Things I don’t Understand about Japan: The Japanese Break-up Method

About a third of the “fan mail” I get from this blog revolves around breakups. Women and men alike send me messages of heartache, problems, and miscommunications.

  • “Did I do something wrong? I thought things were going great, but he hasn’t messaged me in two weeks!”
  • “I thought things were perfect. I just met her sister. That’s huge, right? So why doesn’t she want to go on dates anymore?”
  • “We went out twice, I thought it was fun… but now he always seems to be ‘busy’ when I call him.”
  • “Is she just not that into me?”

The list goes on and on.

For a real window into married life of a Japanese man with a foreign  wife (from newlyweds to couples on their 25th anniversary), I recommend the anthology of stories from Wendy Tokunaga’s book, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband

puri1 couple photos romance amwf

Why I don’t understand Japanese breakups:

Break-ups in Japan, I’ve noticed, are less like a break-up and more like a gradual fading away.

My American assumption on breakups is that it should be a singular decision, made over lunch, by text message, or in a nasty break-up letter (but really, if you have any humanity, you wouldn’t dump someone over text).

My Japanese friends don’t see breakups the same way. Face-to-face confrontation is uncomfortable, they tell me. Why go through that if you can just ignore them until they dump you?

Break-ups in Japan typically involve one party gradually pulling away. The trigger can be anything, a bad date, a fight, some individual soul-searching, or making a bad impression on their friends. Most people never figure out what they did “wrong.”

And, when you’re getting dumped, it can take a while to notice it.

Suddenly, the person who stayed up late chatting with you on Facebook is taking longer and longer to reply to text messages and emails. They don’t return your calls very often- if at all. They stop “liking” all your status updates on Facebook. When you ask to meet, they say they are too busy. They’re always “too busy.” If you ask “is anything wrong?” they will usually say no.

The more you push, the further way they pull.

[For more, check out: Asian Male White Female (AMWF) Relationships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly]

Why I REALLY don’t understand Japanese breakups:

This has happened too many times to count. It happened to me, back in high school when I lived in Hokkaido. I was really into this guy. We went out a couple times. He stopped replying to messages. I gave up – it was more embarrassing than anything else. Three months later, at the airport, I sent him a “farewell” text, and he sent a several-page message back apologizing for being so busy, that he always liked me, and how he hopes I will return to Japan one day.

I sent him an email when I got back to the states. He sent a short message back. I sent another message. He never responded. I gave up.

A similar story happened to my friend. She met a guy, things were going great, and then he just got “busy.” He just stopped replying… and eventually she gave up.

Foreign women seem to have the most problems with this Japanese breakup method, I’ve noticed. The more we want to talk about their feelings, how to fix the relationship, or new date ideas, the more the man pulls back.

couple wear Japan amwf couple

Why I kind of DO understand the Japanese breakup method:

I don’t date often. When I do date, I’m usually the one to end it. I’m very picky and (sadly) have lots of experience dumping.

Breakups are awkward. They are confrontational, uncomfortable, and always make me cry. I feel horrifically guilty… so I kind of get the want for a breakup without that guilty feeling. Anyone who has ever dumped someone knows what I’m talking about.

When I’m unhappy, I initiate the breakup because I feel obligated to the person I was dating to set them free and let them find someone who will actually, you know, appreciate them. (Added with the fact that by the time we break up, I probably hate them)

Japan doesn’t have that social obligation. So they can just ignore the person until the message becomes clear.

[For more, check out an interview I did with 4 Japanese men on whether they would date/marry a foreign woman]

amwf couple foreign woman  asian man couple dating romance japan interracial intercultural

What to do when you sense a break-up

Take a step back.

Break-ups are break-ups. However, if you really like the man or woman, give them space. If you have been on a three great dates but can’t seem to land a fourth one because they are suddenly busy, wait a couple weeks and try again. 

If a casual date starts pulling back, don’t chase them. Then, two to three weeks later, try to contact them again.

On a vacation in Hokkaido

On a vacation in Hokkaido

I tend to move rather quickly in a relationship. I got engaged on our one year anniversary and will be married by our two-year anniversary. He met my parents a couple weeks into our relationship; I met his as soon as I landed in Japan. I understand how that can be off-putting. Everyone moves at their own pace.

Very rarely will you get a ‘real’ breakup with closure in Japan. That just doesn’t happen. Most of the time, if there is a concrete ending in sight (you are returning to your home country, graduating, or moving) couples will “ganbare” on until the end rather than just ending it.

[For more, check out: Fighting – things my Japanese boyfriend and I culturally disagree about]

Literature about AMWF (White woman dating/married to an Asian man) Couples:

There isn’t a lot out there. The term “AMWF” has only popped up in the last couple years. So far, the only two books I know of AMWF relationships are:

Actress Diane Farr’s book, Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After. She is married to a Korean man; the book is a lighthearted and sarcastic take on interracial dating. I love it. I also love her as an actress, which was a happy coincidence.

Wendy Tokunaga’s book, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband. More than anything, it is a collection of stories from eight foreign women who are married (or were married) to Japanese men. It shows an honest look at what AMWF relationships look like, ten to twenty years after the couple first says “I do.”

[Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele]

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

46 Comments on Things I don’t Understand about Japan: The Japanese Break-up Method

  1. LostinConfusion // 8 June, 2016 at 5:57 pm //

    HIELP PLEASE!!!
    I went on a date with this japanese guy and since he quite seems the shy type I was obviously the one asking him out. I asked him where he wanted to go but he said anything I would choose it’d be fine with him. First of all, let me say that it was our first date, we met through online dating, so obviously we have never met before. Anyway when he saw me he looked at me as if he was surprised, (I don’t know if that is a positive thing or not) He clearly avoided eye contact with me at first, I guess he was embarrassed so I tried my best to be friendly and tried to build up a conversation. I asked him questions and he’d reply politely. We went to a cafe, (which I suggested) and we both had tea and a cake to share, (which I suggested as well. Meaning, he didn’t take the initiative for things to do at all and basically followed whatever I suggested. As we talked at the cafe I noticed he started to relax a bit and looked me in the eye while talking. He also started to smile and laugh when I’d say something funny. I stepped on his foot by mistake under the table and he immediately retired his foot apologising, even though I told him it was my fault and didn’t have to apologize. We talked for about 2 hours and told me he doesn’t get along with his family, but I didn’t pressure him any further on the matter because I didn’t want to come out as rude. We chatted and chatted about happy things overall, but the thing is that he didn’t ask me any questions. Basically I was the one doing all the questioning, even though they were pretty common ones. Then I was the one asking for the bill because he looked like he had no intention whatsoever. I tried to pay but he didn’t let me, saying that I had already spent money for the train since I live farer than he does from the meeting place. After that we walked around chatting friendly for another hour. When I asked him if he liked icecream upon passing an icecream shop, he replied with “if you like” but then explained to him that I was just asking if he liked icecream not that I wanted him to buy me icecream.
    Again he didn’t seem like he wanted to wrap up our date and well, neither did I because I was having a good time with him. But I knew I had to, so when we arrived in front of the station I told him I had fun while shaking his hand and bowing my head slightly in the Japanese way. He did the same. I told him we should meet again and he agreed. When I left I turned around to check if he was looking at me and I saw him turning to look at me almost at the same exact time and I found that really cute. Well, I find him cute. I texted him after I got home, telling him again it was fun and that we should meet again and he agreed. I sent him another message after 2 days then where I asked him to let me know when he was free again. He replied with ‘Iwill let you know’ with a smiley icon at the end. Again he wasn’t the one texting me first, I am the one who always message him first and he always replies politely. The thing is that we have been just texting for like 2 weeks after our first meeting but he didn’t ask me out again, why? I would, but since I’m the one always initiating conversation I’m put off because I think maybe he isn’t that interested to me???

    So my question is: Is this guy interested in me or he is just being polite? I’m really confused, I don’t really understand japanese guys. I mean if he’s not interested in me then why replying in the first place?? Help.

    • Hey! I actually have a slightly similar situation. There was a cute Japanese guy that went to the same events I went to and I finally got the courage to ask for his Line last month. We messaged for like a week (it was also me always initiating the convo) and then I finally asked him out. We went to a cafe and talked for about 2 hours. I asked all the questions as well and he didn’t really ask much about me. ><

      Anyway, I think we both picked 'herbivorous' men and it's up to us to do a lot of the initiating lol I'm really interested in knowing what happens to your situation though! Hope you could reply with an update! :)

      • LostinConfusion // 18 June, 2016 at 2:42 am //

        Hello, thanks for your reply. Unfortunately nothing much happened. And yes, I already had my suspicion about him being the herbivorous type, but this is not the news. I happened to find him on another site where there were written more details about him, and believe it or not he wrote in it that he’s a uber virgin. Anyway, leaving this aside, I messaged him again asking him about his birthday, which happened to be 2 days later, so I wished him happy birthday and wished him to have a nice day. I also told him I hoped to see him soon. He only replied with a thank you and I wish you a nice day too. Tbh I was at a loss at his reply, like I think I did my best to make him understand I was interested in him, but nothing, he didn’t even hint about wanting to see me again or anything, so I stopped messaging him and ofc I never heard from him again and it has been more than 2 weeks now. I really don’t know what to think or do but I still think of him sometimes. I understand he’s a uber virgin but oh my god sending a message first to make me understand there’s so.a interest on his part wouldn’t hurt, but like this I’m not sure so that’s why I stopped messaging him, for fear of bothering him. Do you think I should text him again? What about your situation? Do you still see him? These herbivorous types drive you crazy, it’s just that I don’t think is right that we are the only one putting efforts :/ but damn he’s so cute.

  2. Hi Grace,

    I’m kinda new here lol. I stumbled upon your blog a few mins ago. It’s a great read, really. By the way, you and your husband are looking very kawaii!!!! Relationship goals, ugh :’) Will continue to read your blog ?

