So, I’ve talked about this on my personal blog site a lot lately (lately being in the last few weeks), but I have recently gotten myself into a relationship here in Japan. (Yes, it’s awesome, okay, fine, moving on to more pertinent things in this blog. Thanks. ^_^) I want to talk just for a moment about why I am now completely amazed that anything ever gets done in Japan with regard to relationships and dating IN GENERAL, as I have now seen some rather unusual things from the inside (of having a relationship).
First off, how do people ever get to know each other well at all? There is nowhere in this city (Tokyo) that you can go to be alone together with someone, even just to talk or whatever. Unless the last train has already left (more on that later), there’s going to be SOMEBODY walking nearby to SOMEWHERE, no matter where you try to run. Societally, I suppose, this could function a bit like having a 24/7 chaperone, but when you hear statistics about the average 12-14 year old having had a sexual experience, you start to wonder where they go to DO it? This isn’t me being frustrated, since I’m not looking for that sort of thing as you might imagine, but purely from a standpoint where I would like our personal discussions to ACTUALLY be personal and not having dozens of people walking by all the time, it’s a bit strange to think that ANYONE could be at ALL sexually active before they can afford a large apartment on their own (meaning after university)…
…and suddenly, it makes sense why nobody ever gets married or dates seriously here until well into college life or even an established career. That makes me kind of sad.
Second, what’s the deal with purikura? It’s a contraction of the English words “print club,” into Japanese, and it talks about the crazy photo booths they have here. The picture atop this post is from a sign that I saw when my girlfriend and I went to take pictures at a purikura place in an upper floor of an arcade (they call them game centers here, though). If you can’t figure it out, men are not allowed to be on the purikura floor by themselves. If a man is present, he must be accompanying a woman. I will freely admit that I felt freaking WEIRD going into that floor, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend, ready to affix our newfound attraction into the annals of history with crazy backgrounds, bright shiny stars, and crazy glittery things dotted throughout the photos. Was I adventuring into a forbidden realm? Was there some hidden secret that only girls and boys-with-girlfriends were allowed to know? (Pro-tip: there wasn’t.) What happened if she wandered around the corner to look at another booth without me noticing and some girl came up and saw me just standing by myself?!? Were ninjas (girl ninjas) going to appear from the ceiling tiles and slice me in half for being a perverted monster, when really I just hadn’t stayed close enough to my girlfriend to be kept safe from the purikura ninjas? o.o I feared for my life.
[ed. note: Males are totally, technically allowed. I just never saw any nearby where the purikura stuff.]
I feared for my life muchly.
Lastly, what the hell, Japan, is with your trains? Last trains leaving at 12:15? But if you want to make the transfer that takes you all the way to your home station you gotta leave by 11:45? And this is even on the weekend! So we’re both in home-stays, and that kind of makes it impossible to meet up and just watch TV or a movie or play games at one of our houses, which means we have to meet up somewhere (usually the station nearest the school) to talk, as young lovers often will, into the not-so-wee hours of the night. That’s right. No staying up forever talking because you gotta catch your last train! No cuddling together because, let’s face it, sitting down is generally frowned upon by THE ENTIRETY OF THE JAPANESE POPULATION…
…I once saw a few benches somewhere… >.> I think. Truth be told, there are benches, but they’re usually in places like, right out front of a train station. You want to sit down on a curb? Prepare to be stared at, and that’s before they realize you’re a gaijin and holding hands (in public) with a girl. *big sigh*
Anyway. So things are… interesting. We’re managing to have a lot of fun despite Japan’s seeming paranoia about letting two people have any amount of quality time together. Meh, perhaps it’s for the best. It will teach us to treasure the time that we CAN be together, perhaps? (Pro-tip: On weekdays, you can get a karaoke room, up to 3 hours, for less than $4 per person. And you can… sing songs… in the karaoke room.)
Well, peace from this side of the pond.
[ed. note: Now that I’m much older and “wiser,” I would be very much interested in returning and trying to observe more of local custom surrounding couples. Now to figure out how to sustain myself if I went, and how to not look totally creepy following couples around Tokyo… A safari hat probably wouldn’t help in this regard…]