1. His handbag matches yours.
You were probably amazed at Japanese men’s chivalry during your first few months in the country. Most of them seem to carry their girlfriend’s or wife’s handbag…at all times! Oh, wait…that’s just because it’s theirs! Just like every other Japanese man (in Tokyo at least) your boyfriend always carries his man-purse around.
2. He spends longer than you getting ready.
Most of the bottles of shampoo, conditioner, treatment, cream, hair gel, and other beauty products in the bathroom are his, and he will use every single one of them, in order, before considering himself ready to go out for dinner. However, he doesn’t mind sporting his old pajamas and flip flops, with his hair up in a whale spout, when he goes to the supermarket…
3. His razors last 20 times longer than yours.
Like most Japanese men, he can’t grow a beard. Maybe if he doesn’t shave for 3 months, he’ll have half a moustache and a hint of a goatee. On the bright side, he won’t cost much in razor blades. But that usually also means that you, the non-Asian girlfriend, are now the hairy one…
4. You now wake up to the lovely fragrance of fermented beans and rice.
Japanese people love eating natto for breakfast. Natto is a very smelly and slimy traditional food made from fermented soybeans. It’s hard to enjoy your toast and coffee when it smells like your boyfriend is eating old roadkill.
5. His “dinner with co-workers” usually means “all-night karaoke.”
First, he will not be able to refuse an invitation from a co-worker, especially if this person has been in the company for longer than him.
He will not be able to turn down the after-dinner drinks at a Japanese-style pub either, or the last hour at the karaoke before going home…well, it’ll only be an hour if no one misses their last train. In that case, camaraderie oblige, everyone has to spend the night in the cramped karaoke room and sing old J-pop tunes until dawn.
6. You will never get a kiss in public.
Many people say that French people sometimes go a little too far when showing affection in public. I mean, there isn’t even a word in the French language for “public display of affection.”
Japanese people are on the other end of the scale. Until a few decades ago, couples would not even hold hands in public. Now, they do, but don’t try to ask your boyfriend for a kiss on the train, on a bench, or at the movies if you don’t want to be rejected out of hand!
7. He won’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day.
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a big thing. Actually, it’s maybe even bigger than in some Western countries. The problem is that it’s nothing like what you would expect in Europe or in the US. For starters, only women give presents (usually chocolate) on February 14th. And not only to their lovers, but to basically all the men around them, whether at home or in the office.
There are even words showing the difference: On the one hand you have the honmei choco or “true feeling chocolate,” the one you give to your boyfriend or husband. On the other hand, you have the giri choco which literally means “obligatory chocolate.” So you’d better make sure you don’t forget to buy sweets (or even better, bake them) on that day!
Note: girls still get presents, but a month later. On March 14th, so-called White Day is when men are supposed to return the favor!
8. He has already slept on the street and doesn’t think it’s dangerous.
Walk around Tokyo, Osaka, or other big cities in Japan at night, and you will probably come across sleeping men, usually in suits and holding their briefcases, just lying there on the pavement. Taking pictures of these “bodies” is a popular game among travelers and newcomers to the country, but it gets a little more worrying when you realize your boyfriend has been one of those men sleeping in the street at least once before, and maybe not so long ago!
The good news is that Japan is (or at least is close to being) the safest place on Earth, so most people wake up the next morning with all their belongings…the only thing they might have lost is their dignity.
9. You met his parents = you’re engaged.
You’ve been together for a few months now, and think it might be a good time to meet his parents…if you can speak Japanese or they can speak your mother tongue. Now, when you casually say that it would be a good time for a dinner with okaa-san and otou-san (mum and dad), your darling seems a bit reluctant, and starts putting it off.
You might start wondering what’s up with him. Why wouldn’t he be proud to show off how great a girlfriend you are to his parents?! The main reason is that men (and women) don’t usually introduce their partners until they think it is really serious. Many old-fashioned families still see it as a hint that you will be getting engaged soon.
10. You just moved in together = you’re getting married.
You’ve met the parents, and now you’re thinking of moving in together. Not such a big deal in Western countries — I mean, come on, even students do it! But in Japan, you’d better read the terms and conditions at the bottom of the contract, because chances are there’s a clause in small print saying, “By signing this rental agreement, I understand that my boyfriend’s parents are now planning our wedding ceremony, reception, and wondering if our kids will have Japanese or foreign names”.