  3. sweetpea // 12 March, 2016 at 3:03 am //

    My japanese boyfriend is a great guy, we spent a year of LDR, but he came to visit me 3 times in a year in my country. I can’t understand about the norns.. I always complain of him treating me cold,. He used to write letters and doodles but gradually stopped.
    We had a conversation about our relationship fading, my mom was very sick and died but he never really take time to talk to me, he just let me heal my own wound, and after that he told me his business is dying and can’t visit me anymore.
    Of course, that reason is unacceptable..
    I loved him so much, and he told me that too..
    I was hurt really bad, but i still love him and want to understand him.
    We broke up finally,. But the last thing he told me was “i love you see you later”

    I really couldn’t understand their concept of love,..

    Pls help me what should i do?

  4. are girls really that naive? guys like achi kochi when it comes to girls. they enjoy the time they are with that particular one but need variety. There are so many beautiful girls in Japan why just have one? Its like if you eat ramen everyday you may enjoy all the different places you eat ramen but after a few weeks you want something else to eat. Men are always wondering if there is someone better out there especially at your age.Girls aren’t the same. At the same time they dont want to cut ties with you because you never know they may have a craving for ramen one night.

  5. hopelesslyinlove // 16 December, 2015 at 7:58 pm //

    I am actually having a similar experience right now.. We are going out for 8 months.Evrrything was going well. The suddenly he stopped texting. He doesnt answer my calls.. 3 days later, he told me he got promoted with his job and is havinga hard time adjusting.(He works 5 days and studies masters during saturdays.. so he usually just has 1 day off) I told him I would wait and that I will try to understand his situation. Now, it has been a month and a half since we had a decent communication. He sends me short messages once in a while, and asks mr how i am doing.. but thats it. We haven’t seen each other mo a month and a half now. I read your article and decided he might be breaking up with me. So, I sent hin a message saying how I really felt… and that I hope he has a good life and that he succeeds with whatever he is always busy with. Then he send me a message saying he is sorry and that he is just very busy. I asked him what he wants me to do, he answered me: ” just wait until i can adjust with my job”. now, I am very confused on what I should do. I love this guy so much that I can even sacrifice my own pride… but is it worth it? does he really want me to wait? i need help

  6. Anonymous // 19 October, 2015 at 1:21 am //

    I am so glad I came across this reading! This article answered a lot of my questions– and I am relieved to know that I am not alone. So I guess that is that– no texts, no replies, he just “faded away”. Reading about it is helping me accept it and move on. Thank you.

  7. Some interesting topic.
    I can say I’m going through it right now, but with a little bit of difference.

    I met a man online. He text me first. He did’t impressed me that much, but there was something in he’s txt, that just triggeret me to reply. I actually never thought, that we will have a conversation… We started to have a long talks about dreams, life goal… He was saying, that he is very interesting in me and my background. I started to like him very much, just for his way of thinking.
    All messages was long, so we didn’t replied immediately, and it was ok with me. even if he saw it on the same day.
    Finally he invited me. I can say, that he tried to impress me. I bring him a gift some charm for his work from my country.
    Second date I invited him, but he sad he would pay for me as “thanks” for invitation and for gift. After he invited me to another place with jut gourges view on night Tokyo. On the same night we come back together to his apartment, where I saw my gift begin put in front on the desk. Everything was perfect. He sad “好き”, but I did’t reply, just smiled.
    On the second date we talked about yukata, coz I bought some for myself and asked him if he have on, he sad no. But he would like to go with me on some yukata-date.
    After a spend night with him, I had nice message. And then he sad, that he mouth yakuta and we need to fins where to go.
    Third date. Here started to happened weird things. I got a phone call from him, why I’m not responding on his message on FB and if we still going. I sad sure. I was late and when I wanted to send him a messiah via FB – I couldn’t. Any way I sent him a normal old school txt. We meet and spent good time on festival, then in restaurant and wonderful night, when he again sad world by world “Lidiaのことは好き”. I sad, that i can say such a world that easy. But got some “goyukkuri” and kiss.
    Another weird thing, my gift gone somewhere. But I didn’t asked. Than I founded women hair in his bad. He sad he had homeparty and it friends. I started to do 1+1….

    I come back home really upset. Funded, that I can’t see his FB profile anymore. That’s mean I have been blocked. I txt him, that I want to meet up, when I didn’t get any reply until evening- I just called him. I sad, that I have to ask him something asap. He started to say, that he is busy and we can meet on weekends. But I pushed and we had meeting in 2 days on a lunch. And on one of our dates we where talking about privet time. I’m pretty busy to, I’ve my study, part time job and I’m doing freelance work as designer. I don’t have any rest days. Anyway he sad, that if he will need/want he will make time. And now he couldn’t.

    When we met and had a set in some quite place I starterd to tell and to ask. I started from FB massages, that I guess he know, why I can’t txt him anymore. Here he asked promotion to talk. He sad, that in the same time, that we met he and his ex-g (they where dating for 2years) started to chat again. So they decided to comeback together. And it the ex-g, that blocked me. may be she saw our messages and got angry.

    I neve had been hurt that much in my life. This man was sleeping with me, and one night before there was another woman? He was looking in my eyes and telling me lies about how much likes me.
    I already don’t know if he blocked me or she. until when he planed to date with me or he planed just to fade away like in this topic? I asked his why he was asking me if i like him to if he didn’t planed to continue?

