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Archive for March 2009

The spring has arrived! Flowers are blooming with vitality, colour and fragrances, the children are running around, laughing in the parks, birds are singing, and the cats are in heat, calling loudly as they mate. (I’m not kidding, I woke up to the cats this morning LoL) But of all the spring signals we see in Tokyo, the most famous is the beautiful cherry blossom.

Cherry blossom season coincides with the start of Japanese schools and business year, making the flowers a symbol of a fresh new start, it also symbolizes friendship. New start, friendship, warm weather, park… they all point to hanami party, a picnic party under the blooming trees. Hanami, which literally means flower-viewing , is a Japanese symbolic custom in spring. This custom of hanami has its root in the Nara Period for the aristocracy to hold events of enjoying the beauty of flowers. It is a way to appreciate the cherry trees which have opened, to celebrate the fresh start in spring.  In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night, another reason to party, to drink, and meet new people.

Hanami is a serious business in Japan, providing important social opportunities. Friends and co-workers gather in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. Love fever is contagious around spring and magical love can materialize out of thin air. Hanami, is such an occasion to take the Meet Market out of the restaurants out into the outdoors.

As for me, I’m planning on a hanami parties with my close friends 🙂 Hope you are enjoying the spring time too!

I'm not kidding... it gets REALLY crowded for hanami parties

I'm not kidding... it gets REALLY crowded for hanami parties

Romance meter: 21%
Conclusion: We are too old for this LoL Guys, you might be able to entertain college girls with “low quality frat party” stuff, but not us… Or did we just go to a wrong party? hmm… May be so. The real learning was “don’t expect too much from a party organized by 40 single guys living in a single male dorm. Whether they are teenagers or in their late 20’s they all want the same things”

Genre: Saturday night dinner + drink party
Show time: March 14th
Running time: 180 min
MPAA rating: PG-13 (because of the comments made on the earlobes)

Guys team: 40 guys who all work for the same company and live in the same place in a dorm
Girls team: Four 20-something working women (me and my friends) and 40 college senior girls LoL

Synopsis:

My friend got invited to this Saturday night White Day party by a guy she met in a gokon. She extended the invitation to her friends, and we all got excited because it is a large party organized by bunch of men who all work for famous Japanese company and live in single male dormitory, no better place to meet potential bachelors!

It was 4 hrs before the party started when we were all told about the dress code for the party. “Girls, please wear a dress,” which raised suspicion in all of us attending the party. Who are they to tell us what to wear? We were gonna wear a dress anyway, but being told to wear a dress is another thing all together…. but we all put on our dress, wondering how good the party must be with the dress code and all.

After few drinks in a pub nearby, the four ladies arrive at the party with bit of excitement. We paid the $40 entrance fee which includes the drinks and the food, and the entrance to a party full of potential bachelors. Let the party begin! We were first introduced to the young newbies in the company and yes, they were very young. They shyly introduced themselves to us with their senior members teasing them. But then, we looked around and we realized most of the women are even more young looking than these boys were. In fact, most of the female participants were college students.

That is when the party officially began with the announcement by two guys to gather around and pay attention. The men made a small speach and we gave a toast to “this fabulous evening lots of new opportunities to meet new people” and then the guys started their short comedy sketch. It lasted about 10 min with the private jokes and some nuditiy, well, to be specific, the two guys stripped off their shirts to show some painting on thier nipples. I forgot what the storyline was but I remember I wasn’t laughing.

30 min into the party, we were told to split into the assigned groups of 5-6 people a table. But the assignment was poorly done in terms of the balance in the number of female and male in each team. My table only had 1 male and 5 females. Then the game of “earlobe touching competition” started.

