Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Love with a Japanese Guy

Last week over at Julie in Japan, Julie wrote an article entitled You asked for it...foreign girls dating in Japan. It seems she was getting quite a few emails from foreign girls searching for tips on the art of dating a Japanese guy. As always her article was sweet, interesting and thought provoking. It had me thinking about our love match and even prompted me to go digging around in old Flickr archives searching for photos of when Masao and I first met.


Every couple gets the "How did you meet?" question thrown at them I am sure. The bonus question of "Where did you meet?" is always thrown in if it is obvious that you are not from the same country. Generally we skip the "how did you meet?" and answer the "where?" with something along the lines of "at a cafe called Sign in Daikanyama" This technically is the truth as I clearly remember waiting with a friend of mine to meet Masao at Daikanyama station. He had a friend djing at the cafe that night and had invited me along. The "how" part of our meeting, while certainly not dramatic, is a little long winded so we have been known to give out the modified version. It all seems like a very long time ago now but Julie's post had me thinking that perhaps there are a ton of girls out there wondering how to meet Japanese guys. Similar to Julie I have no full proof tips, I think life goes in the direction that it is supposed to, but I can tell you our story.

at home together

I came to Tokyo in January of 2004, initially for one year. If people ask me why I came I often say it was a childhood dream. Honestly I am still not sure exactly why, I felt an extremely strong urge to move to Tokyo at that time. It wasn't for the money, as I had a great job and wonderful life in Australia. It wasn't for the language because as yet I have not mastered even the basics. It certainly wasn't for manga, kimonos, Sony, tea ceremonies or any of the other Japanophile loves. I just had to come. My spiritual self would look back now and say that I came to fulfill many dreams, ones that I was not consciously aware of back then. I came to fulfill independence, I came to meet Masao, start TOKYOMADE and become a hoop dancer. I came to learn about the world and my place in it, to meet the outstanding people that I have. The mystery of why I am in Tokyo continues to unfold everyday. It is a fabulous life!

Part of what has kept me here is an intensely love filled, calm, inspiring, balanced, powerful and happy relationship with a Japanese man. Masao and I met in the spring/summer of 2004, if you ask him he will know the exact day and time but I am just not good with that kind of stuff. It is true we met in Daikanyama, a very cool part of Tokyo known for it's cafes, clubs and boutiques. The way that we met was completely conspired by the universe. I was not looking for a boyfriend, although I found Japanese guys to be shockingly gorgeous and divinely preened to perfection. What I was looking for was somebody to help me create some short films. I had no experience with the language and very little insight into the culture but I saw an overwhelming need to capture the essence of Tokyo. I was obsessed with Japanese obsession. I wanted more but I needed someone to help me.
I put an advertisement in a magazine called Metropolis. I think it read something along the lines of "Aussie girl looking for friends to help make short film in Tokyo." I seriously cannot remember. Again you could ask Masao and he would recite it word for word. I got some awesome responses. Met some very cool people a few of which I remained friends with and who really added to my experiences here. And then there was be honest in the beginning I would never have thought we would be together for so long. In actual fact I thought he was a little strange ;). Not used to the low key, cool and calm ways of the Japanese boy I thought he was far more into boys than girls and so part of why we hit it off in the beginning I believe is because there was no pressure of thinking about it being a relationship.

kids in a candy shop

Back then Masao lived with his Dad, a very common thing in Tokyo many young people live with their parents, so we would see each other whenever we could. He would take me to all these very cool places that he knew and I would get my fill of Tokyo fun and scenery. We had met a few times with friends and in a group. This is also very common in Japan. Often you will think you are heading out on a "date" only to find that a truck load of friends have been invited. This can make it tricky to "get to know somebody" in the beginning. Perhaps a tip for others thinking about dating Japanese guys is to be patient in the beginning. I think in many relationships in other parts of the world people like to rush, rush, rush, they have expectations built up about what they should know and what should be done. In Japan it is a different game and patience is a virtue, being friends first is a common step, being friends with his friends is sometimes equally important. I remember being very nervous when I knew I was meeting him for the first time "alone", I am not sure why, but I had kind of figured that this was a big step and had real potential. I also figured that dating a foreign girl must have been very knew for Masao when he asked me as we stood under the glow of the Shibuyan crossing "Don't you shave your face?" (Face shaving is the done thing for many a Japanese girl!) It was a steep and fabulous learning curve for both of us from that point on!