    I don’t understand all “to get back together”. I don’t wear pink glasses. I believe, that if people breaking up, there is a reason for that. We do have try to work it out, but we can’t sacrifice ourself for that If its just doesn’t working out.
    Im speaking from my experience. A had been in his place 2 times.
    We always have some feeling for ex, but it’s not a reason. Not for me.

    The problem, that I felt this is real. I felt some match between us. It was new for me.
    I have myself for not being able to hate him or just get anger.
    Beside this situation i still think of him as of smart, adult, well-mannered person. He is pretty direct in his way of speaking.
    But hi didn’t had a courage to end this on the right time.

    And now I’m really trying to forget him, but it’s look impossible.

  8. Kataomoi // 8 August, 2015 at 1:35 am //

    My issue is different. We are not dating we just meet once every other week for language exchange. I help him with his English he helps e improve on my Japanese. He normally takes 3 days to reply to a text and for the record I am not big on texting at all. Now he gives me one huge answer after a week passes by. But this is not what bothers me the most, he keeps reading my messages the same day I sent them and then takes a long time to reply. I didn’t start off this platonic relationship hoping to date him at all. To be honest it just happened 2months in. I’ve shown or told him how I felt. But it doesn’t really matter now because now that he is taking this long I’ve lost interest. He has met one of my bffs and Ive taken him home twice. He offered to treat me to lunch because he was sooooo late, but I told him it was fine and that he doesn’t need to. He seems like a person I’d like to be good friends with. Every time we come together we laugh a lot. what Im curious about is am I missing something? He invited me out once outside of our meetings to go to a pizza party at the company that helped him come to the U.S. He invited me saying “that I needed to make more girl friends”. I came had fun, i wasn’t looking to spend time with him but I did feel like a shared toy. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the practice and I did make friends, but when everyone left he asked if I was going to say there while he went to the movies with one of his bros. I said no I’m going home and the owner asked if I was sure, and said aren’t you worried about traffic. Which I found pretty weird. Everyone is gone why most I stay there? Idk I need help here. We were supposed to meet and he canceled , i was really busy so it took me a but to fully reply. Hope he doesn’t think I was mad. I know this is a little confusing but does anyone know what is happening here, because I’m living it and I’m confused. (@_@;)

  9. Anonymous // 4 August, 2015 at 4:47 am //

    I had a Japanese girlfriend like that, we even came close to getting engaged. Things would be great for a week to a few weeks, and then nowhere “I’m tired, I’m busy, etc.” to talk, she would do this for several days in a row. Even weekends were completely booked, she literally spared no more than 20 minutes or so for me on the phone. She would do this for as long as I would put up with it, I’d call her out on it, we would have a fight, and she would make herself available again. Then after a short while the cycle continued. My impression is, they want to fit us into their life, rather than share their lives with us. She rarely made compromises, or changes to her regular routine, I was never “number one”. I made all of the changes, compromises, everything. Everything else in her life came first. I was to be fit into her life, rather than us creating a life together some day. Eventually I broke it off, as I didn’t trust her anymore. She kept promising changes and they were only temporary. It was a nightmare and one I would never “ganbare” through ever again.

    Interestingly enough she was the one who initiated at first as well, mere two weeks after we had met. There was the kokuhaku, and then boom, we were a couple. She came on really strong at first, was available all of the time, and then a few weeks later we had this little dance that we would perform for the next 7 months. Maybe it is a Japanese thing, perhaps a lot of them hate when there’s an upset in their “routine”; so rather than make room, they try and cram “outsiders” like us into the little empty spaces they have left. The way I see it is, if someone is really that important to you, you will find a way to make time for them, even if it means making some sacrifices. I don’t mean sacrificing your job, your health or anything ridiculous like that. I mean making sacrifices in time. If it means having a little less girls/guys night out then so be it, this person is allegedly important to you so make time for them. Don’t just expect them to work their lives around your schedule always. Otherwise stay single and keep that routine going for the rest of your life.

    • hopelesslyinlove // 16 December, 2015 at 8:46 pm //

      I seriously agree with you. I am having a hard time u derstanding their concept of love. They are very good people. They also are very during the early stages of the relationship. Then all of a sudden, they become busy and become very cold to you.
      My boyfriend was also very forward with his feelings for me during the first months. Now, I wonder if honesty is sincerity is really true to their culture.

    • I wasted almost two years trying to have a decent communication by long distance ( e-mail ) with a japanese guy. I met him personally once in my country.

      After I lost my temper few times, he got rid of me, ignoring all of my messages for almost two months now. My flaw: I am very straightfoward person and don’t have problems with conflicts or discussions, totally contrary to him. If I am not interested in talking to someoneI would say that and not just ignore the person, which is much worse in my opinion. It is really about saving their face, never about consideration to other person really. Because of that I felt I was hurt so much by him.

      About the next comment, coldness, I also agree totally. I have never felt included, not even as I friend. He was never interested in sharing anything more personal about his life, not even included me in his facebook or found ten minutes of his time to talk besides e-mail. And later, he ignored me totally.

