DATING IN JAPAN: One-Year-Recap
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Last week I was on a road trip in Hokkaido with a friend. A last holiday hurrah before we both returned home from teaching English in Japan for the year. While he was driving, I would often curl up in the passenger seat with my feet on the dashboard and catch up on blog reading when we had 3G service. I read through a lot of the 100 First Dates archives - out loud, oh yeah - and my friend told me to write a recap about dating in Japan.
It's not impossible, but it's difficult for Western women to date in Japan. I'll break this down in over-simplified terms. Japanese men are shy. Japanese women are adorable. Western men like adorable Japanese women. That leaves Western women out of the dating loop, unless they are a stone cold super fox. Throw in my limited Japanese, a stressful job, a rural living location, and wild curly red hair from lack of proper curly hair products, and well, I didn't have a date at all when I was 32 and living in Japan for the year.
According to any women's magazine or romantic comedy ever made, I should feel sub-human and immediately book a one-way trip to a tropical island until Sarah Gets Her Groove back.
It's okay. I might not have had one damn date, but I had a lot of self discoveries.
0 - Dates. (Awww.)
1 - Email from a former crush. Luckily, unlike last year at this time, I felt nothing.
1 - Attempt at OK Cupid. Joined. Changed my dating location, something like, four times. Received a marriage proposal and a request to move to Colorado by total strangers. Quit.
1 - Shared a cab with two hot Danish backpackers in Malaysia. Flirted, then never saw them again.
2 - Failed crushes that confused the fuck out of me and caused me to write a SERIES of long and exhaustingly embarrassing emails to my besties back home detailing any interaction with said-crush, until they flopped and made me realize I still focus on the fantasy of people rather than the reality of the situation.
I made more guy friends than ever before. Friends to go hiking, have over for dinner, go on holidays and road trips, meet up for workouts, and go on camp-outs. They would call me out when I was too hard on myself or acting crazy, push me to try new things, patiently teach me Japanese, and would even help me write my online dating profile. And unlike ex-boyfriends, these men have the potential to always be in my life. I treasure them.
I did yoga regularly. I went on more hikes in one summer than in the last five years. I tried kettlebells for the first time. I walked everywhere, and I biked almost everyday.
I traveled often - sometimes with friends and sometimes alone - and bought myself fresh flowers almost every week.
My sweet students told me that I was kawaii (cute), even on the days I was sweaty and disheveled at school.
I learned how to make homemade Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. It's weird looking, totally unique, and incredibly delicious, so of course it's my new favorite food.
While the year could be hard and confusing and non-romantic, it also felt so insanely liberating. It taught me how to be me, which is better than any relationship I've had.
But now I'm home and everyone wants me to get back to dating.