The following is an interview with a Japanese woman Ryoko, who is in a relationship with an American man. This may help give you some insight into how Japanese women view relationships with foreigners.
A Relationship Begins…
Interviewer:Hi, Ryoko. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I'd like to talk to you about your relationship with your American boyfriend. First of all, how long have you been going out and how did you meet?
Ryoko:This month marks our second anniversary. We met through a mutual friend. I don't use English in my work, but had been studying for a while at an English school, and so was able to engage in basic conversation. That said though, I was not particularly accustomed to speaking with foreigners. We met at a party through this mutual friend, and were able to get talking there.
Interviewer:And so you spoke English at the party?
Ryoko:Not really, I was kind of uncomfortable speaking English at that stage, especially with foreigners, and so I was mainly just speaking Japanese with other Japanese. He came and talked to me though, so I had no choice. I was also a little drunk at that point, so that helped his cause (laughs)!
Interviewer:I see, so he couldn't speak Japanese?
Ryoko:That's right. We struggled a little to begin with, as we spoke only English together, and mine wasn't/isn't great.
The appeal of a foreign man...
Interviewer:So he contacted you afterwards asking for a date?
Ryoko:Yes, we exchanged email addresses at the party, and a few days afterwards, he mailed me asking to meet again. It was pretty clear that he meant a date.
Interviewer:Yes, many women say recently that Japanese men are too gentle, and not brave enough to just ask a girl out on a date.
Ryoko:Well, I don't think it's necessarily true to say all foreigners are like that. It of course depends on the individual. However, I'd say that foreigners are definitely more comfortable saying how they feel than Japanese men (and women). There's also the 'ladies first' mentality, with men being more gentlemanly, and treating women more like princesses. Foreign men are more likely to say and do sweet or romantic things that Japanese men may be too embarrassed to say/do.
Interviewer:Well people often liken Japanese men to herbivores, and foreign men to carnivores.
Ryoko:(laughs) Yes, I can kind understand that.
The obstacle of English
Interviewer:So what problems did you face after you started your relationship?
Ryoko:Well really, language was the big issue. He works in the Japanese branch of a foreign company and doesn't really use Japanese, so he doesn't really learn. On the other hand, my English was only quite basic at that time. There are many expressions unique to Japanese, and I was quite hesitant to speak a lot of the time. He would often encourage me to speak up and give my opinions.
Interviewer:Did that cause fights?
Ryoko:Not so much fights, but problems and misunderstandings. Sometimes it would cause friction and I would worry about it. He would often tell me to say what I thought, and while I wanted to, I couldn't express it in English, which would upset me. But he learnt to understand that situation and feeling in me, which helped us. Over time too my English has improved, mainly thanks to my relationship with him.
Interviewer:So you were able to surmount the obstacle of English...
The many interests of foreigners
Interviewer:Many Japanese women are interested in relationships with foreigners. Do you have any suggestions or advice for them?
Ryoko:Well my boyfriend is American, and while other nationalities may be different,
one big difference between him and Japanese men is his variety of interests.
He talks about all kinds of different topics which interest him,
and is much broader in his knowledge than most Japanese, who tend to just know about things which are relevant to them.
It is fun for me to talk to him about these things and learn from him about the world.
So to women who want to have a relationship with foreigners, I would recommend broadening their horizons a little, and learning about topics so that they can converse about them a little, for example, history, international politics etc. It also helps to be able to speak at least basic English as well of course!
Interviewer:And even if they meet any foreigners, this advice is still going to benefit them!
Ryoko:When you are in a relationship with someone from a different culture, there are of course a number of obstacles and issues you will face. Over time, and with trust, affection, and cooperation, you can get over them together. He's now studying Japanese in his free time, as he wants to be able to speak to my friends and family.
Interviewer:So do you think he may ask you to marry him soon?
Ryoko:I already told him I'm waiting for that (laughs)!