      I agree totally with your comment. From the beginning I felt this about fitting and not real sharing, but decided to give some chances and I really regret that. I should have stopped talking to him right after the meeting. He in fact never gave any chance, I gave him many.

      I have learned my lesson: never having any type of long distance relationship again in my life.For sure there are some good japanese people out there but a big part of japanese I feel are very individualistic in their private life, which is really curious .

    • I really feel what your saying…confusing a fck.
      i dated mine for over a year a it was like fighting fire with sticks.
      She finaly gave me time in the end but i became so tired of our relationship I didnt really care about her attention or not.
      And then we went on a 2week trip together, i started get back my interest for her and believed she really wanted me. So i felt she was really the one. SADLY she pulled away again and is very random.
      We are going through break up now as we both are aware off and the fading out process.
      I really just want to tell her not to contact me or just delete her line and block her, but i cant bcause im still in love with her.
      Ive never experienced such an emotionaly hard experience with a girl before.
      it just felt like she was playing tag(when i wanted her she didnt come, when i stopped she would come running after me).
      But ive learnt 1 thing…. dont chase a japanese girl, let her run to you. If she doesnt respect you, leave and dont waste your time. Cut it short before the mind games begin and its pretty obvious from the begining. If she really wants you, she will chase you…dont be desperate for her love.
      Even though she said she wants to keep me on the side as friends with benifits, i still know she isnt even worth it. Just friends will do please if… i got time

  10. Courtney // 16 July, 2015 at 3:31 am //

    Grace, I know this post is old and no one has commented on it recently, but I’m having a similar problem to the ones mentioned.

    I recently acquired a Japanese pen pal a few months ago, and we have a lot in common and used to talk almost every day. If he didn’t respond to my messages right away, he would always apologize soon after and we would start to talk again. He also called me often on Skype. He never really seemed to make ridiculous excuses as to why we couldn’t talk, he just messaged me when he had time.

    Last month (June), he told me he was studying for TOIEC (a very important English exam) and would be taking it at the end of June. A few days before his test, I sent him a message saying “Good Luck with TOEIC!”, and on the day of his exam he responded, saying “I’m ready for TOEIC now. I’ve received a lot of kindness from you, thank you very much”.

    I haven’t heard from him since that day. It’s been over two weeks.

    The only thing that stops me from thinking “This person really doesn’t want to be friends anymore” is that this month is exam season for university students in Japan, and he’s in his last year of college, which means, of course, that he has not only exams to prepare for, but also job hunting.

    All of these factors tell me that he really does have a good reason to be busy and to ignore Skype in favor of studying. If he were on break from school and had all the time in the world to talk to me but chose not to, then I’d have pretty much given up already on hearing from him again.

    I know he has plenty of reasons to be busy, but I can’t help but wonder if he is also ‘fading away’ as other people speak of.

    Anyway, if I could hear of your thoughts on this, I’d be grateful.

    • Even if he is a student, still cutousy of a simple hello, hope things are going well..chat soon:)!
      You would think it would take a few seconds to txt it.
      I want to give you this advice… dont worry about him, dont expext anything and find another exchange language partner to befriend as he is typical for japanese and doesnt feel or think the same as you.
      Make yourself ocupied with another person,when you forget about him he will appear again.
      Yes its a crazy time for them as well as other festivals.
      My gf didnt contact me through this time at all even though my life was hectic with chaos as well. Believe me…. dont think about it and just live a fun life meeting new people and have fun without him;)
      They are nice people but can have their real annoying ways about them, they do it amongst themselves as well..so dont worry about it.
      He will be busy with test, studies, graduating and enjoying drinking and socializing with school friends where its needed.
      You are out of his picture at this stage of his life Until he remembers you when hes not so occupied.

  11. Anonymous // 1 May, 2015 at 7:12 pm //

    Hi there,

    I’m am American marrying a Japanese guy. He is fantastic and so are his parents. I have not experienced any of the above mentioned things in my relationship, but I do have to share something in relation to the Japanese sister-in-law (brother’s wife). She is not coming to our wedding. She has been avoiding me/us for the last 2 years I would say. Always an excuse to avoid seeing us when we are in town visiting during holidays. Sounds to me like a “break-up” of sorts. It doesn’t bother me, but just trying to figure out the psychology of her actions. Let me say that I am better educated and professionally successful than her. Not sure if these attributes have anything to do with her behavior. Just putting it out there to see what anyone has to say! Otherwise, I have a terrific relationship with the rest of the family.

    Cheers!

  12. Anonymous // 20 March, 2015 at 2:15 pm //

    It’s weird, but last year I had a similar experience though I’m not so sure if it was fading away or not. In the beginning HE pushed for a serious relationship, everything was great, then he got busy. He would set a date to meet, then cancel. Eventually, he wouldn’t even cancel and I’d get a message later with a lame excuse (busy, fell asleep, etc.). I got tired of it, but every time I said I felt like it was over he would counter. I felt like this was a lie, so I gave up. After not hearing from him for a few months I thought that was that…

    About a month ago he emailed me out of the blue, apologizing. I challenged him to say it to my face if he really meant it. He did show up a week or two later. He apologized profusely, cried, said that he really was busy and that he had also been scared (because he “loved me so deeply”). He asked for a second chance and I said I was willing to let him prove it, but that I wasn’t just going to trust him and things would not magically go back to the way they were. He did improve communication for a bit, but he’s back to his old ways of flaking out when he sets a time to meet. If he wanted to fade away, why would he come back? Are there Japanese guys who just like to make a game of it and drag out the agony?