The earlobe touching competition

  1. The women feel the earlobe of each man in the same group
  2. The women vote on the man with “the best earlobe” from each group
  3. One woman who can identify the earlobe of the chosen man is selected
  4. The couple, the man with the “best earlobe” and the woman who can identify it, enters the competition
  5. The men from all the teams line up in random order
  6. The women from all the teams are blindfolded (with red silk)
  7. The blindfolded women touch the earlobes and identify the earlobe which belongs to her team mate
  8. After the feeling session, the women are told to comment on each earlobe and makes the guess
  9. The woman who guessed right is the winner
  10. And it is repeated for the second round …

Fortunately, since my team consisted of only 1 male, I could even escape from the first task to touch the earlobe. Pfew, thank God! So I became a quiet observer, with lots of free drinks and pretty good food. People were busy with the earlobes so there were plenty of food and drinks for me, with some decent mature men to talk to 🙂

The game went on and on and on for almost 2 hrs and when the game was finally finished, it was time to vacate the restaurant. And since it was a White day (reversed valentine day on which boys give girls present), the girls were given cookies and chocolates from the boys and also received discount entrance fee to the after party.  The college girls gladly follow the boys, and us ladies went the different way, got on a taxi and went to a bar where there are real men who don’t force us to touch their ear lobes.

Review:

1) about the college girls

I knew that college girls, when they start thinking about job hunting, start to wonder if they should work or get married. (yes, I’m serious) “are you going to look for a job or are you going to accept the offer from your bf?” they ask eachother. In fact, I have even heard a very romantic proposal phrase “would you accept a job offer to work for me?” apparently, some rich college kid asked his college girlfriend during the time of job-hunting. Anyway, my point is, even before they graduate college, some girls already start looking for potential bachelors who will hire them (as wife) so they can spend their free time without worrying about work or money after college. Unfortunately, this was such a party, a marriage hunting party for the college girls. And they are more than willing to touch the men’s earlobes and make some pink comments on them to give them bit of pleasure, in exchange for stable peaceful life with hard working husband. and for the men? well of course, don’t men always love the younger helpless innocent girls?

2) about the party game

Whether it’s Gokon games or party games, they are all about getting to know eachother, encouraging mingling and some physical touch… but this one was all-so-ovbiously-sexual, especially the red silk eye mask and the comments gilrs make on the earlobes… that it was a turn off for the normal people who grew out of college spirits, even the college girls. And the fact it went on and on for such a long time, almost like we payed $40 so we can touch the ears

Result:

exhaustion. I was already becoming tired of TMM but this party really exhausted me. And I smoked so much during this party that I actually decided to go on cold turkey, which is good. Aha! There are always goods that come out of bads.

6471c-ear-lobe

The ultimate objective of the gokon, is to exchange the phone numbers so you can keep in touch with the person of your interest after the gokon. No matter what expectations the participants came here with, the ultimate objective, at least for the night is to exchange the phone number. If you go home with the phone number, then you have succeeded the mission for the night of gokon. What happens after with the phone number, however, varies depending on each individual cases and actions.

I have seen different cases on the phone number exchange.

  1. Complete failutre: Nobody exchanges phone numbers
  2. Cell phone orgy: At the end of the gokon,  the organizer urges that everybody exchange phone number
  3. Folllow up contact list: After the gokon is finished, the organizers send list of the name and phone number of the participants
  4. Business business: the participants exchange business cards, with phone number and e-mail address from work
  5. Just for you and me: The couple who hit it off well exchange their phone numbers privately

and which one of the above cases has more success rate? The books say, obviously, #5 where the guy asks a girl privately for her phone number. (note: not the other way around) So what are the techniques to make this happen? Here are the techniques found on the gokon guides on the internet.

Best timing for phone number exchange:

1. during private talk
2. outside of the restaurant, during the good bye time

Advice for men:
How to smoothly ask for her number?

In in order to ask for her number smoothly and successfully, one must clarify the purpose of obtaining the phone number (i.e., I like her and I want to take her out for dinner) and communicate the purpose to her. “Can I get your phone number?” has less success of getting her number than “There is really good thai restaurant that I think you would enjoy. Can I take you out sometime?” However, this might intimidate the girl because “taking you out on a date” might be too much for her at this time. So the safest would be to propose a get together with couple of people, perhaps the same participants of the gokon or other friends. “Let’s all go out again” to “give me your contact address so we can organize another gathering” is your safest bet, at least for the moment. Then you can actually ask her on a date after the gokon. In order for the men to successfuly get women’s contact address, identify and communicate the reason for asking for the phone number, as easy as that.

