I used to complain that there weren’t enough “foreign women, Japanese men” couples in Japan. Yes, you see interracial relationships now and again in Tokyo, but most of the time it is a white (occasionally black or Middle Eastern) man with a Japanese woman. In fact, a surprising number of foreign men who studied abroad at my university in Japan dated Japanese women. It seems everywhere you look, there are Japanese women walking hand in hand with a foreigner. Which, you know, is great… but I started wondering. What about the foreign women? Who do they date?
The year I’ve been in Tokyo, I have seen four “white female and Japanese man” couples and only one “black female and Japanese man” couple (I started counting). It struck me as strange. So I decided to do a little bit of research.
While it seems like the majority of interracial relationships in Japan are a white (usually American) man with a Japanese woman, that’s a bit off the mark.
In fact, according to the latest Japanese census data, nearly 80% of the registered interracial couples in Japan involved a foreign wife and Japanese husband.
Really? How is that possible?
It’s possible because interracial / intercultural relationships don’t always seem “interracial” on the outside. The Japanese census data considers a marriage between a Korean woman and a Japanese man just as “interracial” as a marriage between an American woman and a Japanese man.
And of the 35,993 registered foreign brides in Japan, nearly 32,000 of them come from Korea, China, the Philippines, and Thailand. 215 of them come from the United States; a measly 79 come from the United Kingdom.
Without realizing it, I had been a bit racist. I assumed because of the complicated history (and present political problems) between the southeast Asian countries (basically especially between China, Korea, and Japan) there wasn’t a lot of interracial dating going on.
It turns out there was.
I was talking with one of my Japanese friends the other day at the beach. I asked her why she thought so many Japanese girls wanted to date and marry American men.
“American men so, so… kakoii (cool). Maybe in America they ugly, when they come to Japan, they attractive.” She thought for a second.
“You look like movie star.” She told me. “I mean, I don’t want to date an American boy, but I think they more attractive than Japanese men. They look like movie stars. That why my friends want to date American man.”
I’ve heard other reasons for wanting to date an American man. Some of them are simple:
“American men are romantic, they bring flowers and give many presents.”
To more complicated answers that have to do with gender roles:
“American men like to split the housework 50-50. Or maybe 60 (me) – 40 (him). But still, that is better than Japanese man, who expect me to do all housework, cooking, and cleaning.” (Words from a friend who is married to a Californian man).
I’ve met women in Japan who have no desire to marry a foreigner; I’ve met women who are dying to marry a foreigner.
I’ve met women in Japan who have had troubles introducing their foreign boyfriend to the family; I’ve met women whose parents are incredibly supportive.
I’ve met people who think “Japanese people should only date Japanese people;” I’ve met people who think interracial relationships are wonderful.
Japan is far too complicated of a country to break down into dating stereotypes. So just walk away with this: