Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

LGBTQ Date Spaces for Valentine’s Day in Japan (Tokyo & Osaka)

Valentines Day is a day of love and some women love women, while some men love men, and then there are bi people like me who date both! For LGBTQ people in Japan, generally dating out and about isn’t met with harassment. At the same time, when it comes to a romantic special day, you might want to go to a place that openly accepts and celebrates your special love.

This list is welcome to all preferences, no limitations to boys only or girls only. I’m focusing here on mainly cafes and restaurants for sit down meals, since Valentines is supposed to be romantic and all. However, there are a few sit down bars and such in the mix as well.

Tokyo

The Shinjuku area, specifically the Nichome part of town, is the gay friendliest place to go in Tokyo. Although it’s seen as more of a clubbing area, there are a few places tucked away where you can sit down to just talk, eat and/or drink.

Cocolo Cafe is the number one recommendation. The mostly LGBTQ staff welcome everyone in to dine with a smile and sweet pop music playing in the background. “Cocolo” is a play off of the Japanese word “kokoro” (which means heart-or mind depending on context), for the restaurant warms the hearts of all who enter.

cocolo-cafe
Cocolo Cafe Front
People love the food here. There are Western-style plates along other Okinawan-style dishes. Their taco-rice is super popular, and often mentioned in reviews as their best side dish. With delicious food and a nice atmosphere, you can’t go wrong in bringing a date here.

cocolo-plate
Credit: Cocolo Cafe Menu
R Diner makes for a nice date night location as well as a great queer hangout spot. With its casual atmosphere, you can pop in for a lunch with a special someone, and then go back later that night for some drinks. They’re even selling chocolate there specifically for Valentine’s Day!

r-diner
Credit: R Diner Facebook
The diner provides good meal food too, with a bit of an American/Western fusion. The plates are rather big, with side salads and a drink all in a set. It also features some lovely specialty drinks, such as the Cointreau hot chocolate that’s to die for.

r-diner-2
Credit: Tabelog
Cafe Lavendaria  is a great little cafe that’s out from the main Nichome drag. It’s a cozy little place, and I love the tea and beer selection there. They have a large selection of books on one wall that are LGBTQ friendly, most of them in Japanese but there are a few English ones if you search for them. There are couches in the back and tables out front, but that’s not even the best part of this place.

Cafe Lavendaria.png
Interior of Lavendaria
Lavendaria has cats! They’re not advertised, and sometimes they’re a little human shy, but if you stick around the little orange fluffy kitties will come out. The only downside for Lavendaria is the food is only of the snack variety. Still, it’s a great place to go with a date to grab a drink with a date (and possibly pet a kitty).

Shinjuku isn’t the only place that welcomes LGBTQ customers. In the back streets of Harajuku there’s Irodori, another comfy style cafe like Lavendaria. It’s run in collaboration with Colorful Station, a Shibuya based community focused social group. Because of that, it’s a great place for LGBTQ events and meet ups.

irodori
Credit: TimeOut Tokyo
The cafe features some good eats, like its meat pie and melon shortcake. And of course, coffee and tea are a staple, so grab a nice hot mug to keep this lingering winter chill away. A date here will be nice and pleasant, as well as helping out a good cause!

Osaka

Out in the Kansai area, Osaka has the Do With Cafe. It features a drag show every night that its open which makes it for a fun place to eat, drink, and have a show! The cafe might be more for the person who wants something a little more excitement, and not just romance.

The menu is focused on Japanese/Asian cuisine. The meals range from soba salad to fried chicken to beef rice bowls. As for drinks, you can choose anything from a hazelnut latte to pear tea to the longest whiskey menu I’ve ever seen in my life.

Can Do Cafe.png
Do With Cafe Interior
This Sunday they’re actually doing a Valentines Day special event!  Head on over there with your special someone to have some fun.

dowithosaka
Credit: Do with Cafe Event Page
Close by is a little place called Ducks. It’s fairly new, only a couple of years old, but it’s steadily growing a following. Another kind of a hidey-hole style place, Ducks is great for a meal, or maybe just a nightcap with your special someone.

Ducks.jpeg
Credit: GuruNavi
Their food is seasonal, so the menu changes every few months to spice things up. At the moment, the chef makes meat in tomato sauce with chickpeas over rice, as well as a chocolate torte for dessert.

Other Areas

A great resource for finding other places to date in Japan is Utopia Asia. This site has many different LGBTQ friendly places available: bars, clubs, restaurants, you name it. Most of the listings are for gay men, but there are a fair share of lesbian friendly places too. Some of the information is a bit outdated, so be sure to check links and do a quick internet search about the location of the places (some I found for Osaka and Kyoto had closed down, be careful). 

