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Blogger Madame Riri often writes about her experiences as a Japanese woman in an international relationship who’s spent a considerable amount of time living abroad. Recently, though, she took a look at women in the opposite situation.

Sifting through the writings of Grace Buchele Mineta, a Texas-born expat married to a Japanese man and living in Japan since three years ago, Madame Riri pulled out four pieces of advice for non-Japanese women in or looking for a romantic relationship with a Japanese man in Japan.

1. Ways to meet Japanese guys

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Because you can’t be in a relationship with a Japanese man until you meet him. Considering that Mineta and her husband met through a mutual friend during college in the U.S., it’s unclear how much field testing she’s done for the method, but she recommends bars popular with the foreign crowd in urban areas like Tokyo’s Shinjuku and Shibuya as a good place to look for a guy.

While it might seem counterintuitive to look for a Japanese dude in a place frequented by expats, these establishments also tend to draw Japanese customers who’ve lived or worked overseas, or are simply receptive to making new foreign acquaintances. Plus, a beer or two tends to help everyone get over the initial awkwardness of chatting with strangers.

2. The importance of making an effort to get along with the girls, too

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To illustrate this point, Madame Riri brings up a story from Mineta about one of the first double dates she went on in Japan, consisting of herself, her boyfriend, his buddy, and the buddy’s girlfriend. The four went to the beach together, and while the guys jumped into the ocean, the girl, who was worried about getting a sunburn, stayed covered up on the sand. Mineta, not as concerned about catching a few rays, decided to join the guys, but later on found out that she’d ruffled the feathers of the girlfriend by not hanging out with her on dry land.

The lesson Madame Riri takes from this is, “Even if something seems normal in America, it might not be normal in Japan. Especially when it comes to the societal roles and behavior of men and women, there are some big differences.” Speaking in broad terms, she’s got a point, but we’re not entirely sure that’s what was going on here.

Japan is a comparatively group-oriented society, and while it’s not as dramatic in reality as a lot of cultural anthropology books like to make it out to be, making someone feel like they’re being left out is still a faux pas. If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say the reason the girlfriend got bent out of shape had more to do with ending up all by herself on the shore, and not any notions about the proper roles of men and women. As to why she chose to direct that ire at Mineta, and not at her own boyfriend, though, we’ve got no clue.

3. Accept that you’ll never be accepted as Japanese



This is actually a pet peeve of a lot of expats in Japan, regardless of their gender, marital status, or the ethnic background of their significant other. Japan has an interest in other cultures and often adopts aspects of them it enjoys, but for the most part, the country’s society isn’t what you’d describe as a melting pot.

Emigrate to the U.S. in your youth, spend 20 or 30 years living there, and as long as you’re not vocal in expressing your desire to move back home, you’ll be able to find plenty of people who accept and treat you as an American. In Japan, that sort of societal phenomenon doesn’t really happen, and the fact that you weren’t born in Japan almost always has the potential to subtly influence your interactions with the native-born population.

Thankfully, the odds of encountering aggressive, bald-faced racism are slim, but sometimes the gaijin treatment can be tiring, such as telling the clerk at your neighborhood convenience store for the fifth time in a row that you’d like chopsticks instead of a fork with your bento. It can also be puzzling, when people take your personal quirks as being representative of the intrinsic character of everyone from your home country, or even a little insulting, such as asking someone a question in perfectly comprehensible Japanese and receiving an answer in stilted, garbled English.

Mineta’s take on the issue? It can’t be helped, so don’t let it get to you. We’re inclined to agree, considering that the vast majority of the time someone steps on your toes as foreigner, it’s out of a misplaced desire to help or genuine curiosity, and learning to appreciate the sentiment while developing a slightly thicker skin will go a long way to helping you get back to experiencing the many other, and often entirely enjoyable, aspects of life in Japan.

4. Leave your stereotypes behind

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This might be a little tough to do if you’re being stereotyped yourself (see point 3), but taking the high road and not pre-judging others will reap plenty of benefits, and once again, this isn’t something exclusive to foreign women dating Japanese men. Putting a finer point on Mineta’s pointer, Madame Riri cautions against developing the preconception that all Japanese men are chauvinistic, and that all Japanese women are timid. Not only is it inaccurate, indiscriminately slapping one of those two unappealing labels on every Japanese person will only limit your ability to form connections with them on an individual basis.

Once again, this seems like sound advice to us. Really, the best way to finish the sentence “Japanese people are…” is with “people.” Keep that in mind, and you’ll find yourself getting along better with all the locals, whether or not you want to date them.

Related: Madame Riri website, Grace Buchele Mineta website
Source: Madame Riri
Top image: Livedoor Blog
Insert images: Hub, Gatag, Flickr (Doug), Real Western