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Archive for April 2009

The big domestic news of the week was the arrest for public indecency of mega-star Tsuyoshi Kusanagi on Thursday. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi is one of the most charismatic members of the SMAP boys band that has been popular for as long as I can remember (to be specific, 1990).  Kusanagi  was reportedly found nude at a park in 3am drunk, completely wasted.

I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that

  1. it is the biggest domestic news of the week since last Thursday and that most Japanese news stations would discuss this incidence ignoring the swine flu,
  2. he is called “crime suspect” and no one shows sense of humor. He has been criticized widely for his behaviour and dropped from commercials and advertisements by various corporate sponsors (for God sake, he just got drunk, that’s all!),
  3. his nudity picture cannot be found anywhere on the internet, no where to be seen!!!
  4. getting drunk and stripping is not a peculiar behavior in Japan. Many Japanese men (not women lol) strip down to underwear when they get intoxicated.

The fourth point is most surprising to me. I have actually heard from my friends and family that they have seen such behavior in various places including college drinking parties, wedding after parties, and even in office parties! Apparently, these people habitually strip themselves when intoxicated.

For example, my friend’s boss is known for this behavior and, everyone in the company knows about it and whispers “he’s gonna get naked again tonight” every time there is an office social event. Another friend of mine was a member of golf club in university, where several members were regular strippers when it comes to drinking party (nomikai). For every drinking party (nomikai) there was, they would come prepared to get stripped, by wearing fundoshi, traditional Japanese underwear for adult males, made from a length of cotton and looks like a thong.  It is certainly not an appreciated behavior for everyone, but people generally accept these strip boys for a laugh. At least, no body would report them for harassment!

What is up with this behaviour?

I asked my Japanese friends, my father (who has worked in a Japanese company for years) , and my sister (who went to Japanese university and has seen such strip boys) and they all gave me the same explanation, that they strip out of repression. These  men are repressed in the Japanese society and they can only free themselves when they strip off their business suits and reveal their true self. Under family stress, school stress, work stress, social stress, and even stressed in dating scene, they can only release their frustration by stripping off their armor and show their peers who they are. You see, the point is that they strip in front of their peers, colleagues, team mates, or school mates, and not for strangers.

So… Kusanagi stripped in a park for the public, people who has been idolizing and worshiping him, hoping to liberate himself from repression. The most we can do for him, is to laugh and put the pictures up for the public eyes so he can relieve his stress.

Apparently, the most popular female occupation in gokon is “OL” (Office Lady)

OL: a female office worker in Japan who performs generally pink collar tasks such as serving tea and secretarial or clerical work. Like many unmarried Japanese, OLs often live with their parents well into early adulthood. Office ladies are usually full-time permanent staff, although the jobs they do usually have little opportunity for promotion, and there is usually the tacit expectation that they leave their jobs once they get married.

In gokon, Japanese men prefer to meet OL women. Not consultants, not lawyers, not flight attendants, not models or movie stars, they want the most normal OL for their future partner. Yes, of course, many of them would gladly attend gokon to meet flight attendants or nurses, but it would be just for a life experience, for a life-lasting memory. But when it comes to a search for a potential girlfriend, they prefer OL women.

So even if women have high career in law office, PR, consulting, advertising, introduce yourslef as OL at least in the initial introduction. (guys, please believe that I am only translating this from a Japanese gokon guide book. as I am typing this into this blog and I am starting to feel a little sick 😦 ) anyway, where was I… well, this guide book says (again, not me!) according to the experience of a director of advertising company, she is much more successful in a gokon she she wintroduces herself, “I am just a normal OL” than to tell her real occupation. It is very likely, especially for a successful hard-working career woman to be very descriptive of her occupation ” I am a director of a new PR project team to market new product to be launched this summer” and she would rather die to think of herslef as just another normal OL. But such pride and confidence will only make her unapproachable.

If you want to develope a positive impression, t is better to start off with “normal OL” in the initial introduction. But that doesnt mean you will forever lie to him that your job is standing in front of the copy machine and making coffee for your boss all day long. You can talk more in detail about your job later once you get acquainted with the male members in gokon. Then he will be impressed that you are successful and intelligent yet humble!

It’s not that Japanese men don’t like successful intelligent career women (says the book, but I still doubt it) They are intimidated by the pride and the confidence of women for their success.

“I am a normal OL” would make him feel comfortable to approach you

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The size of the gokon is inversely proportional to the level of intimacy achieved.