Not long after the face shaving question we moved into a VERY tiny apartment in Okubo where we stayed blissfully for 2 years. In that time we traveled around Europe, went to Australia to meet the family, had my mum come and stay, started TOKYOMADE, Masao went from being a salary man to being a stylin' entrepreneur, our lives changed daily for the better, we made so many wonderful new friends all in such confined quarters we had really put our love to the test. If there were going to be any bust ups it was sure to happen then. Luckily it was smooth sailing, aside from the time we decided to order office furniture online I managed to smash Masao in the forehead with a piece of wood causing much bleeding and hysteria. Oh good times!

getting ready

We now live in a much roomier apartment with our own spaces to do what we do. Masao in his office and me in our tatami room hooping. There has been a great deal of learning to do which may be part of what keeps our relationship so strong. There is no doubting that in any relationship where the partners are from very different backgrounds there is going to be intense amounts of learning and coming to understandings. Another tip I would offer up if you are thinking of dating a Japanese guy or anyone who was not born in your suburb/state/country is to be ready to question what you know to be real and true, be ready to learn about a new way of life, be willing to explore other lifestyles and customs. Of course this should go for your partner as well. We are super lucky in that neither of us are particularly bound by any forms of tradition, past or nationalistic pride. I rarely think of Masao as "Japanese" and me as "Australian". We have really created our own world and left all the past stuff behind. This is an important step I think in any relationship.

Naturally I can only speak of my experience with one person it is very hard to generalize. I have no idea what other Japanese guys are like to date or live with. I could only speak of exterior, superficial stuff (which is all pretty FINE in my opinion! mmm ) I have heard some horror stories of demanding, old fashioned stubbornness but nothing could be further from my experience with Masao and all of the Japanese males that I know as friends.

My tips...
Hang out at places you love. There are endless destinations in this city to hang out and meet people.
Be yourself. Trying to be something you are not is not appealing to anyone. Being your individual, unique self is very attractive.
Don't try too hard. You know when you are searching too hard you often can't find the perfect dress, same goes for Japanese guys. ;)
Make friends with Japanese people.
Visualize positively what you would like your life to be like, if that includes a Japanese boy then so be it! They are very beautiful, that is definitely a positive visualization. ;)
Let go of any us and them thoughts.
Join some clubs, learn something new. Oh a Japanese yogi, a Japanese salsa dancer, an artist, coin polisher, manicurist...whatever you are into.
Learn Japanese! (although I never did properly there is always time)
Have an interest and put out an ad to get people to help you. Be sure to meet new friends with other friends, don't go alone. It is not very common in Tokyo for people to invite you to their apartment especially on the first meet up, some friends in this city NEVER see their close friends apartments. So be clued up and NEVER go to apartments alone - goes without saying.

Good luck, have fun, send us your purikura! ;)

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Blogger D'Jen said...

Awww, this was such a lovely post. I love relationship stories *lame*. I also think going slow is so sweet, everyone wants to get serious and move in together so soon, I think having a while to crush on each other and look forward to seeing each other is so wonderful.

P.S I am deeply in love with your hair, it looks awesome in every picture!? How do you do it?? :)

20/3/08 4:21 PM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Thank you lovely, very sweet of you!

The hair - you are a shortie too aren't you? For me keeping it short is what it is all about, very versatile but super manageable. My hair is a wild and intensely untamed beast when it gets longer than a few centimeters. The first photo of this post shows the results of a Japanese straight perm...well worth the time and money for my hair but I like it short, short. Good for the soul and the morning rush!!

Thank you for your lovely comments and best of luck heading to the country!! You will have a ball!

20/3/08 9:54 PM  
Blogger Sigsy said...

Lovely story.
Everything we 'knew' before means nothing.
Assume nothing.
The rules of engagement have been smashed and rehashed.
What an adventure!
And it is fabulous!
Martine thinks our men would get along well!

20/3/08 11:13 PM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Sigsy I can't sing and I am by no means a Disney fan but I feel like singing this in response to your comment
I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you
Now I'm in a whole new world with you

Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky

A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

A whole new world
Every turn a surprise
With new horizons to pursue
Every moment red-letter
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you

A whole new world
That's where we'll be
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me

21/3/08 12:29 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Yes, I think Martine is right! Soon!

21/3/08 12:30 AM  
Blogger D'Jen said...

Yes, I am a short haired wonder too. I am committed to short as well, I can't imagine having lots of hair. I have long sideburns and a bit of a fashion mullet at the back (sort of like a staple, straight across in the middle and long bits on each side.

Keeping it short is important huh? My hair also gets insane when it gets any degree of length or weight about it. I like my sideburns/mullet because they are the only bits on my whole head that grow fairly straight and don't get really thick and wild.

Short hair is AWESOME :D

21/3/08 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Stephie said...

Great post - love all the posted photographs and you've just made me have wanderlust all over again as I have not visited Japan before. (:

21/3/08 12:41 PM  
Blogger Ammu said...

What a sweet story. Lovely way to start my morning. And yes, you have awesome hair :) Good luck to both of you!

21/3/08 5:26 PM  
Blogger sushizume said...

d'jen i am so with you on the short factor!

I often rock the mullet, gives me something to play with but I just recently chopped it all short when I fell deeply and madly in love with Agness Deyn

Hang on where are those pics you promised? I am heading over to Flickr now in search of the turban.

21/3/08 7:01 PM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Stephie thank you for your sweetness! Love Fashion Nation! So happy to have found it.

Tokyo is waiting for your arrival.

21/3/08 7:03 PM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Ammu thank you so much! Your comment made my day and we are happy to help keep your morning nice and cheery!

Tokyo loving to you

21/3/08 7:04 PM  
Blogger Olga said...

