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Generation Gap: A Comparison of How Japanese People Dated/Date between the Past and Present

Do you know the Japanese word 青春 (seishun: adolescence)? It is between childhood and adulthood, and during this period, many people start having a solid dream for the future, hope, or ideal and getting attracted to someone romantically.

I bet a lot of you had similar experiences too.

One of the most significant experiences representing adolescence is having a crush on someone. How young people fall in love or date others has changed as time goes by, which means perceptions and behaviors related to romances are different by generation. So, I (aged about 50) would like to compare how juveniles dealt with romance and dating around 1990, about 30 years ago, with that of the 2020s in Japan. The comparison is made in terms of how they first meet, places to meet up with a date, how to arrange a date, and how they date.

How Adolescents First Meet a Potential Date


Most adolescents used to start their romantic relationships with someone they met at school or through friends. Since there was no term for privacy protection at that time, a list of classmates' phone numbers was given to students at the beginning of the school year. I sometimes got a phone call from a boy classmate out of the blue. Meanwhile, guys called ナンパ師 (nampa-shi: men who hit on women) were walking around in the streets, and some of them asked me out for drinks all of a sudden. When I said no nicely, those guys often became so nasty, shouting at me from away, "S**** you!" or "Ugly!" If that happened today, it could be a police matter.


Getting to know someone through social media or dating apps seems to be becoming popular among the young. However, many Japanese still have a negative impression of those apps. Especially people like me, aged about or over 50, think they are even scary.

While getting phone calls suddenly from someone from school, being hit on by strangers in the streets, and getting connected to new people through the internet are three different things, they all are scary. Still, romance can start from those things, so it may be always risky, whether in the past or present.

Places to Meet up With a Date


I used to walk to a place close to my school or the ticket gate of a station after checking my boyfriend's class or his club activity ended from a bit away and wait for him to come. People in those days had to make phone calls from home to decide what time and where to meet up with a date who went to a different school because it was not like mobile phones were everywhere and everybody had one. To contact a date, each station had a message board when he/she was late, and we just wrote a message, such as "Dear XX, I will be waiting at McDonald’s in the Daiei!"

When a date didn't show up, we got so worried, and our heartbeat went faster, wondering if the date might have dumped us or gotten in some accident.


Meeting up with someone is incredibly easier these days. People can decide a place and time to meet using the LINE app or DM on other social media and text their date immediately when they know they will be late by getting stuck in transportation trouble with no need to make the waiting people worried.

How to Arrange a Date


A home phone was the main option to contact a date from home. Of course, I took a long time to finish chatting because the person on the phone was someone I liked. The phone toll was JPY10 per minute, so parents thought the bill would be higher and started getting irritated when I talked for a long time.

The worst fear for boys when they called at girlfriends' houses was being picked up by fathers since most Japanese people were not so open to their love lives in those days. My father was one of them too, and in the name of protection, he would get jealous and question me, "Who is XX? Where did you get to know? What is he to you?" which was very troublesome.


Couples can indulge in their world easier today. Thanks to online communication apps, including LINE and other social media, recent young people can text messages and talk on the phone for free. Now it is possible to communicate directly with a date without worrying about time and what their parents would say.

Communicating for a romantic relationship itself is much easier these days. However, many people say their courage to contact a date, overcoming the fear that there might have been a possibility to talk to their date's parent on the phone, helped them in their career later.

How They Date


Most former teenagers used to go on a date and spend time outside of their homes. Their destinations were a movie theater, restaurant, cafeteria, etc., where they could spend time together while having conversations. Also, they often enjoyed dating, without spending money, at places in a natural environment, such as a park, promenade, etc. Since the internet was unfamiliar, young lovers usually bought magazines or asked friends and collected information about dating spots to please their date. Therefore, current adults, around 50, had to spend a lot of time and money on their prior research, transportation fee, snacks and meals, clothes, etc.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spending at home, the indoor date, seems to be popular now. They chat at each home using apps like LINE and Zoom or watch movies on a streaming service such as Netflix while talking on the phone. When they go out, they often look for places for dating, such as chic cafes, spots with beautiful views, or photogenic places, using social media like Instagram. Posting their photos on social media is one of their fun activities.

Dating used to mean going out and cost a lot of money. Although a home date is popular now, I still think meeting someone they like in person would be better, but would it be the old way of thinking people aged about 50 have?


How did you like it?

Are there any common or uncommon things about how your country's people date in the past and present?

We will be happy if you send us comments!

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