Remember the large classes you had in University? I had once attended a psychology class of 500 students. The professor was very famous and his lecture was very interesting but the course completely lacked communication and intimacy among the class mates and with the professor. Some of the best courses I took were very small in size and were centered on discussion rather than lectures.  Similarly, the size of the gokon also matters for creating the intimate atmosphere.

But how small should a group be in order to have a successful gokon? Is it better to have a small group? A gokon of 2 female and 2 male is too small and loses the purpose of having a gokon. Remember, the merit of going to a gokon, not a date, is that one gets to meet multiple number of opposite sex at once.  Reducing the participants number to 2 vs 2 also increases the risk of complete failutre = none of the memebers get along well.

According to the survey, the most preferred size of gokon is 3 vs 3. It balances the ‘level of the intimacy’ and ‘the efficiency of meeting multiple number of opposite sex’ the best. A gokon with size of 5 vs 5 is likely to end up as just a drinking party but a gokon with size of 3 vs 3 have increased chance in development of  intimate relationship among the participants.

The next time you are planning a gokon with your opposite sex friend, suggest 3 vs 3 gokon!

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The main difference between gokon and a blind-date is that gokon is a team play.

Gokon requires  team-work skill.  At the same time one must appeal to the memebers of the opposite sex, one must also be able to coordinate and cooperate with the team members (the group of people of your own sex).  Don’t get carried away by the competition for getting the most eligible attractive memeber’s attention. In order to play well, you have to be able to walk out of  gokon leaving good impression on all participants of the gokon.

For example, if I go to a gokon and meet one very good looking, nice, eligible guy, and if I put all of my energy and efforts into getting his attention and getting his phone number, I will probably not succeed in this gokon.  I might end up hurting other girls who may be interested in him,  and may never be invited to another gokon by the girls.  The other male attendents would also feel neglected and ignored, developing a negative impression. They would probably share their negative impression among themselves and I would probably never hear from him, never again.

It may be difficult in the beginning, to pursue your self-intetrest while playing in the team, but you will soon realize that team play has its advantage too. In fact, many people form a gokon team with particular friends to succcessfuly play in gokon.  Many people go to gokons with regular members because they know how to work together already. In such gokon team, each person contributes with different skills and express his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group in order to achieve common goals (to find a partner, ofcourse!).

As for me, I have a regular members of gokon team too.  We share several things in common:

  • marital status: all single, never been married
  • social status: business women
  • age: 26 – 28
  • language: Japanese and English
  • area of residence: Tokyo
  • education: bachelors degree

But we contribute different sets of skills and knowledge, forming a strong team… may be a little too strong for Japanese men sometimes.

Go to a gokon with the spirit of “all for one, one for all”

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Remember when I wrote about the “meat-eating girls” and “grass-eating boys” back in February? (if not please see News alart! Increasing population of “Grass-eating boys” ) Since these terminologies were introduced to the society, it’s become hot words of the season. Everywhere I go, in parties, izakayas (Japanese bars), gokon, and office drinking, people talk about thier own love life using these terminologies…

“She is such a ‘meat-eating girl,’ she goes to gokon every week trying to get herself a boyfriend!”

“Oh stop being such a ‘grass-eating boy,’ that’s why you haven’t dated for 2 years now. Get over your ex and go out there like a wolf!”

“Eversince I got a girlfriend, I don’t have the motivation to go out anymore… I’m totally becoming ‘grass-eater'”

“Would you say you are a ‘meat-eater’ or ‘grass-eater’?

If I remember correctly, last year, we had a similar type of categorization that became very popular… it was about whether one is S (Sado) or M (Maso). It became very popular among youngsters to talk about whether one is S or M. It wasn’t really about sexuality they were talking about, but more about life styles and dating style, defining masochism entirely in terms of control. They even sold T-shirts that says “I am M” or “I am S”… you see, Japanese people like to categorize themselves. There is always some hot topic of categorization in the society at any time… sometimes it’s S&M, sometimes it’s by blood type, or the type of job you do, or style of fashion. They love categorizing themselves and identifying the group they belong to. Why??? It’s because Japan is a country of homogeneous population. Most people here are 100% Japanese by blood, with the same black hair and brown eyes, speak Japanese, learned the same stuff under one educational system, watch same TV and practice no religion. We are all the same…. so, to make things bit more exciting and to create some differences and find distinction, we have to categorize ourselves using certain parameters.

Anyways, right now, Japanese youngsters are crazy about categorizing themselves into “grass-eaters” (not-agressive in attracting the opposite sex) and “meat-eaters” (agressive in attracting the opposite sex).

