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Using Dating Apps in Japan

Whether you're just visiting, or in Japan long-term, dating apps are an appealing option for meeting locals and possibly finding a long term partner. Despite recent marketing pushes from apps like Tinder and Pairs to destigmatize and normalize dating apps, they're still not considered a mainstream way to meet a long-term partner.

Who you'll find on the apps varies, especially in larger cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Where foreign populations are higher, you'll see more diversity. Bumble is the most popular app among foreigners and Japanese for hooking up or potentially finding a relationship. Pairs is a Japanese app, entirely in Japanese (no other language options). However, if you have some language skills, it is one of the more popular apps amongst Japanese for finding relationships. Compared to Bumble, you won't find nearly as many non-Japanese speakers on Pairs. Women can use the site for free, while men must pay a steep price for the ability to message their matches. The running joke is that HelloTalk, the language exchange app, is actually a dating app. It's popular with locals looking to meet and (potentially) hook-up with or date a foreigner. Whatever app you use, you'll notice the quirk of the dating app experience in Japan- A LOT of people wish to remain anonymous - you'll find dozens of profiles with pictures of food, pets, and stickers covering faces. So when you swipe on a bowl of ramen, you're not really sure what you're getting until the conversation starts. Before you start with the Apps, you should download LINE. It's the messaging app that every local has on their phone. Whatsapp is not popular in Japan, and people rarely exchange phone numbers. If you're looking to meet people who live in Japan, get LINE. (If you don't speak Japanese, there is an app within LINE that you can add to a chat that will translate every message sent between you and your date - while it's not perfect, it is a huge time-saver.)

If you are going to use dating apps in Japan, there are things to keep in mind. Poor user experiences happen often enough that it's commonly talked about among people who use the apps.

  1. Not everyone is interested in foreigners, especially if there is a language barrier.

  2. Some people are only interested in foreigners for the sexual experience.

  3. Not everyone has the patience for an intercultural relationship. Someone may be open to the idea of a relationship with someone from a different cultural/linguistic background but tire quickly of the differences. It’s an extra layer to navigate when maintaining a healthy relationship, and not everyone has the emotional energy to handle the miscommunications and misunderstandings that will eventually surface.

  4. Affairs in Japan are common, for both men and women. There’s a chance that your fling is already in a relationship, is married, or has a family. Some people are upfront about it, and others hide it.

  5. While prostitution isn’t advertised openly, it’s extremely common and available across Japan. Some people take advantage of foreigners for “free” sex, that they would have otherwise had to pay for because the stereotype is that it's easy to get with a foreigner.

  6. Sexual health education and STI knowledge are lacking. Getting tested for STIs is not common. Protect yourself.

  7. Catfishing - it happens. Men and women both will use heavily filtered photos to change their appearances.

  8. Japan does not have a good track record when it comes to reporting sexual harassment, abuse, and stalking. Again, protect yourself and always be aware of where you are. You should always tell a friend when you’re meeting a new match - who, when, and where.

Tinder date Japan Dating App

The people you'll see on Dating Apps

  • Other foreigners.

  • The food pics: People want to be discreet and you might not know what your match looks like until you meet

  • The ones who are upfront: With these people you know exactly what they're looking for. They will tell you what they want in their profile description or within a few minutes of chatting.

  • The Catfish

  • Mr. Sus intentions: They'll say that they want to make friends with foreigners or practice their English, but that's rarely the case.

  • The one that's hiding their affairs from their SO: TBH it's hard to tell who's married and who is actually single. If they suggest meeting in the next town over, that's a pretty good sign that they're in stealth mode. Some people put it right in their profile that they don't care if you're also married because it's a common thing across the board.

  • Scammers and traders: These people (?) use fake profiles to woo people for extortion scams, or to pitch their shady MLMs or 'fantastic work-from-home business opportunities'.

  • The guilt trippers: Even though there was no mention of hooking up during your text conversations and you think you're just going for dinner, they'll suddenly try every whiney, begging line to convince you to go to a hotel with them after dinner. "BUT IT'S MY BIRTHDAY". "I CAME ALL THIS WAY". Yadda yadda.

If you're online dating in any country, there are always risks. If you do decide to meet someone irl that you met on dating apps:

1. Know who you're meeting and tell someone where you're going. Get as much information as you can about your date (including a photo) and give it to a trusted person.

2. Set a time for a safety check. Hopefully, you have someone who can text or call at a set time to check that you're okay and things are going well.

3. Don't share your home address or intimate photos with someone you just met.

4. Share your LINE or SNS details at your own discretion. Do you want this hookup to know your personal details?

5. Meet someone for the first time in a public place. If you're not comfortable with them in any way, it's okay to decline taking it further.

6. If you show up and your date looks nothing like their photo, it's okay to walk away. Don't feel obligated to stay and be polite with someone who lied to you.

7. Set boundaries and make those boundaries clear before any action starts, especially if there is a language barrier.

8. Don't travel to anywhere that you don't know how to get back from on your own. If your date suggests a hotel on the outskirts of town, in an area with no public transportation or in a neighborhood you've never heard of, decline. If things go bad you want to be able to safely and quickly go home on your own.

9. Bring protection and use protection. Have them suit up for your sake. If they complain or try to guilt you for it, YEET. Their few minutes of fun isn't worth risking disease or unwanted pregnancy.

10. Have an emergency number you can call and learn how to ask for help in Japanese. Worst case scenario.


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