That Baka in Japan: The Art of Kokuhaku

One of the interesting things I found about Japan is its unique dating culture. While in the West you would usually ask someone out on a few dates to get to know them better in the hopes of possibly having a relationship with them in the future, in Japan it’s a little bit different.

Kokuhaku (こくはく), which loosely translates to “love confession”, is the act of confessing your love to someone in the hopes of them becoming your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you think of any romance anime in existence, especially ones set in high schools, then you’ve probably seen this depicted before. If not, think of the times when one character leaves a letter on the other’s desk or in their locker, telling them to meet them after school. From there the person tells the other that they like them and they want them to go out with them.

Now here’s the thing: if you ask someone out in Japan they won’t consider it a date. While you may see it as a date, the other person may simply see it as two friends hanging out with each other. This is because Japanese people don’t consider themselves dating someone unless the other person has confessed their feelings to them. One of the ways I see it is that Japanese people want to see if the other person is serious about dating them rather than simply having a casual fling. Hence why the phrase “friends turned lovers” holds so true in Japan.

But now, let’s say you do have your eye on someone and want to confess your feelings to them. How do you go about it? What you basically need to do is get the other person in a quiet area and tell them 「好きです。つきあってください」(I like you. Please go out with me). Naturally, if your feelings are much stronger you can also replace 好き (suki) with 大好き (daisuki)。However, the one word you don’t want to use is 愛してる (aishiteru), which means love. While in the West, love is a word that’s thrown around quite easily, in Japan this word is only used in very rare and emotional cases. For example, if a loved one is about to die, then you can use 愛してる before they pass away. However, when lovers say goodbye to each other when one of them either has to go to work or go home, they won’t say “love you” to each other like we would commonly do in the West. I have read stories on the internet about Japanese women who are either dating or married to foreign men and how weird it feels for them when they hear their partners constantly say how much they love them.

Dating in Japan doesn’t have to be difficult, but getting your head around the culture of dating here can be a bit tiresome. Nevertheless, it is definitely interesting to learn how other cultures and societies perceive dating and how these unique aspects can sometimes be better than Western dating.

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