Advice for women:
How are women supposed to make the men initiate phone number exchange?

Now, this gets more complicated, as you can imagine. In most cases, it is much easier for women to ask a man’s phone number, but that would come out as pretty agressive movement. In addition, women generally has only one shot to ask for the phone number from one man in a gokon. If she asks multiple men’s phone number, she will come off as desperate. In most cases, it is better off to only give out the phone number when men ask for it. And there are some technique women use to make the men ask for their phone number.

The most commonly advised technique is to show interest in his interests and make him invite you to join him. For example, when the man is talking about a restaurant or a place he likes, say “sounds nice, I have never been there but I would love to go some time. ” and hope he would respond “sure, I will take you there. Should we exchange phone number then?” This technique can also apply to conversation on movies, hobbies, museums… anything. Let him talk about his interest, show yout interest, make him ask you out, then exchange the number.

Now, you got the number but what you are gonna do with it is another BIG issue! Please look forward to my report on that one. I’m no expert on the subject but I have successfully lead the FlirText to get to 3 first date so I know something about it myself 😉

this is how you exchange contact info in Japan, infared sending contact information between phones, essential for giving your info to friends and partners

this is how you exchange contact info in Japan, infared sending contact information between phones, essential for giving your info to friends and partners

This week, Friday is a day off because it’s spring equinox. Funny day to be a national holiday but I won’t complain! Anything is great if it gives me three day weekend!

So I spent this beautiful day relaxing, doing things any girl would enjoy. Reading some books in bed, cooked soy milk soup with vegetables (yummmm), long relaxing bath, and getting my nails done in nail salon. Perrrrrfect relaxing holiday.

Then it was time to go back in to the meet market LoL
From 6 to 9pm was a party hosted by some social clubs by alumni in some college and… hmmm… don’t remember what the party was for… oh yes, it was to enjoy drinking with good company as we did back in college. One of the reason I don’t remember very well is because there was no food in the party eventhough the party was scheduled during the dinner time. Alcohol in empty stomache erased my memory.

But I do remember, that there were much more women than men in this party. And these women were aggressive! I could really see the women as the wolves and the men as sheeps surrounded by hungry wolves (who want to get married!) Suddenly I was really convinced, this is where the word Meat eating girls and Grass eating men came from. Looking around the party floor, I noticed that none of the men would go up to a girl to talk to them. It was the aggressive girls talking to quiet men who would stay in their own group of men. It is only after the women come up to men and mingle with the men, these men would act as meat-eaters.

As I have confessed 2 days ago, I have become somewhat tired from TMM, which doesn’t mean I am not going to participate in the Tokyo’s social occasions, but would rather stay as a quiet observer, rather than an active participant. This probably makes me the traditional Grass eating girls, or a princess waiting for a prince to come. But the prince did not come during this particular party full of meat eating girls, and I really got tired from too many cocktails in empty stomache…. nighty night!

Makeinu literally translates to “loser dogs”…And who is the loser? The single, childless women in the 30s.

The term Makeinu was first coined by popular columnist Sakai Junko in her book Makeinu no Toboe (The Grumbling of Losers) which became a top selling book. The popularity of the book and the concept of makeinu has perked the public’s interest making the term “makeinu” one of the trendiest words.

In this book, Sakai terms a makeinu as a woman who is 30 years old or over  who is not married and has no children. By contrast, a woman who is married with children is defined as a kachiinu (winner). In days past, women who remained single in their thirties and beyond were stigmatized in the workplace, the community, and among relatives. But nowadays, according to recent data, 43% of men and 27% of women between 30 and 34 years old are unmarried; this is an age in which more than one in four women remain single even after turning 30.

