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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!

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.


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.

Do you remember that I once went to match making party?

Actually my relationship with “my perfect match” didn’t end that night so let me write about this. We never met again, but he tried and tried and tried to pursue me and pretty much did everything in his power (using cellphone) to convince me to marry him, or at least have a drink with him.

I must admit it was flattering at first, to be told how surprised he was to have met his perfect match in a match making party(what a coincidence, he kept saying) and that he had never expected such fortune. I would have even gone for a full dinner + drink date with him at that point, if it wasn’t for the wrap up of my busy analysis project. I really would have, he was nice, decent guy at least from what I remember that night, and his sms wooing were harmless, if not flattering.

After 3 weeks of meetings, report makings and excel databases, his emails turned into something more than what it originally was. It seemed as if his passion for the idea of getting married (note: not the passion for me) has gotten out of control in my absense, and his sms started get more and more in tense, in terms of volume and content. He was so getting anxious to get married, he couldn’t wait till he seems me again.

“What kind of a family do you like to have?” “What kind of a man do you like to marry? I will try to be that man, I will get stronger for you” … isn’t it getting bit intense to hear these from a guy you just met once? But I realized this has to end when he googled me and found me on the company website and my university website and commented on sms “You work so hard, I saw your success in the company and in the university,  you must be so smart with great genes”

After a month or 2, it was all about the sms chase. I became the Queen of avoidance, and ignored his passionate sms (about the idea of marriage, not me) and slowly he became quieter with sms. And it was his very last sms that really impressed me, after all the sms that had tired me, freaked me, and pushed me away from him.

In his very last sms, he asked that we meet again, so I could give him a feed back on what he did well, what he did wrong, and how he could do better next time he goes to the match making party. Well, he doesn’t learn the lesson that may be this whole match making thing isn’t for someone like him, but he is surely ready to learn te lesson from his failure and grow to be the konkatsu-professional.

What did I learn from this experience? … To be desired for sex, is one thing. It happens, right? Lust at first sight. He doesn’t know you, but he knows he wants you. He wants to kiss you and take you in his arms, even though he doesn’t know you. I welcome that, eventhough I find it annoying if the guy is not my type. But to be desired for marriage, without the guy knowing me… this is freaky. This is completely different story. And although this match making party, my konkatsu activity was a success for having him desire me for marriage so much (hell yeah, I could have been married by the time I’m writing this now) I really learned the sadness of idea of marriage without love… and lust.

A while ago, I slept with a Soshokukei Danshi (“grass-eating boy” or “Herbivore Man”)

To be more clear, I slept in the same bed with him, with my head pillow on his arm.  And nothing more. One of the definitions of the “grass-eating boy” is that they are not aggressive for sex, and they would sleep next to a woman rather than try to sleep with a woman. It’s true, I have experienced sleeping with a “grass-eating boy” and he was as nice and quiet as a little lamb. And it was, well, strange, but nice. For the first time in my life, I slept with a man who didn’t try to jump on me and make me his.

It was after a wild night out we had started the night with bunch of our friends in a izakaya (Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks, like a tapas bar). Drinks were flying around, lots of chatting and laughter, we started from one bar and hopped around different bars. After long hours of bar hopping, some of us ended up in my apartment and continued to drink. Some people started falling asleep, some of them went home, and when I realized, it was just me and one guy falling asleep on the floor. I had known him for over several months, good friends, drink together occasionally, with some flirtation that never lead anywhere special. So I left him where he was, on the floor, and headed for my bed to get some sleep.

It was some time later I was awaken by the guy coming into my bed. I kept my eyes closed and he slipped under the blanket and I could feel he was looking at me. I didn’t especially have a feeling for him, and I wanted to see where this was all going, so I kept still to see what happens next. Then touched my hair softly, and he put his head on the pillow. We were lying next to eachother in the same bed, with our feet touching.

I still kept my eyes closed, pretending to be sleeping.

tik tak tik tak… nothing happens.

I opened my eyes and our eyes met. This is the moment, things usually, if it hadn’t happened yet, happens. The magic moment when two people are very close, feeling happy with the alcohol and the warmth of the bed, and our eyes meet… passionately.

tik tak tik tak… nothing happens.

He smiles at me and touches my hair. Then slips his arm under my neck, and we fall asleep. Next morning, he left for the first train home after a nice quiet goodbye and thank you. So this is my first experience of sleeping with the grass eating boy. It’s kind of cute now that I think about it. But I’m still surprised there are these kind of guys now a days.

Grass-eating boys… we can safely and comfortably sleep next to them without being attacked! Takes some fun away, but it was quite a nice experience!

I was recently contacted by a TV documentary production company who is filming around Asian cities for a documentary about love in Asia. I spoke for Tokyo Meet Market in an interview and if you are lucky, may be you can spot me on a TV sometime soon!

It was very exciting, I have never been interviewed for a TV before. And I was able to participate in the shoot, not as just an active member of Tokyo Meet Market, but as a sociologist, as a blogger who is observing the Tokyo Meet Market with a foreign perspective. So cool, it’s one of the reasons I decided to get active with this blog again!

So I spoke for Tokyo Meet Market. How the word “Konkatsu” became popular, and how it is at this point, an every day word that is all over the media. I brought the January issue of AnAn (a magazine for 20-somethings) which was entirely focused on building strategy for 2010 konkatsu. I spoke about how and why konkatsu entered our everyday life, what people actually do (gokon, networking, parties)

But it was when the interviewer asked me “so what are Japanese women all looking for, REALLY?” that I felt very confused. I felt confused, because speaking for the Japanese women (putting my thoughts aside,) I could not confidently answer the question “it’s love, of course, it’s love”

No… what came out of my mouth was the reality of today’s Tokyo Meet Market. What are women of Today’s Tokyo Meet Market really looking for? …. “financial stability. Men with certain status and career with good family and educational background who can provide women with stability for the future…most easily summarized as financial stability”

“Love and marriage are completely different things. Love doesn’t last, but marriage lasts until death.” This is stated over and over by the Japanese people in Tokyo meet Market. Yes… it’s sad, isn’t it. People have become so damn realists that they do not even talk of romance as romance, love as love. When our friends starts dating a new guy, the first thing we ask is “what does he do?” We rarely even mention, or ask for the guys name. And if the guy is a banker, lawyer, IT engineer, or Consultant, we give her a BIG smile. If the guy happens to be a doctor, we ask her to set up a gokon with the boyfriend’s colleague to share her happiness. And we go on, conspiring for her future with the guy, without even knowing what his name is, or what he looks like, or how he kisses her. So one day, she can successfully win the stable life of a house wife.

Really… What are we looking for? I had to add to the camera after answering the question, “but that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for love, a partner to share my every day life with. Someone to smile, laugh, eat, sleep, cry, and live with.” What are you looking for?


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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!

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!! 10 years ago
  • Ate a bowl of toshomen for lunch, super delicious! Check it out: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g314410/ 10 years ago
  • getting warmer in Tokyo! The spring is just around the corner which means... love in the air! 10 years ago