When I tell my female friends about my adventures in Japan, they all want to hear about one thing in particular.
I got asked out on more dates while I was in Japan than I have in my entire life thus far. It was probably the blond hair, to be honest.
I got taken to some pretty interesting places on these dates, the majority of which just don’t exist in Canada. For your amusement, I have decided to share some of those unique dating locations.
So I ended up spending the night at a make-out cafe while dating a cool rock star-looking guy.
Okay, so it wasn’t actually a make-out cafe. More like a 24-hour internet cafe. But we all know what they’re really used for.
Here’s how it works. You pay by the hour to rent out a small room or cubicle furnished with a chair, sofa or cushioned floor. It comes with your own TV, a computer or laptop, every gaming console you could imagine, sometimes even access to libraries of manga comic books, and endless supplies of coffee, tea or soft drinks. You can even rent pillows and blankets.
It was nearly midnight. Cool Japanese Rock Star Guy (J-Rock Guy for short) and I were on a date and it was going splendidly. We loved the same old-school Japanese rock music, he had lived in London, England for the past 10 years and I had always wanted to go to London, and he had actually played drums in a band when he was younger. Consider me smitten.
It was getting pretty late, though, and all the restaurants and coffee shops were closing. We didn’t want to say goodbye just yet because we were having so much fun. I wasn’t going to go home with him obviously. We had only just met. For all I knew he was actually a serial killer who had escaped England because Scotland Yard was onto him, and was secretly planning on murdering me and wearing my skin like a new coat. Nothing against J-Rock Guy - those are the thoughts that creep into my mind on most dates. I’m a ‘worst-case-scenario’ type of person.
But what to do and where to go after midnight on a really great date, if not to each other’s homes?
Enter the internet make-out cafe! They’re cheap, they’re open 24 hours and they’re at least semi-private. A great place to continue a date in peace – even if all you end up doing is awkwardly watching YouTube videos all night while pretending to ignore the moans and sighs coming from the adjacent cubicles.
Let’s just say, date #2 with J-Rock Guy was the last. For all our common interests, the chemistry equaled zero.
There’s this awesome phenomenon in Japan called purikura. They are essentially photo-sticker machines that let you take a picture in a booth, decorate the photo using a kiddie-version of Photoshop on a touch screen, and print it out in sticker form.
For some reason, this is a really popular activity to do on dates. I suppose it’s a sort of precursor to the selfie. You get to take a picture of you and your BF, or BFFs, go to town with the hearts and flowers and smiley faces, then print it out as a keepsake.
Cute J-Pop Boy – so called because his fashionably coiffed and styled hair resembled some of the more recent Japanese pop stars – took me to a purikura shop. I thought it would have a couple of booths to choose from. NOPE! Cue two entire floors of sticker machines, including a section devoted to the costumes you could rent to wear while taking pictures.
Fact: most purikura machines automatically make your eyes larger. What happens if you already have large eyes? You end up looking like an alien. See below.
In the end, Cute J-Pop Boy was a one-date wonder. He spoke very little English, and after trying to explain that just because we went on a date didn’t mean we were officially dating, he asked me, “When will you be ready for love?”
How ’bout never?
Cuddle Couch Restaurants
I lived in one city (Kobe) while working in another (Osaka). The people I dated usually commuted pretty far as well. We had to meet in the middle when planning dates, which meant we couldn’t just hang out at someone’s house while getting to know them. We needed to go ‘out’ somewhere, whether that’s to the movies, a coffee shop, a restaurant, or other public dating spaces.
The key word being public.
How are you supposed to really get to know someone and have deep, meaningful conversation when the people at the next table can overhear your every word?
Enter private couples dining.
Accountant Guy – who was an accountant, go figure – took me to several really great restaurants with private dining rooms for couples. Or, as I call them, “Cuddle Couch Restaurants.”
You’re taken to a small, private dining area with one couch to share and a table to eat on in front of you. The area is sectioned off somehow – either with sliding doors, a curtain, or, in the case of one Arabian Night themed restaurant, with a gauzy canopy hanging from the ceiling.
They’re not so private that you can get up to anything – unlike those 24 hour cafes – but at the very least, you can sit side by side while talking and eating, as opposed to sitting across a table from each other. It makes for a more intimate atmosphere.
Unfortunately, it also makes for a more intimate atmosphere. The kind of atmosphere that makes someone confess their love to you and announce their intention to get a higher paying job so they can support a family – after only 4 dates.
Sorry Accountant Guy, you were smart and funny and cool, but I had no plans whatsoever to stay in Japan and pop out a couple of kids. #SorryNotSorry
In the end, I was never taken to any super-ridiculous-crazy places for a date, so I don’t have any particularly super-ridiculous-crazy stories. But these three popular date ideas are common enough in Japan, and pretty uncommon in Canada.
What about you, dear reader? Have you been on any super-ridiculous-crazy dates in a foreign country, Japan or otherwise?
featured image credit: yoshikazut via flickr