Gay dating International

Expat and Gay in Japan: Dating A Japanese Guy

As the title implies, I’ll be writing about what it’s like being in a gay relationship with a Japanese guy. Of course, I don’t see him as my “Japanese guy”, he’s just “my guy”, but nevertheless, the cultures we were born into do have a hand in shaping who we are and the ways in which we interact with each other.

I can’t speak for every international couple, nor am I trying to generalize every Japanese man. But in any case, I hope that you’ll find this information to be interesting and useful.

Let’s delve right in, starting from the beginning.

Finding the Guy

If you’ve read my post Expat and Gay in Japan: An Introduction, you’ll remember that there are two primary ways that gay men meet in Japan, which are at bars or online. Taku and I met through the latter. I was the one who reached out to Taku first. We exchanged messages for a bit before meeting in person for the first time, and after several dates we became “official”. Other Japanese/non-Japanese expat gay relationships I know of have started similarly. It’s a sign of the times, as LGBT people often do not live openly here.

If you’re in Japan, the easiest way to access the gay world is by using a smartphone application. Applications like the Japanese-created or others like function sort of like a “gay Facebook”. Since gay men are hidden in Japan, it’s easier to find a variety of people on applications as opposed to in bars. You don’t even have to leave your couch (or get up off of the tatami)!

If you’re a more outgoing type of person, bars may be a viable option, and may feature a different set of individuals than smartphone applications, though I’m sure that some overlap occurs. For finding gay bars in Japan, check out my post “Expat and Gay in Japan: How to Find Gay Bars (and More!)“.

In addition, if you speak some Japanese and are interested in helping out the Japanese LGBT cause, why not try volunteering with a local non-profit organization? More and more organizations catered towards helping sexual minorities are popping up month after month, especially in bigger cities, but also in smaller ones too. Some NPO groups are listed on the “Discover” page, and you can also check who we follow on our twitter.

◆Are foreign guys popular among gay Japanese men?

Back when I had a dating profile, I would occasionally get messages from Japanese guys who explicitly said they wanted to practice English, and guys who were a little too enthusiastic about the fact that I was foreign. I don’t like that kind of attention, so I chose to talk with those who just treated me like I was a regular guy, rather than an English machine or exotic foreigner.

In my consensus, I think that some Japanese guys are indeed attracted to foreign guys, whether it’s the desire to be with someone who thinks and acts differently than someone who was raised in Japan, or just due to general curiosity or attraction to foreign features.

Japanese Studies scholar Thomas Baudinette gave a brief overview of how race plays into the gay dating scene in Japan in response to a comment on his article titled “Negotiating the fetishisation of youth in the gay male media of Japan” which I found to be interesting.

“…The gay male community of Japan loosely divides itself into three categories: “nai-sen” (those who prefer other Japanese men, representing the majority), “gai-sen” (those who prefer white foreign men) and “ajia-sen” (those who prefer East or South-East Asian). I would also point out here that Latino and Black ethnicities, as well as South and Central Asian, are rather invisible….”

“…Broadly speaking, there is an uneasy fetishisation of the white male in the gay male media of Japan…”

In my experience as a Latino in Japan, I believe that white men of any nationality do indeed have an advantage in finding Japanese partners and in navigating the Japanese gay world. By “white” I mean basically any man who looks white regardless of their actual heritage. This is probably because it aligns with the expectation of what a western foreigner is “supposed to” look like, and like Mr. Baunidette stated, is a fetishized image (not only in the gay world but in the straight world too) in Japan. If you’re not white though, don’t get discouraged! I’m Latino and found a Japanese boyfriend eventually.

It also goes without saying that speaking Japanese is a huge plus when meeting Japanese guys. Keep in mind that since it’s already difficult to find Japanese speakers of English in general, when it comes to finding gay Japanese men who can speak English, you’re looking at a very small selection.

Relationship Expectations

In Japan, male and female gender roles are strictly defined. But of course, the roles in a relationship change quite a bit when it comes to two guys. I’ll try to explain them while giving my personal experience in regards to our relationship.

◆Work Life Balance

Japan is infamous for not paying any regard to work-life balance. Anyone who has read anything about Japan is probably aware that men in Japan are expected to work dozens of hours of overtime, and are always “on call”, so they may even be forced on a day off to come to the office or attend a work event at the drop of a hat.

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