Lastnight, I went out with bunch of Japanese boys. Well, it wasn’t a gokon or anything, I know all of them pretty well and we were just casually drinking to celebrate approaching weekend lol As we start to get drunk, we started to talk about the recent updates in our love life, and of course, one of the guys started the hot topic by asking “would you say you are a ‘grass-eater’ or a ‘meat-eater?” The 4 boys regarded themselves as “grass-eaters” and they were proud to be “grass-eaters.”

Then I noticed, that guys think it’s cool to be a “grass-eater.” If a man can say that he is a “grass-eater,” it means that he gets a lot of girls attention without trying, that he is Don Juan who doesn’t need to pursue women.  “I’m not agressive, I don’t try hard, I’m just chilling out but somehow, girls love me” is the attitude they had when they talked about how vegetarian they are these days!!! They even started to debate which one of them loves eating the veggies the most but at the same time gets girls…

Boy 1: “no, I think I’m more of a ‘grass-eater’ then you are, I haven’t even been to gokon fsince last year!”

Boy 2: “Oh stop it,I’m more “grass-eater” then you, I don’t even have a girlfriend but you do”

Boy 1: “I didn’t try to pursue her though, she came on to me. I was a complete gentleman with her. I’m totally a ‘grass-eateting kind’….”

“So what about you?” they asked me. “Are you a ‘grass-eating kind’ or a ”meat eating kind’?”

And I said… “Oh, I’m a total ‘meat-eater,’ totally….  I know what I want, at least I know I don’t want some veggie loving feminine men… I’m as ‘meat-eater’ as T-rex and I’m proud to be a T-rex” wink** 😉

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Sorry, it seems I have not written in a while… but it’s because I was on strike! I didn’t want to go to any more gokon, I didn’t want to go on any more bad dates, and I didn’t want to huddle on cell phones wondering how I can write cute and demure text message so I can go on more bad dates…

Instead, I have been spending my time stralling down Tokyo shopping streets buying insane amount of spring collection, jumping up and down to techno music in dance clubs, spending some quiet time with parents, watching season 3 and 4 of sex and the city drinking wine,… and seeing “foreigner boys” (in the insular country of Japan, anyone outside of Japan, especially Caucasian people are referred as “forgeingers”)

Oh how great it is to be with normal decent men who knows about life outside of Japan, who has a perspective on things, who are open to sharing thoughts and ideas, who can flirt smoothly in real life not just over cell-phone text messages, who are working to enjoy life (not controlled by work life), who are open to talking about what is considered “difficult topics” (in Japan) like  life perspecitves, religion , philosophy, politics, economy!! It feels like I’m a fish back in the ocean! It’s great to remind myself that there are men in the world who consider women with sense of humor, intelligence, and wit as attractive! And they are not afraid to express their attraction!

Now I realized how suffocated I felt being in the TMM, trying to hide my good qualities and instead, developing demureness and cutieness, hinting that someday I would make a great wife and a monther. Yes, that is it. The key to success in the Tokyo Meet Market is how women present their potential skill as a future wife and a mother. The men really don’t show much interest in qualities that are not required for wife and a mother. In fact, they are not even curious about how I think of the world or the values I have for my life, they just want to know if the women can cook. And they don’t ask any questions,  instead, they just want to see how well I listen to them complain about their work, to see if I’d make a great careing considerate wife someday when they come home from a hard day at work… but I don’t want to be their mother or wife… just wanna be a girlfriend to have good time with….

So… as you see… after 3 months in the TMM…. I was getting pretty exhausted… and I was on strike. But now I want to see… what it would be like to go to gokon and be myself? For the past 3 months, I have been putting efforts trying to be disguise myself as a Japanese woman… but may be I will change my approach from now, just trying to be myself, the Japanese + American girl that I am and see how the Japanese men react? Then I might attract different type of men…

OK then, it will be the end of the strike, I’m going back in the market. Look forward to next report on American-approach in TMM

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My friend from NY came to visit me, it’s her first time in Japan, in Tokyo. She is very curious about Japanese culture, Japanese food, touristic sights and Japanese life so I took her around to show her all the fascinating things in Tokyo.