Even though it’s generally safe to go to just any other Japanese restaurant, if you want to be proud and queer, these are the places to go. And also, you’ll be supporting the efforts of the owners who want to help Japan become more accepting of the LGBTQ community. Most of these restaurants and cafes support endeavors to strengthen visibility, such as sponsoring and/or participating in Rainbow Pride. Love begets love, and when is a better time for love than Valentines Day?

If you know of a great LGBTQ restaurant or neat dating spot in general, please put it in the comments! 


A very special thank you to Stonewall Japan members for helping me with recommendations. They’re the best for LGBTQ events and resources, along with just being awesome people in general.   

Posted in Japanese Langauge

日本語 Conversation Tip: On a Date! (Part 1/ 2)

Although I’ve written about dating in Japan before, but that was more about how to get a date in Japan. This time I’m going to focus on what you can say if you’re actually on a date with a Japanese person. Now, it’s good to note that most Japanese people know at least a little bit of English because they learned it in school. However, it’s still appreciated if you talk in Japanese while on a date.


Let’s start with the simple stuff first. Odds are you already know how to introduce yourself, but just in case you’re going into the date with no Japanese at all, here’s a simple way to introduce yourself.

easy introductions.png

Be careful! You say “Hajimemashite” and “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” only the first time you meet someone. At all other meetings, it’s weird. There are many other varieties to do an introduction, but this one will be painless to practice unlike the more formal ways.


Next, on a date there will always be this essential question:

What do you want to eat.png

Notice though, most Japanese people will drop the “あなたは今” part and just ask straight up, “何 (が or を) 食べたいですか?” I’ve even heard it said with the “が or を” article in there.

You can answer this in many ways. It’s easy enough to simply say:

i-like-blah-food

I often go Italian food since pasta and pizzas are a great staple for date nights. Besides, most of them are pretty reasonable.

I want to eat.png

If you know exactly what you want, this is the better phrase to use. You can put any food at the beginning and it’ll be fine.

If you’re not sure what you want, and you want to leave it up to the other person to decide, you can say:

anything is fine.png

Or you can shorten it to simply 何でもいいです, which is a slightly different meaning of “Anything is good!”


If you’re not hungry and just want to make it a coffee date, that goes like so:

not hungry.png


Chit chat can be difficult, but there are some standard questions that can help keep the flow going. Hopefully your date won’t leave it all to you to keep the conversation alive.

where do you live.png

Jobs and such are generally easy to navigate. Most men call themselves a “salaryman (サラリーマン), as in business men that work for a company. Most women will refer to themselves as “O.L.” (you pronounce this as the letters). It’s short for Office Lady, which is basically just the female version of salaryman and doesn’t mean secretary like it used to in the old days.

If someone is a student, a nice follow up question is, “Anata was donona kiariafuildo wo benkyo shiteimasu? あなたはどのようなキャリアフィールドを勉強していますか” As in, “What career field are you studying?” It’s nice to ask out of interest, but not necessary.

When you get asked and want to answer, here are some simple responses:

answers-to-where-do-you-live

 

Changing the subject over to interests, generally the phrase “____ ga suki desu ka?” works for most things like food, specific movies, etc. But if you ask it over and over again it can get dull. So here are different ways of kind of asking the same sort of question:

 

Interests.png

 

 

These usually lead to follow up questions as well, like “Who is your favorite singer? Dare ga sukina kashudesu ka? 誰が好きな歌手ですか?” or “What’s your favorite band? Anata no sukina bando wa nanidesu ka? あなたの好きなバンドは何ですか?”

You can basically listen to them talk about their favorite things for a while. When you get asked and want to answer, most of these questions get simple answers.

Answers to interests.png


If someone is on a roll, telling a story or talking about themselves, and you want to show you’re paying attention, there are some filler words that you can use.

Filler words.png

*BE CAREFUL, don’t say the word “bakka” by itself. It means idiot.


Compliments (about the conversation and such, not the people) are also considered a good idea if you want to express more interest. Here are a very common four:

Compliments for Conversation.png


And that’s where we’ll stop today. Next Tuesday, I’ll bring in compliments for people and how to get a second date. See you next week!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Dating: A Hassle in Every Country

Happy Valentines Day!

I figured since it’s the season of love, I should discuss the differences between dating in America versus over in Japan. Notice how I’m talking about dating, not relationships. I don’t feel qualified enough on relationships to tell you about those, but the act of dating in order to find someone? I might be able to help you out there!