  13. Although my Japanese ex boyfriend/fiancé gave me reasons for the breakup after nearly one year of LDR, many of them were cliché and basically meant the same “you are not my priority anymore”, “I’m too busy”, “I’m too broke to visit you but I won’t accept your help”, “I can’t make you happy right now, but if one day I get my life in order, I’ll be back for you” kind of deal (aka excuses and lies which are probably supposed to help but aren’t). After slowly turning a bit cold, I’m glad I got at least that, even though it was all by text. When I started feeling him pull away, I was horrified at the thought he might pull the kind of thing you wrote about in this article.

    I have a few friends, foreign women and gay men, who experienced their Japanese lover downright disappearing on them, without a trace and with little to no warning… One of my friends thought his boyfriend had died or something and he was so worried in his denial stage. All of them are still trying to heal after a long time. Different cultures, different norms. I would rather a guy tell me he doesn’t love me anymore than leave me with a bunch of unanswerable questions though.

  14. Grace, I have a question I’m not comfortable asking on a comments section. Would you consider allowing me to Skype you?

  15. I’ve been dump recently and. having a hard time moving on. I actually need his clarification… and don’t know what to do. I’ve done unnecessary things that I shouldn’t. and im been somehow trapped on a space rift because of that Baka

  16. This is really interesting because the “ignore them until they dump you” seems to apply to friendships too. After my first experience with this it became really difficult to trust my Japanese friends, not that my American friends are any more trustworthy. It’s just harder when you seem like best of friends then they stop talking as much and a month later it’s over.

    I HAVE had friends who kept saying they were busy actually be too busy to talk though, haha. They would tell me exactly why they are too busy and not just give me a flat reponse.

    Thanks for the informative posts about these kinds of things! I’m cosidering becoming another Texan in Japan someday so I’m learning a lot from your blog!

  17. Oh My God I’m so glad I found your blog. I definitely can relate.

    So I’m Indonesian, my ex bf is Japanese. We had a long distance relationship, he lives in Fukuoka and I live in Jakarta. I only see him when he visits my city for business.

    We often would fight when he goes MIA due to work as he would say, “忙しい” he can go weeks without contacting me, no phone calls, no texts, nada. I told him I can’t handle that kind of relationship especially when it’s long distance. I don’t expect him to call me everyday but seriously not even 1 text message?

    Usually when I try to call him instead, he won’t pick up and would come back with the excuse that he was in a meeting, etc. So when I told him how frustrated I felt he promised to call me twice a week. Usually things would be great for a while he would contact me twice a week as he promised, but then later he goes back to MIA which drives me crazy.

    So anyway, last month he went to another city in my country for business, he promised to come visit me in my city, he said he’s gonna come end of Nov and stay on until early Dec.

    He contacted me for 3 weeks straight, but the last time we talked we had a minor argument, but I thought we were fine because the next day after we argued I posted something on Facebook and he “liked” it.

    By the 4th week I didn’t hear anything from him. So I called and messaged him through LINE to ask him whether he’s gonna come and visit. He read my message but didn’t respond. 3 days went by and I tried to call him again but he didn’t pick up. I started to feel something isn’t right like he’s avoiding me so I called him using my house phone (he doesn’t recognize the number) just to see if he would pick it up. Guess what? He answered the phone! I was right that bastard was avoiding me! The minute he heard my voice he just went silent and then he hang up. When I tried to call him again he turned off his cellphone.

    I immediately wrote him a long message on Skype to say that I’m effing done with him and it’s over between us.

    He only replied that ever since our last argument, he decided “not to bother me anymore” whatever the hell that means.

    I think he finally responded because I caught his hiding ass with the house phone number. If I didn’t do that I’d probably would still be wondering why he “faded” away.

    He’s still on my facebook, I didn’t block him or unfriend him.
    Yesterday I posted a pic with my girlfriends, suddenly I got a “like” from him. What the hell is that supposed to mean? We haven’t spoken for almost a month after we broke up and now he likes my pic?

  18. I wish i read this months ago! so my situation was a little different we were never dating only talking as friends basically helping each other with eng/jap homework and such. I live in the states he in japan. We would talk on and off for about a month then go up to 2 weeks without talking and he would always message me back as a pattern. Then one day we talked for like a week straight falling asleep through texts. At one point i responded to a text saying “sorry i fell asleep…” (in my broken japanese) and even sent a little sticker (line messaging) and i saw that he read it immediately but i never got a response.

    i was understanding because hey it happens you don’t feel like chatting that day, but he never ever messaged me and it’s been over 5 months now. I was kinda bummed because he was a very nice guy and always said “when you come to japan i can show you (insert sightseeing places)”. He even sent me a bunch of pictures he took while visiting a cousin in new york and would send me pictures from all over tokyo and i showed him the barren wasteland that is arizona.

    part of me understands and holds no hard feelings for his decision i mean i never wanted anything but friendship from him and it was cool to have a ‘penpal’, but part of me misses the fact that i had someone from a totally different world to talk to and i still wanna talk. I never did get my american closure… i wanna know what exactly went wrong!

    (Another thing is he basically dropped off the face of the planet i don’t seen him on any social media so that’s a little questionable… what happened to my friend?)

  19. Wow glad I came here, this is the most funniest but upsetting thing but proof that the “I’m so busy” excuse is just that an excuse complete 言い訳! Okay so the guy “T” was sooo kind when I first met him and we didn’t hang out much when I was in Japan but we were pretty okay and he was cool. When I was leaving he was like “oh well if you leave before me, wake me up because I want to say goodbye” and that’s what happened and I got his Line and he got mine. We’ve been messaging for almost a year next month. So about 4 months ago he started taking his time messaging back and said it was because he was busy and I believed him. Soon after he stopped apologizing for it and it was okay but then the time got longer and longer. I didn’t really understand what was happening, because I’ve never really liked anyone like that. I didn’t like him romantically but more than a friend. It’s a weird feeling. Although I know that he thinks I feel that way about him, But soon I started to feel like it was just unreasonable that he didn’t have three minutes to message me. So, one day I searched up the guesthouse that he stayed at that I had been for those 2 weeks, and I found out that entire time that he said he was busy he was LYING! He was free and the funny part was one of the pictures was of him on his phone! xDD BUT they were all on the dates when he told me he was busy. I was hurt but I made excuses because I figured he just needed space but now I just feel awkward if I stop messaging since he in fact should; he’s the older, he has more experience, and he’s the one that initiated the “fading away” thing. Anyway it’s good I wanted to write this to all you who hear that “I’m busy but I really like you” crap when you know it’s too unreasonable to be true.

  20. Hello again, the story about this guy faded away his girlfriend is so Japanesy.
    This Japanese girl must be shocked when she got to know that this guy got a new GF, while she didn’t realize this guy tried to fade away. Fade away thing is convenience for the guy to make an excuse “I mentioned you for the break-up, you just didn’t get it” (=that is your fault and I’m not wrong)
    I feel sorry for this lady…

    I think for the Asian guys, they are not good at being upfront.
    > even if it’s awkward and/or painful in the short run, it’s best in the long-run.
    This is well said!! Me, I’m Japanese, but I 100% agree with you.
    My ex was a dentist and I once told him why in his work life he’s telling his patients to come early as possible for the treatment before it gets too late, and why me, you don’t sit down and talk with me while our problem is still not complicated? it won’t be cured once the problem get bigger… You’re doing well in your work life, why not do the same with your real life?
    He didn’t say anything. I think it’s because he was mentally weak guy, and just couldn’t face the reality. For the girls, I agree if anyone wants to see only the rose color world but not for the guys.

    • Exactly. I mean, I understand the feelings. Before I met my husband, I was in a string of one-sided relationships that unfortunately involved me breaking up with my boyfriend after a lack of interest.
      It would have been SO much easier to just kind of gradually fade away until they got the message. But I’ve had that done to me before. It’s not fair. And it leaves a really nasty feeling behind.

  21. Hello, Grace, unfortunately what you are talking about breaking-ups in Japanese way is soooo true! Japanese think it’s not nice to say things honestly (and directly) so that they put their effort in how to fade away rather than being honest. Too bad, Japanese believe this comes from their ‘yasashisa’ (means caring feeling), but in reality, this fade away habit is not ‘yasashisa’ this is only hurting your partner! I wish that the Japanese, I mean the Asian men, will be more mature and evolve a little bit to understand more woman’s feelings. For my opinion, once you are involved in a relationship, need to take responsibility for the relationship at least to be clear about what was the reason for break-up, what were the things did not like about, so and so. This is the most important part and can not be skipped before dumping your partner!
    But now I don’t really know if this is good or bad habit… First I thought this is terrible but then I thought, maybe it’s good in some way…from one of my experiences.
    For Americans in general, if Americans ever say “no” that is NO. Means, end is really the END. For Japanese men (I suppose also for Chinese) since their style is “fade away” style, there’s a big possibility that men come back to you. When they feel like fading away, they fade away. When they feel like coming back, they come back. I find ‘Fuku-en’ (spelled as 復縁… I don’t know how to say this in English) in Japan is more of a big thing than in the US. (but it won’t be successful unless you have enough patience to wait for the chance for the guy to come back to you) After the guy flirted enough with another woman, got tired, and then he would think now he wants to go back to the woman who he really loves. This might sound bullshit but if your love weigh more than your pride, why not forgive everything and stay together again…? Because of this breaking habit in Japan, so-called ‘fuku-en’ could happen more often here, I’ve experienced all that with my previous boyfriend too. At that time I was happy. But I don’t know, I still like the men like a “real man” unlike the Japanese…

    • I guess it really depends. I’ve seen some people be really upfront with their partner (no means no, I don’t love you anymore) in Japan – both from the guys and the girls.
      But I’ve also seen a lot of this “fade away” stuff.

