There's Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan Kindle Edition
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Being a bit obsessed with Japanese culture, I knew the Japanese had a rule for just about everything, and it seems that dating and relationships are no different. The trouble with these couples seems to start when the non-Japanese are vague in what the relationship actually is, or acts based on their own culture and not the Japanese culture. One rule is to define the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. I found this a bit ironic. The Japanese can seem so terribly vague to an outsider, but vagueness in a relationship? Forget it! Then comes the "kokuhaku", or the confession of love. While once in a relationship, the Japanese don't seem big on saying "I love you" to their partners, but the "confession of love" is the beginning rule of a relationship for most Japanese. Or so I grasped from these pages.
The part of the book I loved the most is Mr. Aoki's discussions, on a cultural level, of why each relationship had trouble or was eventually successful. I wish this part had been more in-depth so that I could understand my Japanese friends a bit better. There are so many vague verbal and non-verbal cues (at least to this American) in Japanese culture, that I sometimes find myself flustered or confused when interacting with Japanese friends. One American woman in the book called her ability to understand these cues in her Japanese husband her "automatic translator." So it's not just me then? Good to know! Perhaps Mr. Aoki's next book should be an "automatic translator guide to the Japanese." ;)
If the "Discussions" sections of the book had been more in-depth, I would have easily given it 5 stars. I would have also liked to have seen the experience of an older couple (most in the book, I gathered, are in their 20s and 30s). But please understand, that's based on what I wanted to know, and not necessarily within purview of the book. And if you are foreigner in a new relationship with a Japanese person, you really need to read this before it's too late.
My fiancé is Japanese and I'm European, however I personally couldn't relate with most of these interviews. Perhaps because I met my future husband in college abroad when we were both students and now he has a typical company job, so I would rather say he is a typical Japanese. The protagonists of these stories, both Japanese and Non Japanese, usually found their partners in a club or a bar or a similar not-so-conservative place. Subsequently, many of them were not "traditional/typical Japanese", as the author noted. Many of them have "alternative jobs" or are very modern and quite free to express themselves culturally, emotionally, sexually, and mentally. So, they are *usually* not the typical picture that comes to the mind of a foreigner when they think about Japanese people. There were of course some stories about traditional Japanese too, just I would like to see some more examples.
We should note however, there is a huge difference between Japanese who have never traveled out of their country and Japanese who have been abroad. As expected, Japanese who have been in other countries are often more open-minded and willing to accept the cultural differences of their partners.
I could mostly identify with the last interviewee, an American girl called Lily. She explained the kokuhaku culture of Japan: usually the Japanese man confesses first his love for the woman and *then* they start their relationship. In this way, they are sure where they stand and how to plan their future together. On the opposite, in Western countries, people usually go out on some dates first, then they form a relationship and after some time they declare their love. Lily had many experiences where Japanese men confessed their "love" to her and then they waited for her response, so that they could continue their conquest. All she felt was friendly emotions at the very best and weird/creepy feelings at the worst!
Why this misunderstanding? As Lily explains "some Japanese guys misinterpret it when American girls are just being friendly... I feel like there are many guys who, if a girl is kind to them, become extremely happy and fall in love very easily. I think Japanese guys are not used to showing their emotions, so when a girl allows them to do that, it’s like opening a floodgate of emotions." They think that just because the foreigner woman is friendly and happy with them, then she is interested in them, so they reciprocate the "love" feelings. That's exactly what happened in my case only two months after I met my now Japanese fiancé, that's why I was nodding my head in understanding while reading this passage!
Even if I couldn't identify with all interviewees, there are still so many other intriguing things to read about. Every single story was captivating in each own way, even when the relationships ended in a bitter-sweet way. I have even read this book with my fiancé. It was a great way to bond together, discuss all the cultural differences mentioned in the stories, as well as talk about our future and the possibility that our married life may be similar to the life of some of these couples!
The author, who has been in many countries himself and is highly educated, friendly and open-minded, kept the original tone of each one of the interviewees. In the end of each chapter he offers his thoughts and his Japanese perspective about the experiences of the person, in a polite and collective way. In the epilogue, he summarizes all the incidents of the protagonists and gives advices to all Non Japanese who are or wish to be in a relationship with a Japanese person.
I wish all the best to all the protagonists of these stories. I hope they will find their significant other soon or if they have already found them, they will live happily ever after together. I recommend this book to fans of Japanese culture, intercultural couples (especially Japanese - Non Japanese couples) and perhaps romance fans!