, and romantic suite in hotel. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
  • “I ask the guy for number and plan for next date.”
  • “I ask the guys to come home with me
  • “I get frustrated when he can’t decide what to do on our date so I plan for our date. When we go for drive, I print out the map and driving route. I would even chain the tires”
  • “We started dating because I jumped on him
  • “When I spot a cute guy in town, I go up and talk to him”

What are the strategy to approach… or hunt the guys you like?

  • “I invite him out to something that he’s interested in, be it a movie, auto-show, or museum, and when we are alone, I tell him my worries so he gets the idea that he’s someone special for me”
  • “I know I look pretty and outgoing. So I show him my other side – that I can cook” “it depends, but the final blow is definitely… my body”
  • “I make him think that I can’t do anything without him… but I can
  • “My sms are very sweet and cute, contrary to my cool personality”
  • “Pretend to be naïve and virgin. ‘never had a bf!’ I tell the guys to excite them”

Research summary

40% of respondents reported they feel their manliness in their behavior in love life. Manly women actively approach the men of their interest and make him theirs. The research shows 2 types of manly-woman: 1) she has decision making power in the relationship and plans out what to do on dates and hold him in her arms 2) successful career and busy worklife, she concentrates on her life than love life, leaving him lonely. Either way, they are leading their life and relationship with their manliness but on the other hand, what this trend really shows is how men in Tokyo is becoming weaker. The most common strategy to “hunt him” was 1) find out his interest and ask him out on a date, and 2) sleep with him and make him your bf. At times their aggressiveness may scare the men, but may worths it to masculinize yourself a bit to do well in Konkatsu – Ozmall

Masculinization as an insult

I guess ‘masculinize’ is the word the media likes, but can these women be really described with ‘masculinity’? I wonder, if “masculinization of women” is just a necessary move towards gender equality in Japanese society, for women to have more decision making power, in her life, career, and love. Even though Tokyo is quite modern city, this is a society where the traditions and conservative values still exist. Although women are increasingly becoming independent and successful, there is still social pressure on women to be feminine, ultimately get married and have children. At the moment, we haven’t reached real gender equality, real sense of liberation from traditional gender roles yet. But women are in fact, becoming more and more independent, financially stronger, and successful in career. Hence the criticism of  such power women as “masculinized.” ‘Masculinization’ .,.. such an insult! No women in the world wants to be described ‘masculine’ I think this term is not just a joke, it’s actually a criticism of increasing power and independence of women by the Japanese society, mainly lead by weak timid men.

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Past articles

What is Tokyo Meet Market?

From the Western perspective, what goes on in the Japanese dating scene is really different and interesting! In this shy nation of Japan, meeting new people is almost institutionalized, dating and romance is littered with conventions that protect people from social awkwardness. What are dating conventions and rules in Japan? How do the shy Japanese people meet new people, develop affection, and express their passion? As I research and answer these question, I will write a real time report of what's going on in the Tokyo dating scene, or the "Tokyo Meet Market" here in this blog. I hope you enjoy my blog and a trip around Tokyo Meet Market with me!

Cherie’s tweets

  • is so sad to go to farewell party of her bestfriend leaving to the US. Another beautiful funny successful girl leaving Tokyo!! 6 years ago
  • Ate a bowl of toshomen for lunch, super delicious! Check it out: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g314410/ 6 years ago
  • getting warmer in Tokyo! The spring is just around the corner which means... love in the air! 6 years ago