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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

BILINGUAL

Choose the right 'bite' for Valentine's manhunt


Has anyone noticed in recent years how the whole concept of Valentine's Day in Japan isn't what it used to be?

"Morisagatteru" (It's lost its fizzle") is how many women would describe that day of supposed candied hearts and declarations of love. Maybe it's just me (yes, I may as well admit it), but it feels like Valentine's Day has become a slightly tiresome occasion on which women must distribute packets of giri-choco (obligatory chocolates) to work-related males and the men in the family.

One of my girlfriends, whose kareshi-inaireki (history of being boyfriendless) has hit five years, says that Valentine's has turned into a day on which she presents her father with seven new pairs of identical dark socks (one for each day of the week).

Hers is not an uncommon story. Japan is officially entrenched in the Ice Age of renai hyogaki (love relationships) and in such a time, kokuhaku (declarations of love) tend to just freeze-dry. Or, if a relationship is just starting to but and emerges from the frost, it's likely to be too fragile to withstand the stress of Valentine's.

My 35-year-old friend Michiyo, a financial analyst, is apt to pass the following verdict after her second glass of wine: "Kono kuni no renairyoku wa zetsuboteki ni sagatte iru (This country's love-power index is in dire straits)!"

Boyfriends these days

It's appalling, but true. Nowadays we hardly ever hear of someone getting a boyfriend who doesn't mind that a woman may want to remain suppin(make-up-less) and wear jogging pants on the occasional weekend, who doesn't compare her to every cutie in his office and who always returns her messages.

As for tying the knot, known in this country as "goru in" (scoring a goal) well that hasn't happened in my circle of friends for such a long time we've all forgotten what a proper wedding looks like.

To find out how to get out of the renai (love) ghetto, I went to see Ami-chan, 34, aka the Ai no Megami (Love Goddess) of Tokyo's Minato Ward, whose kareshi-inaireki stands at a whopping, all-time zero since she was in the third grade. She says most Japanese women have very little understanding of Japanese men, which accounts for the seemingly permanent drop in renai temperature.

"Yasashiku shiterudakeja dame (You can't be nice all of the time)," she says, and professes to have honed the art of tsundere (short for tsun tsun dere dere), which means to switch back and forth between the two modes of cold/distant and loving/tender.

"Japanese men are easily antagonized and turned off by displays of affection," she says. "Betatsukuto kirawareru (Getting all gooey is a turn-off)." She also claims that for a woman over 25 to show her suppin face in front of a kareshini narukamo-otoko (Mr. Maybe-He'll-Be-My-Boyfriend) is sacrilege. Wearing jeans on a first date is almost worthy of death by firing squad.

Nudity is a turn-off

Even after a relationship is in gear, for a woman to walk around naked or clad in cheap lingerie is a huge, irredeemable turn-off. "Mo joseitoshite atsukatte moraenakunaru (He won't treat you like a woman anymore)" she says, and adds that basically, most Japanese men abhor nudity when it comes to mothers, wives and girlfriends. They like to have the room pitch-dark during intimate moments and both partners to be at least partially clothed. "Sorega reigi yo (That's good manners)!"

Presenting a mere box of chocolates to a honmei (the one you're aiming to ensnare) on Valentine's Day is dasasa no kiwami (the ultimate in tackiness). The only acceptable Valentine's chocolates are the serebu-choco (celebrity chocolates), Ami-chan explains, that can be bought from sleek, select-chocolate boutiques located inside Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills, costing on average ¥1,000 per bite. "Doryoku wo oshimu no wa kinmotsu (Don't begrudge any effort)," she says.

"Think of Japanese men as an endangered species. We should hunt them, catch them and then treat them with the same loving respect we show to the rarely seen, red-crowned tancho (Japanese crane)."

I've decided to erect a shrine in Ami-chan's honor. Thank you, goddess.



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