I started the day in 10am Shibuya and we went around everywhere until 12am in Roppongi. To be specific, this was the Tokyo tour course that I came up with. (And I think it was a damn good course I came up with! There were so much that I hadn’t seen myself)

  • 10:00 Shibuya crossing and a picture with Hachiko
    Shibuya: A shopping and eating district popular with a lot of young Tokyoites. The best place to get oriented is the Hachiko exit, which opens onto the five-way “scramble crossing” under the giant video screen.(seen in Fast and Furious Tokyo)
  • 10:30  Train ride to Kichijoji and a walk around Kichijoji
    Kichijoji: A western suburb of Tokyo which once enjoyed a reputation as an artists’ colony, and today it is filled with stores from little boutiques to the big department stores.
  • 11:00 Walk through the famous Harmonica Yokocho (Harmonica street) in Kichijoji
    Harmonica Yokocho:  narrow alleys of small shops, boutiques, bars and yakitori restaurants in Harmonica Yokochō, on the north side of the station
  • 11:30 Brunch in Japanese cafe in Kichijoji
  • 12:30 Walk in Inogashira park in Kichijoji
    Inokashira park

    Inokashira park

    Inogashira park: The highlight of Kichojoji, a large park with long walking paths surrounding a lake. The park is filled with both cherry trees and maples, making it an excellent choice for both flower viewing

  • 14:00 Walk in Koenji Shotengai (shoping street)
    Koenji: Since Koenji was largely unaffected by the 1980s building boom, many of the houses and shops in the area are small and reflect the character of pre-boom Japan, the “good old times.” The Japanese style arcade-commercial street is worths a walk
  • 16:00 Back to Tokyo metropolitan areas, Shinjuku
    Shinjuku: A major commercial and administrative center, housing the busiest train station in the world and various shopping malls and department stores
  • 18:00 Dinner in Omoide Yokocho (Alley of  nostalgia), Shinjuku
    Omoide Yokocho: a small alley is full of  yakitori bars serving beer, sake and chicken. Great atmosphere and food
  • 19:00 Drink in Golden street, Shinjuku
    Golden street: A small alley with many many many bars with bartenders with strong characters. Walking from Kabuki-cho to the east, you will find Shinjuku Golden Street, a place where the atmosphere of the “good old days” is retained.
  • 20:00 Strall around Shinjuku Kabukicho
    Kabukicho: an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Kabukichō is the location of many hostess bars, host bars, love hotels, sex toy and porn shops,  and nightclubs, and is often called the “Sleepless Town”img_0920
  • 21:00 – 23:00 Night out in Roppongi
    Roppongi: a district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan, famous as home to the rich Roppongi Hills area and an active night club scene. Many foreign embassies are located in Roppongi, and the night life is known to be popular with many Westners and “forigner-loving friendly Japanese (female)”
  • 23:00 – 25:00 Club Alife in Nishiazabu (a peek in Tokyo Meet Market)
    Club Alife: Alife is a famous club for friendly mingling for young Tokyoites. From what I’ve heard and seen, it is one of few places where Japanese men do chat up Japanese women

There you have it, if you have the energy to be out for 15 hrs in Tokyo, you should definitely try this tour plan once. It’s a fast and efficient way to see everything about Tokyo, from suburb to urban, from old to new, from East and west, and young to old. And of course, I did take her to Club Alife so she can take a look inside Tokyo Meet Market.

I also told her much about what I’ve seen and heard about Tokyo Meet Market. And though she was fascinated by the detailed rules and conventions that are practiced in the TMM, she wasn’t a bit surprised by the concept of Tokyo Meet Market and the hunt for marriage (konkatsu) because the underlying facts, that it is becoming harder and harder to find the right partner, and that women now need to be aggressive about marriage is the same, whether it’s Tokyo or New York.

So what are the similarities and differences between Tokyo Meet Market (TMM) and New York Meet Market (NYMM)

  1. Women are becoming agressive hunters, as in Nikushoku-kei (meat-eating girls)
    More and more women are agressive to find a partner and to get married,  as well as being sexually agressive. The difference between TMM and NYMM is the degree of agressiveness. Women in TMM are agressive but to lesser degree than women in NYMM.
  2. It is becoming difficult to meet the right partner
    The difference here is that in NYMM, there are so many choices, so many people, so much interactions that it is hard to identify the right partner… while in TMM there are many people but so few interactions and so few opportunities to get to know one anohter, it is difficult to find the right partner from such  few choices.
  3. Even if you meet the right partner, it is difficult to develop a good relationship
    The difference here is the reason for this difficulty. In NYMM people are very open, so open that the relationship evolve very fast into sexual relationship, even on the night the couple meet… which often makes the them “friends with benefits,” or in another word, f**k buddies. While in TMM, people are so shy and closed, it takes a looooooong time for the couple to open up, become initimate, and develop the relationship… which eventually reduces the initial excitement and attraction and they just remain friends… for ever

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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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