However, I’ll give out this information with a small disclaimer: E.S.I.D. This little annoying acronym came into my life the first day I touched down in Japan at the JET Conference. It means Every Situation Is Different. I’m doing an overview of what I’ve experienced as a foreigner in Japan, but that doesn’t mean every part of it will definitely apply to every single dating situation. Be careful, use your head, listen to your heart, because love is different for everyone.

Where to Meet People

Coming over to Japan, at first you’re going to want to settle in and get comfortable. After your nesting period is over, you’ll want to make friends and possibly start looking for a special someone. If you came over on a big program like JET or Interac, you’re in luck. Those organizations provide you with a vast network of people who will gather regularly to go traveling, experience the sights in your local town, and etc.

Usually, ALT and other teaching companies will overlap in their groups. That’s how I met my first boyfriend over here. He was a really nice guy, charming, and we hit it off really well. It didn’t work out in the end, but that’s fine. Although some people end up meeting their future husbands or wives over here! My friend from the Kashima area met her husband at a local Japanese class we all took together. Get involved in a hobby, try something new, don’t be afraid to try!

If you didn’t come on a big program set-up (or you did but ended up in the super inaka area like I did) MeetUp provides great opportunities for ex-pats and Japanese people alike to gather together all over Japan. Most of them are Tokyo oriented, but the beauty of MeetUp is you can make your own group activity in your area. Facebook Groups and Pages are also a great resource. Just type into the search engine your city name and there’s bound to be something going on.

For Japan, it’s not like in the states where you can just happen upon someone and ask them out for coffee. When it comes to face to face interaction, the culture is very collectivist, so its best to join a few groups and get to know people that way. If you’re specifically looking to go out with a Japanese person, the general rule is become friends first and then try out dating.

But that’s not always the case.

Online Dating

There are so many dating apps these days, but OkCupid so far has the best track record in Japan. It’s great because you can be LGBTQA+ on that site, whereas some apps are more one thing or anther. Also, it has a kind of Tindr feature where you can do Like or Pass as well as look at other profiles and chat. I managed to get a few dates using it, myself, mostly girls. I am bi-sexual, so for me I like that I can have the option to put that up on my profile.

The benefit of using an online site or dating app is that everyone on it is there for the same reason: to date. Instead of constantly meeting people and wondering if they’re interested, you know right away that the person chatting you up would like to go out with you. Also, with the chat feature you can talk and find out pretty quick if the person you’re talking to is as interesting as they seem in their profile. I like how easy it is to block someone. Just swipe to block and they’re gone.

I liked the convenience of it. I commute so much that nowadays it’s difficult for me to go meet people. With dating apps, I can “meet” people virtually anytime. When I lived out in the countryside, I liked them because my location made it difficult in Ibaraki to go out and see people. Not to mention that it’s easier for me to type up Japanese than speak it directly, so for dating Japanese people I do recommend dating sites maybe more than face to face.

The downsides if using it, of course, include a whole host of problems. Catfishing, where someone puts up a fake profile and picture, is a consistent problem my friends have encountered (I’ve been lucky, every boy and girl I’ve met has been truthful). Sometimes the chat will have people trying to scam you into sending them money, a semi-common tactic used by low level yakuza pretending to be hot Japanese women and for some reason con artists from India pretending to be fake Indian women (isn’t scamming strange in the 21st century?).

These kinds of profiles are targeting men, but women can get conned by host men luring them to host clubs sometimes. That one happened to a friend of a friend. She was told she’d be going to a restaurant and ended up paying for her night out with her Japanese “boyfriend” who made her pay for champagne. Most dating websites and apps have places to complain to about these problems, but it’s rare anything is done about them.

But usually you can tell from talking to someone on chat if they’re really interested in you or just out to scam you. I generally talk with someone on chat at least a week before I discuss meeting up, which might sound crazy to someone from the states. When I lived in Kentucky, I never waited that long. I’d set up a place out in public like three days in, but as a single female living abroad I’m way more cautious than I used to be. And in general, I’m not one to make the first move, so it’s hard for me in Japan to even get a date.

Asking Someone Out

I will say that I never realized how, well, easy I had it in Kentucky. I could just ask someone out, and then we could go out for coffee or to lunch. Very simple and very direct. I remember thinking how hard it was to ask someone out, and I laugh now. If only I knew that one day I’d be trying to fumble about in broken Japanese trying to get a guy’s phone number (I was rejected that time, sadly, but succeeded two years later).

Most of the time in Japan, if you’re doing a face to face interaction, you’ll be friends at first. Then, most of the time if you’re a lady the guy will ask you out to lunch or dinner. However, I’ve been asking people out more and more while living here in Tokyo, and none of the guys seemed to mind. They were flattered more so than upset. I think really getting hung up on who should ask who, or what the “proper protocol” is, will just make you miss your chance. Just ask if he/she doesn’t. Be brave!

