Japanese Dating Apps For Foreigners

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Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Hinge, Happn. I arrived in Japan last year well-versed in the world of dating apps — and was pretty much done with them. But then after a month or two, half out of curiosity and half out of new-to-Tokyo friendlessness, I found myself climbing back onto the online dating bandwagon loaded with, well, cynicism, but also just a teensy bit of hope that things would be different.

  1. Japan Dating Apps
  2. Tinder

Surprise! Apps here were a minefield of miscommunication and wires crossing in all the wrong ways; an interpretative battleground where nobody really knows what the f*ck is going on. And it all started with some of the oddest profiles I’d ever laid eyes upon. Cue my new addiction to the steep learning curve of unique bios, photos, and ice-breakers, that, as distinct as they were, actually were not one-offs. In fact, after checking out the apps of my social circle too, it seemed that the same kinds of profiles occur often enough to be able to be — yup — categorized. So here you have it: A selection of eight types of dating app profiles you might encounter in Japan.

The Shy Guy

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A very common trend with Japanese profiles is the distinct lack of photographs of the person themselves. This means figuring out what your guy is all about by perusing photos of their favorite hobbies, food, or animals. A flip-through of a profile will go something like this: Cat photo, cat photo, bowl of ramen, cat photo, long exposure of a starry night.

In the age of the great narcissistic debate over whether or not dating apps are ethical, you might be really into this idea of getting to know someone first before seeing what they look like. Still, I can’t help but wonder the match success rate among these kinds of profiles. Then again, I don’t know who any of them are to ask.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

Don’t bother. It’s already impossible to meet a close friend in somewhere as busy as Shinjuku station, so how are you supposed to recognize a potential date by their cat?

The Language Exchanger

A lot of us are searching for a type of love where the object of our affection will see us for who we truly are, as in, the inner workings of our minds. Well, the Language Exchanger is looking to get inside your head — the left hemisphere of your brain where you process speech and language. Yes, this person just wants a free language teacher. At least their intentions are clear from their bio (depending on their English level). If it works for you then great, maybe you need help with your Japanese too, I know I still do. But personally, I am not comfortable with being used as a romantic Rosetta Stone.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

You’ll swiftly be asked along to a meet-up where you are the only English speaker and you become a sushi conveyor belt of English conversation. If you have the endurance to answer continuous grammar questions, make sure you get a cut of the entry fee.

The Filtered Fun

Wow, a quick test drive of my male friend’s Tinder shows me that the “Male seeking Female” setting looks like Snapchat threw up on it. It’s like a magical place of Purikura and all the cat ears the world has to offer. We are all special snowflakes, but does this teeter on the edge of catfishing?

Or maybe their skin does sparkle, they do have eyes the size of baseballs and they can vomit rainbows. If so, I take it all back.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

Bleep Blop. A word of advice for my lady cohorts. Guys out there who are searching for girls are also dealing with a lot of bots, so ditching the filters and presenting your authentic self will make you shine brighter than any filter ever could.

The Tourist

Left, left, left, left… BAM! You’ve struck dating gold. You haven’t seen such a high caliber of dating potential in at least a fortnight of politely swiping “thank you, next.” Intelligent, successful, down-to-earth, funny, attractive, whatever it is that you’re into, this person has it. You are elated. The chat is going well, you’ve shared witty openers, complimented each other’s pets, and then they deliver the “I’m visiting for a week, you live here though? That’s cool!“-line.

You lift your chu-hi to the universe and give a knowing nod. Another fish from another sea. Sigh.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

Japan Dating Apps

The high of a whirlwind romance paves way to the lows of being left behind. If you’re in a good place in your life and only want a little burst of excitement, then date away! It could be the beginning of your future grandkid’s bedtime stories (leave out the Tinder part though, you met at a manga library for sure).

The Expat Macho


Gym poses are common among dating profiles across the world, but the particular type of machismo we’re discussing here is closer to the Western alpha male trope. Chatting with your matches, you may forget just how different the lovely Japanese bubble of niceness is compared to interactions you might have in your own country. Next thing you know you’re being called a “b*tch ass hoe” for not messaging back fast enough. At home, I expect d*ck pics. Lulled by a false sense of security here in Japan, I don’t.

So how can you tell who is an “Expat Macho?”

Well, you can’t. At first, they will appear to be normcore at its finest. It’s only a matter of delayed replies before the unpleasant messages start coming.

Dating sites

What to do in the event of an encounter:


Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of good people out there for every one person who spoils your dating app experience, but what’s important is that you should never allow your standards to be compromised by some average dude negging you because they read The Game once. The apps don’t want these guys using their service either. Report them, move on.

The Married One

Tinder in Japan is especially hazardous for foreigners who enter into matches believing the other person is seeking a genuine romantic connection. Many Japanese people, tied to insane work schedules that hinder meeting others, use Tinder to simply make new friends.

That said, there are occasional users who are married or in relationships but are looking for a bit of *cough, cough* side action. They will appear to be an honest person by declaring their relationship status within their bio and explicitly stating that they are looking to make new friends only.

Tread carefully good daters, and beware of the lines that start with “I’m in a relationship, I’m not like other guys looking to be sleazy towards you, let’s be friends,” and two minutes later finish with “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, can I have your LINE?!”

What to do in the event of an encounter:

Unless you’re searching for a “Papa Katsu” (Sugar Daddy), then unmatch, and be grateful that you haven’t married them. Phew, being single ain’t so bad after all.

The Wildcard

These people exist everywhere, and Japan is no exception to the rule. I’m talking about the profile so weird that you do a double take in mild disbelief. Harry Potter as the only photo? Check. A zoomed in photograph of a bloodshot eye? Check. Four consecutive snaps of a hotdog? Check. Someone’s face superimposed onto an edamame bean pod? Check.

Hilarious? Endearing? Mildly terrifying? Whatever your reaction, best of luck to these folk.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

There’s only one thing for it, take a screenshot and save it in your funny “Tinder Nightmares” folder on your phone.

The Good One

You’re stumbling off the train after your long work commute, dazed and bewildered by the sea of weirdness that you’ve just swiped past. Just when you’ve all but given up on dating in Japan completely, and resigned yourself to a future of Netflix and cats, a little ray of curiosity shines through as you get a notification of a new match at the top of your screen.

You gasp internally. It’s that one that you found to be very attractive a few days ago. The chat proves them to be a normal, polite, functioning human being. Is this an authentic romantic connection?

How rare it is to meet someone special and hit it off! Let’s just hope you don’t discover after the first date that your new romantic interest is one of your friend’s exes.

Oh no, wait. That’s just my luck! FML.

What to do in the event of an encounter:

My sad story aside, if you’re lucky enough to have met someone great and found something truly special, then no advice is needed. Go for it!

Have you ever encountered dating app profiles like these in Japan? What do you think makes a winning profile? Let us know in the comments!

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It was a huge risk that left me very lonely for the next three years; trying desperately to make friends, do well at work, and date some nice guys, all while feeling the financial pressure that many people in their early twenties know all too well. Continue Reading
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