As the title implies, this time Ill be writing about what its like being in a gay relationship with a Japanese guy. Of course I dont see him as my Japanese guy, hes just my guy, but nevertheless, the cultures we were born into do have a hand in shaping who we are and the way we interact with each other. But enough talk. Lets delve right in, starting from the beginning.
Getting the Guy:
If youve 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 do not live openly here.
Are foreign guys popular among gay Japanese men?
Back when I had a dating profile(it’s been long deleted now of course), I would occasionally get messages from guys who could speak English, guys who explicitly said they wanted to practice English, and guys a little too enthusiastic about the fact that I was foreign. Personally, this was not the attention that I wanted, so I talked to those who just treated me like I was a regular guy, rather than an English machine.
In my consensus, I think that some Japanese guys are indeed attracted to foreign guys, be it due to their features, general curiosity, or perhaps the desire to be with someone who thinks and acts differently than someone who was raised in Japan.
It goes without saying that speaking Japanese is a huge plus when meeting Japanese guys. It’s already difficult to find Japanese speakers of English, so when it comes to finding gay Japanese men who can speak English, you’re looking at a very small selection.
In Japan, male and female gender roles are strictly defined. There are a lot of generalizations, and I’ll try to explain them while giving my personal experience in regard to my 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 may even be forced on a day off to come to the office or attend a work event at the drop of a hat.
Taku and I started dating right before he was set to start a new job. We live far enough apart that it is impossible to meet on the weekdays when we are both working, so we spend time together on the weekends. He explained that his job would probably become very difficult, and there may be many times when he has to work on the weekends. Luckily for him, I was already well aware of how Japanese companies work, and knew what I was in for if I were to date a Japanese guy. Also, being a working man in Japan myself, I have times when I need to work on the weekends as well. Therefore, we understand the demands of each other’s jobs and plan our meetings accordingly.
Paying for things
In typical relationships, it’s usually the male’s role to pay for everything. As a girl, attempts to go dutch or pay for most anything will get rebuffed. But how does this rule work when it is applied to two guys?
When Taku and I first met, he acted as a ‘typical Japanese guy’ in that he insisted on paying for everything. I didn’t mind during our first few dates, but once we officially started dating and our meeting became regular, we generally began going 50/50. Neither of us is hurting for money, so there’s not much to worry about.
There’s also the matter of who goes to see who. For example, if I make the trip to see him, he kindly steps in and pays for most of the things for that particular weekend, and vice versa. We kind of just naturally fell into that system, and I think it really shows consideration for each other.
In the home
Since Japans modernization, gender roles in Japan have been severely split when it comes to matters of the home. For example, the man was considered to be the breadwinner while the woman takes care of…basically everything else. From managing the housework, to raising the kids, to making sure her husband has a wrinkle-free dress shirt when he leaves for work and a hot bath ready for when he comes home, the woman of the household was expected to do it all.
Times are changing in Japan, and Prime Minister Abe is currently pushing his “Womenomics” policies to get women out of the kitchen and into office chairs. Abe’s policies notwithstanding, there had already been a trend over the past few years of men beginning to contribute in areas that used to be the women’s domain. Japan absolutely loves portmanteaus, and the description for this new type of man is called Ikumen (イクメン). It’s a combination of the word for “childrearing” (育児, ikuji) and the English “men”. These are men who take an active role in child care, which demands that they learn the same housekeeping skills as their wives, as well as take a more active role in childrearing. While I have a feeling that men’s gender roles will only keep moving in this direction, I’m also sure that there are plenty of guys who might find Japan’s changes troublesome.
Luckily for me, as Taku and I are both guys, we don’t have to worry about these kinds of strict gender roles, and while we don’t live together now, I think that when we do, we’ll figure out a way to divide the household tasks accordingly.
Public Displays Of Affection
As a gay couple in conservative Japan, we can’t exactly hold hands everywhere we go or be generally touchy while in public. While I dont think anything dangerous would happen if we were to do so, you can never be too safe. Plus disapproving stares of locals is never comfortable.
Meeting Friends And Family
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m out to my non-Japanese friends here, and as such, I’ve introduced Taku to a handful of them.
On the other hand, Taku is not out to his friends, so I haven’t met any of them.
And as for meeting each other’s families…Yeah, I’ll get back to you on that one.
Lastly we have communication, an important facet of any relationship that becomes more taxing when you mix in the fact that neither of us can fluently speak each other’s native tongue.
In our relationship, we primarily use Japanese. Prior to meeting Taku, I had studied Japanese for several years. Even with that experience however, it’s still hard for me to communicate my ideas in the same capacity that I can in English. I recognize that I have a long way to go, and while I’m pretty good at self motivation, being with Taku has lead me to study even more zealously, as I want to become able to speak to and understand him better.
As I currently stand, I’m able to speak Japanese comfortably and in a way that expresses my personality. Taku also takes care to speak in clear Japanese that I can understand. In doing so, we’re able to have flowing and deep conversations!
Of course, communication goes a lot further than words. Being able to read the atmosphere is an extremely valuable skill in general, but is especially important in Japan where everyone is expected to be particularly sensitive to others in their group. I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, but I think it’s safe to say that most Japanese people are pretty good at reading body language.
I didn’t realize how many signals I let off until Taku was getting all sorts of reads on me, most of which were usually right. It did take him a little bit of time to adjust to my frequency so to speak. A few months into our relationship, he told me that he thought I was bored on our first handful of dates because I often seemed uninterested, but later then learned that I was just generally sleepy. I had to explain that I was having a great time, but I’m just really lethargic during winter!
When we started dating, there was one thing that I made clear: I didn’t want any issues caused by simple misunderstandings. Taku agreed that it was best if we told each other things directly. That agreement, plus the fact that we arent argumentative types, have contributed to a smooth relationship.
I hope that this post gave you some insight as to what it might be like to be in a gay relationship with a Japanese guy. Id love to hear comments and/or feedback. If you have any specific questions that Ive left unanswered, ask them in the contact form below and Ill make a post addressing them in the future.
Thanks for reading!