It’s Saturday night at the neighborhood yakitori joint, and I’m having my seventh shochu and lime with three girlfriends. In walks “Brad” looking nothing like Pitt with a slinky Japanese thing hanging on his arm. A look of disdain passes among us and someone utters the question we’ve all asked ourselves 100 times before: why do Western men come over and get married to Japanese girls, while Western girls just get frustrated?
Like any good girl guide, I came prepared, bringing my boyfriend with me from Britain. As a favor to my less organized gaijin girlfriends, however, I decided to investigate the issue: “why is it so hard to find a decent man in Japan?”
International marriages here are soaring; there were just 5,546 in 1970, compared to 36,263 in 2000. In 80% of these the groom was Japanese and the vast majority of their brides were Asian. Eighty percent? So there’s a huge number of Japanese men marrying foreigners, but why are so few Western women chosen? Judging by the popularity of Western stars like Madonna, Britney and Cameron, weﾕre confident that we at least catch the eyes (and imaginations) of Japanese guys, but why so few invitations back to meet Mom? Are Japanese men misogynistic or misunderstood? Are Western women too loud or liberated? Can a Western girl and a Japanese guy live happily ever after?
We asked a psychologist for her professional opinion and then hit the streets, talking to girls, guys and couples. Read on, and if inspired come to Fukuoka Now’s “Mixing Party” on May 18.
Voices of Experience (or lack of…)
Why are there so few Western women with Japanese men?
Japanese guys don’t talk as much as Western guys, which can be difficult for us as we’re taught the importance of communication. Relationships need maintenance, but Japanese guys put their jobs, families and hobbies above us. We tend to attract the freaks or the guys who don’t fit in – you know, the “unique” ones. You have to hunt for the good ones, eh. But, Japanese men are more sensual, take their time, and they always bathe. To be honest, I sometimes think it’s the Western guys who are lacking.
Western women aren’t prepared to deal with Japanese men who are spoilt their whole lives by the women around them – men who have become selfish and remained childish and irresponsible. I guess I’ve had some bad experiences. Once I went out on a group date with five other gaijin girls and six “single” Japanese men. Turns out they all had girlfriends. Another time, while walking with a friend down a dim lane, Japanese men pestered us with “kuni wa, Russia?, Russia?” Too many stereotypes of Western women in Japan mean we just aren’t treated with enough respect.
Australian, Freelance Editor
My theory, largely gleaned from contemporary social studies books (like Moir & Jessel’s “Brainsex”), is that women are social climbers by nature: they go for men who can offer them “more” of what they want: be it romance, a better life, more money. To Japanese women, Western men represent this “better” existence; hence they find Western men very desirable. However, Japanese men haven’t represented “more” for Western women: rather, they’ve represented a more suffocating family life, more conservative values, a less adventurous lifestyle, less gallantry, and so on. Yet, statistically, more Japanese men in Japan are married to foreign women, than Japanese women to foreign men. But most of these foreign wives are Asian, not Western. Obviously, to Asian women, Japanese men do have a lot to offer.
Would you like to go out with Western women?
I’d love to try it! Crossing cultural boundaries, falling completely in love…sounds great! Without true love, though, it might be hard to overcome the language barrier. But where do I meet cute gaijin girls? Can anyone help? Please?
Sure I’d love too date one. They’re cute and have big mouths.
I’d get a kick out of walking down the street, hand in hand, knowing that others were watching us. At least once in my life I’d like to tell a foreign woman “I love you,” like Tom Cruise in a movie.
Tips for Japanese Men Hoping to Appeal to Western Women
1. Never ask their age or weight.
2. Open doors for them, (pretend you do it all the time).
3. Never get caught looking at a Japanese woman.
4. Destroy all adult literature and videos.
5. Kiss them often and especially in front of their friends.
6. Don’t hog the bathroom mirror.
7. Put on weight, and muscle if possible.
8. Offer to pay for everything (works well for all nationalities actually).
9. Remind them of how much they resemble some famous Hollywood actress.
10. Pretend you actually like their hamburgers more than your mom’s miso soup.
How to Impress a Japanese Man (for Western Women)
1. Wear fresh make-up, re-apply often.
2. Order cassis and soda, never beer.
3. Pamper him like Mom would.
4. Develop a high-pitched laugh, squeal & telephone voice.
5. Giggle often (but cover your mouth).
6. Luis Vuitton bag, purse, wallet, whatever…
7. Lose weight now!
8.Increase wardrobe items.
9.Increase pink-colored wardrobe items.
10. Tell him he’s got a really big… heart!
Seeking Professional Advice…
Yuriko Yanaga is a Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience as a counsellor at the Fukuoka International Association (Rainbow Plaza). We asked her the question…
Why are there so few Western women with Japanese men?
Western men can go to bars and find lots of Japanese girls who are outgoing, enthusiastic, and willing to speak English. The Western women that I see rarely experience the reverse. Even if a Western girl finds herself in a bar with many Japanese guys, they are much less likely than their female counterparts to strike up a conversation, especially in English.
Why do Western women find it difficult to stay long-term in Japan? One reason is they get limited attention from Japanese men, partly due to a lack of opportunities to meet them. Without boyfriends, understandably they get bored, and they go home. Western women are often approached by Japanese men who are sexually curious – guys whose ideas about Western women have been influenced by stereotypes in the media. These men often don’t expect a long-term relationship.
Do the couples you see, in which the female is Western and the male Japanese, have common complaints?
I’d say these couples find it difficult to discuss their problems with each other. Western women like lots of communication while Japanese men tend to be reserved about their feelings. It’s predominately the woman occasionally the couple who comes to talk things over with me; never a Japanese man alone.
How do Japanese parents react to a Western daughter-in-law?
Very differently than to a Western son-in-law! When a Japanese daughter introduces her Western boyfriend, the family tries to understand and accept him; the couple marry and have a separate family of their own. When a Japanese son marries a Western girl, his family tends to be more invasive; the marriage is not only the couple’s, but also the family’s business. Sometimes the family lives very close by and drops in unannounced. Many Western women resent this lack of privacy.
Are there support groups for such women?
There are few organizations. There is a Foreign Wives’ Association which has regular meetings, but I gather that it’s primarily a social organization. I’ve also heard that there is a crisis care support system being planned, which will offer advice by phone.
What’s your advice to a Western woman and a Japanese guy thinking about getting more seriously involved?
Check each otherﾕs communication skills and make sure that you are prepared to put in lots of effort. I saw one couple in which the wife was a Western and the husband Japanese. At first, the romance and his English was enough. After a few years, children and less romance, the husband began to say, “this is Japan, why don’t you speak Japanese?” Interracial marriages require both partners not only to learn each other’s language, but also to adjust their attitudes and expectations. Love is a great and essential start, but more is needed for a relationship to last.
Interracial marriages are a positive challenge if each partner is aware of the effort that is required…
Exactly. The couples I see are the ones with serious problems, but I know of many successful marriages between Western women and Japanese men. The key is to be prepared for the extra challenges an interracial marriage entails. Counselling can be beneficial before getting married too. Good luck!
Ms. Yanaga can be contacted through Rainbow Plaza, IMS Bldg. 8F, Tel: 092-733-2220. She is available Wed. and Fri.13:00～18:00 and Sat. 10:00～15:00. By appointment only. All advice is free and confidential.