Japanese pick up culture is a little more lowkey than that of the western world. Many Japanese people are more reserved with their feelings and mindful of their approach towards other people.
Things like PDA are not as common, and Japanese people can be a bit shy when initiating romance with someone new.
That’s why we’re here to let you know the best way to go about flirting in Japanese!
Dating in Japan
There are a few things in Japanese culture which help people be more comfortable in getting to know others or finding that someone special.
For example, there are events called goukon (合コン / ごうこん) which is essentially a mixer.
A goukon is generally held in a restaurant or pub as alcohol is usually involved – helping the participants to loosen up!
The group would need to consist of two or more parties of the opposite sex (for a heterosexual goukon), who then introduce themselves and begin chatting in the hopes of finding a spark.
Another thing I noticed in Japan, is that many bars that charge an entry free will offer cheaper (sometimes free) entry for women! This is in the hopes that more women will frequent the bars.
Men who are on the lookout for a girlfriend will, in turn, also want to visit the bar. These men may want to buy women they are interested in some drinks, so more money for the bar, and more mingling for the clients!
Nanpa (ナンパ / なんぱ) is a noun which means ‘smooth-talker’ or ‘player’. You may often see nanpa men out on the streets, attempting to pick up girls with their cheesy lines.
By adding the verb ‘to do’ to the noun, you get the verb ‘to flirt’ or ‘to hit on’ – nanpa suru (ナンパする).
Women who do this are referred to as gyaku nan (逆ナン / ぎゃくなん). Gyaku means ‘reverse’ or ‘opposite’, while nan comes from the original term nanpa.
First things first, let’s find out how to initiate a flirty conversation!
Chotto ii desu ka?
Do you have a moment? / is now a good time?
Although not a pick up line in and of itself, chotto ii desu ka (ちょっといいですか) is a great opener to see if the person you are pursuing is even interested in listening to what you have to say.
If they aren’t, don’t worry, there are plenty of other fish in the sea! If they seem happy and willing to talk to you, great! You can continue getting to know them.
Kono seki wa aiteimasu ka?
Is this seat taken?
This is another effective way to start a conversation with someone. It is always important to be respectful when making a move on someone, whether it be in a cafe or bar. It’s not a good look to invade someone’s personal space and begin hitting on them, particularly in Japan. Therefore, these kinds of questions will help you ease into it and make the other person feel more comfortable around you.
Koko ni yoku kimasu ka?
Do you come here often?
The classic ‘do you come here often?’ is also used in the Japanese pick up scene! By asking koko ni yoku kimasu ka? (ここによく来ますか / ここによくきますか), you are breaking the ice a little bit, while opening up the conversation to other avenues.
Now that we’ve got the ball rolling, it’s time to turn on the charm and dish out some compliments to try and woo the pursued!
Anata wa (totemo)⚪︎⚪︎:
You are (so) ⚪︎⚪︎:
This phrase is the bones of a compliment, as there are different words you can input depending on whether you are complimenting a woman or a man.
To compliment a woman:
Kawaii (可愛い / かわいい) is an extremely commonly used word in Japanese, and kawaii culture is a huge thing in Japan. In English speaking cultures, being called ‘cute’ may not be exactly what a woman wants to hear as it is generally reserved for kids or baby animals… However, in Japan, kawaii is definitely a flattering term!
Beautiful / pretty
Kirei (綺麗 / きれい) is of course a little more intense than saying kawaii. If you want to be really romantic, you can use the phrase anata wa⚪︎⚪︎yori kirei (あなたは⚪︎⚪︎より綺麗 / あなたは⚪︎⚪︎よりきれい). This means ‘you are more beautiful than ⚪︎⚪︎’.
Anata wa hana yori kirei
You are more beautiful than a flower
To compliment a man:
Kakkoii (かこいい) translates as ‘cool’ and can be used in pretty much the same way we use ‘cool’ in English, i.e that car is cool! That being said, when used to describe a man, it means ‘attractive’ or ‘handsome’.
Ikemen (イケメン / いけめん) is a combination of the slang term iketeru (イケてる / いけてる) meaning ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’ and menzu (メンズ) which of course means ‘men’. When you say ikemen, an image of a super handsome model, actor or idol type of guy springs to mind, so this is a very high compliment!
Sono ⚪︎⚪︎ niatteiru
That ⚪︎⚪︎ suits you
If you want to compliment their outfit, you can say sono ⚪︎⚪︎ niatteiru! (その⚪︎⚪︎似合っている / その⚪︎⚪︎にあっている). You can fill in the blank with doresu (ドレス / どれす) meaning ‘dress’ or shatsu (シャツ / しゃつ) meaning ‘shirt’, or anything else you see fit!
Now, you’ve completed the introduction, your flirty remarks have gone down a treat and you want to see if this interaction will lead to something, here are a few options on how you can proceed!
Kareshi / kanojo wa imasuka?
彼氏 / 彼女 はいますか？
Do you have a boyfriend / girlfriend?
Certainly, before going any further, you need to find out if they are single and ready to mingle! Kareshi (彼氏 / かれし) is ‘boyfriend’ and kanojo (彼女 / かのじょ) is ‘girlfriend’.
Let’s go for tea
Although it may not look like a particularly flirty phrase, this is one of the most well-known pick up lines in Japanese!
Ocha shinai (お茶しない / おちゃしない) directly translates to ‘let’s go for tea’, though the nuance is more like ‘let’s go on a date’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tea, it just means you are setting a plan in motion to meet again and see what romance may blossom.
Renraku saki / LINE wo oshiete kureru
連絡先 / ラインを教えてくれる
Could you tell me your contact details / LINE
If the person decides to accept your invitation for ‘tea’, you may want to ask for their contact details! Renrakusaki (連絡先 / れんらくさき) simply means ‘contact details’ which can be anything from phone number to email address.
These days, we usually use social media or messaging apps to keep in contact. In Japan, the majority of people use the messaging app LINE, so if you are on the Japanese dating scene make sure to download it!
If you don’t have LINE, you can ask for their insuta (インスタ) which is what Japanese people call ‘Instagram’!
- Japanese Terms Of Endearment: Cute Nicknames for Lovers and Friends!
- How to Say ‘I Like You’ in Japanese (and How to Get a Date!)
- How to Say Girlfriend in Japanese
- How to Say Boyfriend in Japanese
If you’re looking to get on the dating scene in Japan, level up your Japanese with our recommended online course JapanesePod101! It will teach conversational and natural Japanese as it’s really spoken today, so you’ll be ready to date with confidence!
Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!