A blog about culture and love in Japan

The “Shyness” Of Japanese Men



        True story. He really didn’t talk to me, not even one bit, the first time we met. I remember, because every other people in the room came to ask me questions about me being a Canadian traveling in rural Japan, except for him, the most handsome guy in the place (of course!).

[For those of you who missed it, check out the guest post I wrote on Texan in Tokyo’s blog about how Hitomi and I met!]

At first, I thought it was because he was not interested in me at all, but he told me later that he wanted to talk to me, but was not confident in his English skills and was a bit intimidated. I didn’t speak much Japanese at that time, so it’s understanding that he had this reaction. To be honest, I was intimidated, too.

I come from a country where it’s usually the men who “make the first move” (although sometimes it’s the women who make it). So, if Hitomi wouldn’t have gave me a gift and talk to me the second time we met, if he hadn’t ask for my Facebook, if he hadn’t flirt with me, I don’t know what would have happened. As weird as it sounds, the fact that he clearly told me he was interested in me made me even more interested in him. I like when a man goes for what he wants, so it was very flattering to me.

But doing some research for my blog posts (I always do a bit of research before posting), I stubbled upon many forums or websites where people — usually foreign women — were complaining that Japanese men never approached them in Japan. Some of them even said that they felt like they were scaring them off.

I think the reason why is because it’s hard to approach/get approached by men in Japan if you are not introduced to them by a mutual friend. Japan, being 99% composed of Japanese people, is not used to seeing foreigners, and is also not used to speak English that much. Moreover, there is a strong feeling of shame regarding to making mistakes or being bothersome to others. Rejection is hard for anyone, but I believe that in Japan, it’s even worse. Being introduced by a mutual friend, or going to a goukon (which is like a “group date”) makes it a lot easier.


Thankfully, we were somewhat introduced to each other!

Of course, this is a generalization; there are Japanese men who are very obvious (sometimes a bit too much, actually) and who flirt a lot.

But still, even between a Japanese woman and a Japanese man — especially in their twenties or younger –, it’s sometimes hard to start a love relationship without feeling awkward. Japan tends to divide the genders a lot, so it’s rare to see a man and a woman being just friends and hanging out. In any group or class, the women are usually on one side of the room and the men on the other. It’s just how it works.

So imagine if above all that, you are a foreigner, and you don’t speak any Japanese. Not to mention the stereotypes some people in Japan can have against foreigners, sometimes way overrated or sometimes very creepy (for example: foreign women are crazy about sex). Of course, flirting gets a bit difficult. Hence the fact that they might not come talking to you at all.

Is this reaction by Japanese men like shyness? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s mostly cultural.

If he’s not looking much into your eyes when you’re talking with him, it’s because in Japan, it’s awkward  to stare for too long in the eyes of the person you’re talking to. There were times where I was asked to “Stop looking at me like this!” by Japanese men, only because I was looking in their eyes for a prolonged period of time (without even noticing it). In my culture, talking while looking the person in the eyes is polite and shows interest; in Japan, it makes some people uncomfortable.

This is not shyness, it’s cultural manners. Japanese men are just like any other men; if they’re really interested in you, and if you’ve been talking a bit, you’ll soon notice that the infamous “shyness” will quickly disappear. Of course, it also depends of the personality of that person.

If you are a woman looking for love in Japan and reading this, my advice is to just go on and try to approach them. Talk to them a little, make them feel comfortable (extra points if you can speak Japanese), don’t be pushy, and if they are interested in you, it will be fine.


Author: Jasmine

Jasmine is a 20-something years old French-Canadian student and part-time blogger who loves traveling, drawing, listening to (all kind of) music and eating (everything). To achieve one of her biggest dream, she went in Japan for two months and a half as a tourist in 2013. She was an exchange student at Daito Bunka University in Saitama (near Tokyo) during the year 2014 - 2015. She is now studying to eventually become a nurse back in Canada, so she lacks time to write about Japan. You can still read all her posts on her blog, since she'll let them there for you to enjoy :)

28 thoughts on “The “Shyness” Of Japanese Men

  1. Chere Jasmine, je viens de trouver ton blog ! Tres interessant j’ai moi meme beaucoup de similaritudes avec tes peripeties. Rassure toi les hommes en Coree duSud sont pareils. En general bien sur ! haha Bonne continuation 🙂


  2. Bonjour Jasmine,

    Je comprend tout a fait. La premiere fois que j’ai rencontre mon homme, lui aussi etait tres froid et distant.
    Je pensais meme qu’il ne m’aimait pas du tout. Bref, ca nous a pris beaucoup de temps pour nous apprendre a nous connaitre, et a en arriver au stade ou nous en sommes aujourd’hui.
    Il est coreen,et a l’instar des japonais, les coreens ne sont pas habitues a faire le premier pas, surtout aupres d’une non-coreene.
    Bref, je te souhaite une belle continuation a toi et ta moitiee.
    C’est toujours un plaisir de te lire.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonjour Veni!

      Comme c’est amusant que nos hommes aient eu la même réaction! Il semble que la Corée et le Japon partage beaucoup plus d’éléments culturels que je ne l’aurais pensé (ou alors, c’est simplement leur personnalité!).
      Est-ce que c’est parce qu’il était timide tu crois?
      Je suis allée voir ton blog par curiosité, et j’aime beaucoup tes comics! J’ai hâte de lire plus d’articles de ta part 🙂
      Bonne continuation à toi aussi! 😀


  3. Salut, Jasmine! As a Japanese man, I perfectly understand what you are talking about. When I see a cute girl, I sometimes hesitate to talk to her because I’m not sure if she’d like to be approached. (But if I’m REALLY interested in her, I will find a way to approach her!) On the other hand, I think a lot of Japanese guys don’t mind being approached by women at all. So whoever interested in the other person can approach 🙂


  4. A lot of western women come across as overly confident so Japanese men might think “wow she’s out of my league” or they are not confident with English as you said–and who wants to make embarrassing mistakes in front of a pretty, interesting girl? 😉

    It goes against stereotype but I think Americans are shy too. We introduce ourselves to and make small talk with strangers more easily than the Japanese maybe, but it often takes a *long* time of knowing someone before getting deeper than pleasantries and trivial conversation.