At 37 years old, Sakai is a makeinu herself. In writing the essays, she took the approach that women in a position like hers could live more easily if they shrugged it off and said, “So what if I’m a loser?” But the real question is… are they really losers? Far from being true losers, the makeinu group possess strong purchasing power and have the potential to personal consumption, from gourmet food, vacation, hair stylists to condominiums, they can buy them all, with their own money. Single women in their 30s who have opted to forego the traditional marriage-children route in favor of careers and self-indulgence has won her economic power and independence. These women have taken ownership of the word makeinu as they reinvent what it means to be a young , independent, career woman in Japan.

makeinu no toboe

makeinu no toboe

I apologize for more than 10 days of silence…

A lot happened in the 10 days…
What have I seen, Where have I been to…

I’ve had 1 gokon night in the korean BBQ, a white day gokon-party, and a girls night out in Shinbashi, a business men district. Yeah, they were all fun in its own ways and I’ve got some stories to tell. but something is making me feel bit tired. It’s like no matter how much I try, I will never really “get it”… the shallowness of the conversation, the fake laughs and flatteries girls give to guys, the pretentious egoism the guys show off to girls,…. and the dissapointments my girlfriends feel after all that they tried…

Anyways, the spring is coming and things has to change, right? and there’s a lot more to come with the cherry flowers in Tokyo blooming up. Spring is time for meeting new people, everyone is going to be looking for someone to love, and I will have much more to write about….

143265_pc_m

I’ve written before, that Japanese people love rules and manners. So don’t think any different that there are no rules for expressing love or fondness… the most famous day being Valentine’s day and White day.

Valentine’s day in the Western society is a day on which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presenting flowers, lingeries or offering confectionery and have sexy romantic fun time… sigh… yes, that is how it was on valentine’s day. but not in Japan, not for Japanese couple. They don’t know how to just have fun, be sexy and romantic the way they want to… Yes, there are RULES for women to do certain things on a Valentine’s day… and then RULES for men to do certain things on a White day.

Simply put… On Valentine’s Day, Japanese women give chocolate to men. Men give gifts to women on March 14th called White Day.

What is Valentine’s day in Japan?

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is observed by females who present chocolate gifts (either store-bought or handmade), usually to a male, as an expression of love.

Grocery stores, department stores, and convenience stores sell many different kinds of domestic and imported chocolate. More than half of the chocolate sold in a year is sold around Valentine’s Day in Japan. Women buy chocolate for their co-workers, bosses, male friends, brothers, father, husband, boyfriends, and so on.  Are you wondering why women give chocolates to all males around them? Are they that desperate?

No, it’s just that there are two types of chocolates women give to men.
1) Chocolate given to men whom women don’t feel special love are called “giri-choco (obligational chocolate)” in Japanese. Chocolate given to co-workers and bosses are usually considered as giri-choco. Many men feel embarrassed if they don’t receive any chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so women usually make sure to give giri-choco to men around them so that they don’t feel left out, thus showing how caring she is.

2) Chocolate given to a special man from a woman is called “honmei (prospective winner)-choco.” As a honmei chocolate, a homemade chocolate is usually preferred by the receiver, because it is a sign that the receiving male is the girl’s “only one”. (and that the girl can do some work in the kitchen) Homemade chocolate… in  this sense, doesn’t mean grinding coco beans and making chocolate from scratch… it just means, melting chocolate bars and then reshaping them into heart-shaped chocolates, thus showing how “homey” she is.

What is White day in Japan?

On White Day, the converse happens: males who received a chocolate, whether it was obligational or real, on Valentine’s Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts, usually more expensive, preferbly, three times expensive, according to the rule of “triple return”. Traditionally, popular White Day gifts are cookies,  white chocolate, marshmallows,… and jewellery if they decided to follow the “triple return” rule.

Such complicated rules and customs. But nobody gets confused and nobody forgets the day because the stores provide plenty of reminders of the approach of these days so that even the most forgetful man cannot say that it slipped his mind. So if you think Hallmark is lucky for making so much profit from cards and chocolates, think about how lucky Japanese chocolates companies and department stores are, for having 2 Valentine’s days a year, with women obligated to buy all the men in her life!

Lastly, the gifts of chocolate that men buy are in white boxes while the gifts that women buy for men come in red boxes. It is certainly expected that women chase after men, all the men in her lives with burning passion, but men are just expected to return the favor… though it may cost him a bit more according to the “triple return rule”

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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!

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