      I knew a guy who “faded away” on his girlfriend (Japanese) and then started dating another girl (non-Japanese) a couple weeks later. Well, he thought they had broken up and his ex-girlfriend thought he was cheating on her.
      The whole thing was really messy and awkward.

      But I’ve also known guy (American) friends who have been faded out by their Japanese girlfriend. It’s probably less common, but still really sad.
      I’m with you, though. I think you need to be upfront with your relatonship – even if it’s awkward and/or painful in the short run, it’s best in the long-run.
      But that’s the American in me talking.

    • thank you

  22. mestartsdating // 2 September, 2014 at 7:29 pm //

    Hi Grace. I’ve been silently reading your blog before I decided to meet my j-guy online friend here in my country one month ago. And after reading this break-up-method in Japan, I thought of him and his behavior these past few weeks. I’m kinda confused. Though we are not really official “on” because I think we are just friends. Wait, can I get your email? :/ I am afraid he would read my comment publicly. I just really need an advice and I think you are the most appropriate person to ask for. Sorry for bothering you and THANK YOU in advance. Here’s my email though, daekr@hotmail.com.

  23. Anonymous // 27 August, 2014 at 11:54 am //

    So true! I don’t like the typical break-up mode- I could tell a few stories…one friend of mine was married to a japanese girl. They were having trouble as she had moved to USA to be with him but didn’t have a visa to work …eventually she went back to japan and simply stopped responding to her husbands emails, calls etc. Finally he just filed for divorce! Wacky!

    • Woah dang, really? That’s intense…

      Reminds me of one of my acquaintances. He was married to a Japanese woman who kept telling him to “go back to [home country]”
      But she didn’t want to file for divorce. So. Yeah.

  24. I just found your blog! I really love it! I hope you get a job in Japan soon! I am here working as an ALT and my boyfriend lives in Korea. Reading your blog, we have had a lot of similar experiences, and I hope to start blogging more about international relationships from now on! 頑張ろう!

    Also, I have experienced this whole, “He stopped texting me so I guess it’s over…” kind of thing and it was strange at first, but I like how you came to terms with it. The Japanese really don’t like confrontation, so it makes sense.

    By the way, I recently told my Japanese friend I’m from Tennessee and she said, “Is that near Mexico?” Haha, I think she was thinking about Texas :p

    • Hahahaha. That’s hilarious. For the most part, all the Japanese people I’ve talked to about Texas are always like “can you shoot guns in Texas?”

      Good luck on your international relationship. Let me know if you ever want to guest post on this blog (I’m always looking for new stories!)

      • I definitely want to!! Our relationship is still new, so maybe after a while I can have a better story for you.

        YES! All my students think everyone in America has a gun. And eats cheeseburgers. When they tell me, “I want to go to America” I will ask what they want to eat and they only know burgers. But there are so many other amazing foods <3 I'm sad Mexican/Spanish food isn't as big here, but it's way better than a few years ago.

  25. Anonymous // 9 July, 2014 at 10:00 am //

    You have a lot of experience dumping ?
    Yea right ..

  26. Once I was sitting in my car in a parking lot in Japan waiting for my wife when I noticed a car stop and a young woman got out and ran towards another parked car. She then proceeded to scratch up one door panel with her key. A little while later a young man got into the car and drove off without even noticing the key marks. Do you think they were breaking up?

    • Ouch, in Japan? Does key-ing a car happen in Japan?

      I tried explaining it to some of my Japanese male friends, and they had no idea what I was talking about. They said that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in Japan. Perhaps Japanese youth don’t have the same access to cars as American teens?

      That’s pretty interesting, though. I do feel sorry for anyone who gets their car key-d

      • Yeah, it happens.
        Japanese women often stalk boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and wannabe-boyfriends. This woman was stalking this man. Once knew a Japanese woman who stalked a young physician in our area. She actually told me this. She would drive by his house (he was married) and visit his clinic without a medical need … not sure how it all ended up for her. Badly would be my guess.

      • Take what Japanese tell you about their own country with a grain of salt. Instead, pay attention to what is going on around you and you will be astounded. They will tell you until they are blue in the face that “that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in Japan,” just like Americans believe that they are living in the “greatest nation in history.” It isn’t that they are necessarily lying. They just have been conditioned since birth to buy into the Japanese narrative … like people in every other country are conditioned to buy into whatever particular story they have going on about themselves. Will give you an example: my Japanese father-in-law, who worked in city government until retirement, paid a large sum of money (under the table, of course) to someone influential (also in local government) to secure his daughter (my sister-in-law) a teaching position after she graduated university. I mentioned this to two different Japanese educators, one long since retired and another nearing retirement. They emphatically told me this sort of thing never, ever happens in Japan. Well, it did …

        • Interesting. I guess that is true. It is so hard to get a clear view of the country (without relying on someone else’s rose colored – or otherwise tinted – glasses).

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