    • I really don’t understand the “she’s out of my league” thing. I heard it so many times coming from other people about my boyfriend and I. I mean, I always feel way overestimated when that happens! It’s also a bit insulting for my boyfriend, too!


  5. Interesting post! Come to think of it, as you say, one should expect a deeply intimate social affair like dating/courtship be different from a country to country (or even region to region–I heard Kansai/Osaka women complaining about Kanto/Tokyo men for their lack of sense of humor when asking out women).
    Finding a good partner is a challenge, though, wherever you are! And yes, I don’t believe a bar/club/”party” (in Western sense) with full of drunk people is a good place to find one! What seems to work best, including meeting my now-wife and Grace at Texan in Tokyo meeting her husband, is meeting someone through a mutual friend. In my case, it was not really a “set-up” (at least I was not aware of it), but our friend thought we are a good match. Hmm, maybe Omiai, set up by those who know you well, is not such an anachronistic practice, after all!


    • Actually, I heard that it’s really popular to match two friends together in South Korea, so could it be likewise throughout Asia I wonder?
      It’s all very interesting!
      In Canada, that sort of thing sometimes happens, but it’s a bit awkward. Haha!


  6. Thanks for sharing your experience and advice~

    I’ve had a few experiences with boys here and they’ve been on either side of the spectrum. Either I’m really aware they are interested but because I refuse to make the first move, our relationship swayed in limbo. Or, they were upfront from the get-go and things went accordingly.

    My current boyfriend hit on me at Round One and initially I didn’t think much would come from it. I really hate when drunk Japanese guys approach me and my friends, but he was sober so I decided because of that, I’d give him a chance. Ten months later, we are cohabiting and flying to Alaska to meet my family next month. I honestly love him way more than I anticipated considering the circumstances.

    But like you said, I think that there is plenty of opportunity for foreign women interested in dating local guys here, you just can’t expect things to work the same way as in Western places.


    • Oh, how I hate those guys who hit on you way too much (usually because they want the “foreign experience”, ugh). When they’re drunk it’s even worse. I hate it in Canada, and I also hate it in Japan.

      Alaska? Waw that’s awesome! I hope he will like it! 😀
      I also love my boyfriend way more than I anticipated. I don’t know why!

      Hope the best for you and your boyfriend 🙂


      • Thank you and likewise!

        He bought his first suitcase ever for the trip. he said, “My lifestyle has changed so much because of you!”

        I hope it’s for the better~


  7. Yeah, I believe it is not only Japan but more spread in Asian with the ‘not looking into the eyes’ etc.
    My chinese father in law never looks others into the eyes as well as many other elderly men there I have met. The younger generation is already a bit different these days, more ‘open’
    However chinese can’t be really compared to japanese as in Japan the whole politeness tradition/ behavior is so much more developed than in China were you often search for polite behavior or good behavior in general without results :p


    • I guess it’s an Asian characteristic, right? I’m not sure since I’ve only been in Japan, but I thought so, too!
      I never noticed if my boyfriend’s parents look me in the eye or not… mmh, I will be aware of that next time we’ll meet!
      Oh so is China really less polite in general than Japan? I heard about that, but I wish I could go to China and see for myself. It’s true that the Japanese language itself and the whole service system in Japan is extremely polite. Hard to be more polite than that!


      • China is a nightmare when you are used to more or less polite countries. I cant put it really into words but seeing in the cities on a daily basis children peeing on the ground, spitting everywhere, no lining up anywhere are just a few to mention…


  8. It’s not unique to Japan. I think it is a norm across Asia. Here, we are indoctrinated to think: “Occasional eye contact means you are interested and engaged in the conversation. Prolonged eye contact means you are interested in that person.”
    It is rather hard to change this habit. Every time I travel to the US, I felt pretty awkward with all the eye contacts for the first few days..


    • I thought so too, but since I’ve never traveled in any other Asian country apart for Japan, I didn’t want to make any further assumptions! I already made some generalizations and kind of feel a bit bad about it, haha!
      Interesting to have the point of view “from the inside” too! Thank you!


  9. I could not agree more! I hear the same complaints from Japanese female friends as I do from Western ones about meeting men… The difference is that my Japanese friends already know the drill, so they ask me to introduce friends of mine, or of my husband straight off. I think it’s partly “well if you/your husband knows him, then he’s probably an okay guy, I trust your opinion” and partly “I can’t meet any good guys at work/clubbing/randomly”. My Western friends on the other hand try to go about it on their own, for the reasons you mentionedーexpecting the guys to make the first move, etc. I did that at first too, but gave up pretty fast, haha! ^^


  10. Awwww, cute. And I love the illustrations!


  11. I agree with this post! There are many times in which my husband doesn’t look into my eyes, and I always tell him to look at me, but he tells me that even though he isn’t looking at me, he is still listening and showing interest in the conversation! It’s interesting to see the difference in cultures as I too am from Canada and can relate to you Jasmine.


    • Oh that’s really interesting, because your husband moslty grew up in Canada right? I thought he would have been closer to the Canadian culture on that aspect!


  12. Eep ❤ J'adore lire tes posts 😀 C'est super interessant :-)!

    xx Marie-Angélique


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