Thanks for writing a cool blog about Japan. :) It's such an interesting culture, and so different from Europe!

That face shaving thing is an amusing fact :)

I've read about it in a book on the Japanese beauty industry called "Beauty Up" :)))

Did you actually do the face shave? :)))

22/3/08 12:05 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Thanks for stopping by Olga.

ha ha No I did not shave my face but there are plenty of salons that would do it for me. I was told that it makes make up go on more smoothly and looks better.

The funny thing is there are advertisements all over the city that read "Bride package - make and shave" or "Beauty shave" "Face shaving here" OUCH I don't love the idea of someone else shaving my face!

It certainly is an interesting place to live!

22/3/08 12:21 AM  
Blogger Aimee "Roo" said...

what a lovely love story! :) can't wait to see how the rest of it continues to unfold.

22/3/08 12:32 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Thanks Aimee you are such a sweetie!

22/3/08 12:54 AM  
Blogger Olga said...

Thanks for commenting my blog too :)))

Won't face shaving provide girls with a nice bushy beard? ;)

I've got some Japanese beauty and fashion mags, and even though my knowledge of the language is quite limited yet, I have deciphered some ads for wacky beauty works like nipple and underarm whitening, eyelid gluing, as well as SPF 50 (!) whitening skincare :)))

SPF 50 doesn't sound too bad though, if it weren't whitening. I've read the whitening components can be dangerous.

22/3/08 5:11 AM  
Blogger Suzy said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, and seeing all the pictures of you and Masao! And I think that is all great advice for meeting someone anywhere, not just a Japanese man.
And Jen is right, your hair always looks great.

PS Sign was right near where I used to live... fabulous cafe!


22/3/08 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Zainab said...

I really, really, really enjoyed this post. I know plenty of people who are classed as 'Japanophiles', people who are only into the country for it's music, anime, kimono. Which is a great thing, I guess. But I could never really identify with that- though I really do love the Japan indie fashion scene. It's nice to know that there is someone out there who loves Japan not because of popculture but sees it as a place of spirituality- if god's willing, I'll be going soon and though I am not envisioning dating this post was just incredibly wonderful and I'll keep all that you say in mind. You and Masao look especially cute together! Lot's of love,

23/3/08 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Johanna said...

this really made me nostalgic! I miss you guys immensely!

1/4/08 9:00 AM  
Anonymous floy2d said...

konbanwa (it's almost evening in here in singapore!!). your blog is so SO lovely.

i'm gay and dated a Japanese guy for 3 and a half years, which i must say has been the single most eye-opening experience of my life. i'm south african and he is of course japanese. patience - yes, understanding - yes, learning japnese - OH YES! hahaha!!

we moved from shanghai to singapore together but have recently broken up, though admittedly the break-up is not working either as we still love each other very much. i think things are definitely different in a gay relationship etc, which only compounds all the cultural/language/expectation differences, but some things are universal and just reading your entry helped make me stop and think a little.

something so unusual and different as a partner from another place can only ever bring joy, learning and amazement into your life. treasure it.

and good luck.

P: your hair rocks, esp as in tokyo i bet girls don't cut their hair like that. kakoiin desu yo. (excuse my terrible japanese writing).



1/4/08 6:21 PM  
Blogger cheryll said...

Hey, found your blog through you ad on OB! I hope this doesn't come off as too weird, but is your Masao this Masao?

Granted, it's been a few years and the picture's not the best quality. But I'm the girl in the middle in that picture and it was from my trip to Tokyo in 2003. That Masao was friends with the short girl on the left named Machiko and we all went out for drinks one night.

Anyway, I was reading your entry (which was awesome) and couldn't help but think that your Masao looked very familiar! If it's the same guy, please tell him I said hello (if he remembers a Cheryll from California) and a congratulations to you because I remember him being a very awesome guy when I met him!

And... if this is totally the wrong person umm... thanks for reading! Haha.

14/4/08 3:17 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

floydd i am so sorry to reply so late

your comment is wonderful and i enjoyed reading your little snippet of life with your japanese boy - wishing you both lots of joy

thanks for the hair compliment it is easy and fun!

14/4/08 10:33 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

cheryll that is amazing - it is the same person - masao looks so cute in that picture (but much skinnier now i think i need to feed him!!) thank you for the link and be sure to keep in touch!!

14/4/08 10:34 AM  
Blogger cheryll said...

AWESOME! Go go mighty internet in proving that the world is really really REALLY small.

I just scoped out your Flickr and you and Masao make an awesome couple. I wish nothing but the best for you two!

14/4/08 11:11 AM  
Blogger sushizume said...

Thank you so much that is very sweet of you to say!

Well now we are flickr friends too we can completely pry into each others lives - don't you love the internet?!

Can't wait ti tell Masao that we "met" today!

14/4/08 11:16 AM  
Blogger KK said...

It is a promising and inspiring story..Thank u coz it made me realize one thing more and is quite sure to continue loving him inspite of the negative feedbacks i am getting about japanese guys.

thank u very much..u just dont know how ur story inspired me:-)

9/6/08 1:11 PM  

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