Going on a Date

When I lived in Kentucky, a cafe was considered standard practice for a first date. Coffee and such was reasonable, but it wasn’t say like McDonalds or some other fast food restaurant. Cafes were a more “upscale” kind of cheap. Also, since one person usually paid for everything (in my area we kind of swapped back and forth, where the second date meant the other person who didn’t pay for the first date pays the second time), cafes weren’t such a financial burden to cover.

Most ex-pats in Japan tend to follow along the same lines of thought. Guys will generally pay for girls, both of them will go somewhere inexpensive but still kind of nice, and it’s not generally expected to be a big to-do. For lesbian and gay couples, it depends on who asked who out. Whoever asked first generally pays, but splitting the bill is also common. Both people will wear marginally better clothes than normal, but nothing terribly formal.

For Japanese people, lunches and dinners are popular first time dates in Japan, and for the most part a fancier kind of restaurant is deemed appropriate. Now, if you’re a college student, “fancy” would probably be more like a family restaurant like Saizeriya or Jonathans. If you’re both full time working adults, maybe like a real Italian style or French restaurant. Both people will wear nicer, more formal attire and they’ll split the bill evenly (called betsu-bestu in Japanese).

Valentines Day Differences

In America it’s customary for people to give chocolate to all your special people. When in school, generally students will give out cards and chocolates to most if not all of their homeroom class. In the teen years, couples get each other small gifts like chocolates, flowers, or personalized cards. Husbands and wives (including husbands with husbands, wives with wives) generally give each other gifts like ties for men or jewelry for women.

In Japan, Valentines Day is a part one of two holiday match. On February 14th, girls give boys chocolates and tomochoco (friendship chocolate). Boys/Men don’t give anything, they simply receive. Their day of giving comes on March 14th, called White Day. Then, guys will give back chocolate to the girls they like. Honestly, I don’t see many boys getting each other tomochoco, but for some reason Asahi and other beer companies have recently been trying to market towards men giving each other like tomobieru. So yay?

Anyways, be careful if you’re dating a Japanese person around this time or if you’re Japanese and dating a foreigner. The expectations will be a bit different.

Hitting the Bars and Clubs

In America, going out to a bar or a club meant having a good time and possibly picking up someone to take home. You can do that here in Japan, but don’t expect to be taken back to an apartment. The standard protocol for one-night stands is to go to a love hotel and spend the night together there.Notice how I said one-night stands. Unlike in America, most of the time getting someone from a bar or club will be a one time experience.

I don’t know why, but in Kentucky I knew people who met their future spouses at bars and clubs. In Japan, the mindset is very different for that kind of scene, it’s just not a great place to meet people. Ditto for izakayas, the restaurant and bar combo places you’ll find all over the country.

It’s very rare that I hear about people managing to form a relationship from meeting at a bar or club. That’s not to say it can’t/ won’t happen, but the possibility is slim if you’re trying for a long term thing. If you just want a no strings attached good time, then yeah, go for it!

What’s Next?

After the first date, believe it or not, comes the hard part: Call to say you had a good time, or call to say it’s just not going to work out. If you had a good time, great! Set-up a more interesting second date. Go somewhere together in town, like a gallery show or a temple. Figure out if you’ve got a common hobby or go out dancing together.

I’ve given my fair share of calls where I told someone I wanted to see them again, but also that I just can’t feel the chemistry. I’ve also received the calls where someone I like just didn’t feel it for me, and while that hurts I always appreciate honesty. Better to know in the beginning than down the road, I think.

If it didn’t work out, don’t be that person and text them that you’re done. Or worse, don’t ghost. Ghosting is when you drop off communication and just hope someone gets the hint. This happened to me the last time I dated, and let me tell you, a clean break is better than nothing (The exception, of course, is if you think you’ve got a creep or stalker on your hand, then block that crazy person asap).

Still the best advice I think I can give, whether you end up finding someone or not, is don’t give up. Don’t stop trying to make your special someone feel special. Pay attention, listen to what they say, what could be a great present for their birthday or Christmas? Would they like to go traveling or would they prefer to go bowling? Don’t ever think that you’ve done enough. Keep finding new ways to show them you care.

And for all my single ladies (and gentlemen), don’t get so disappointed you stop trying. It might take some time, but we’ll be fine. Take a break, but then try again when you’re ready.

I don’t know if my advice is perfectly sound, but I hope that it might help other people out there looking for love. Good luck everyone!


 

Here are some videos from vloggers who have dated in Japan who might interest you!

 

 


 

(Feature photo: Getty Images)

If you’ve got a dating story in Japan that you would like to share, please tell me all about it in the comment section!