The popular dating trend of “ghosting” is a phenomenon that happens almost everywhere but in Japanese culture, it tends to be more extreme. Although ghosting happens worldwide, it is amplified in Japan by cultural values of subtlety, reading between the lines, and avoiding open conflict. Vague phrases like “it’s complicated” or “it’s not you, it’s me” are common ways to skirt stating an outright rejection. This leaves rejected pursuers confused and lacking closure.
For Black expats navigating Japan’s dating scene, race also influences relationship dynamics and ghosting patterns. As a minority group, factors like language barriers, cultural differences, and racial prejudices impact the Japanese dating pool. This can sometimes exacerbate ghosting tendencies when challenges arise.
Ghosting in Japan Is Less Likely To Be Upfront
Aside from the dating factor, Japanese people as a whole are less likely to be upfront with you and choose to always remain civil. In essence, the Japanese approach to communication mirrors their emphasis on preserving harmony, as they tend to avoid confrontation and tend to never openly reject requests. This is because Japanese culture is very hospitable and gracious, so they never want to come off as “mean.”
While some may think being non-confrontational is the key to preserving someone’s feelings, it can actually be even more damaging. By not being direct, both parties may end up being harmed in the long run.
Furthermore, keeping the peace is also a huge part of Japanese culture. The deep-rooted commitment to peace is apparent in various aspects of their daily life. For instance, the fundamental principle of “wa,” denoting harmony and equilibrium, is evident in their communication style and is characterized by a preference for indirectness over direct confrontation. Additionally, the cultural value of “gaman,” emphasizing patience and endurance, encourages individuals to remain composed in the face of hardship and challenging circumstances. These cultural norms extend to encompass not only personal interactions but also respect for the natural environment and the preservation of traditional customs.
Ghosting in Japan Is About Reading the Room
If you’re left on read or still haven’t heard back from the person you’re seeing in Japan, this can potentially mean that they want to indirectly say that they’re not very interested. If you keep pressing and hoping to ignite that potential spark, you may inadvertently step into the realm of “kuuki yomenai” (commonly referred to as KY), or “the inability to gauge the atmosphere and persisting without awareness.” Essentially, reading the room is a significant aspect of Japanese culture and may be particularly challenging to recognize if you’re not accustomed to it. Here’s a possible scenario:
You: “Hey! Are you free later to grab a bite to eat?”
Them: “I’m tied up with work for the rest of the day, but I’ll let you know if I’m free!”
You: “That’s sounds great! Do you know a time later that works for you?”
Them: “I’m not sure if today really works, but how about [specific time and date two months from now]?”
Japanese Ghosting Can Look Like Constant Rescheduling
A notable aspect of Japanese dating is to constantly reschedule plans as a form of “ghosting.” Here’s a possible scenario:
Them: “Hey! Are we still going out for coffee later?”
You: “I’m sorry, but something unexpected has come up, and I won’t be able to make it!”
Them: “No worries! Let’s plan for next time?”
You: “Yes, of course, we’ll plan for another time!”
Of course, anything could happen when your date wants to reschedule and things really do come up. However, if you notice this to be a constant pattern or you never receive responses to your texts, this is a clear indicator that they’re not feeling it.
Japanese Ghosting and Expats
The extreme ghosting culture in Japan reflects unspoken dating norms that emphasize nuance and non-confrontation. Understanding these subtle codes provides clarity when navigating Japanese relationships as a foreigner. While the lack of directness around rejection causes frustration for some, recognizing the cultural roots of ghosting in Japan helps manage expectations.
While being ghosted anywhere in the world never feels good, it’s important to note that it most likely has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. As part of the typical way of dating goes, ghosting in Japan is simply intertwined in a way to keep the peace while not hurting the other person’s feelings (we’re not saying it’s the healthiest dating practice). Whether traveling or experiencing Japanese life as an expat, the above can help you navigate the dating pool more simply and easily.