Physical and mental connections alike show up in the top responses.
The blossoming of romance is often a subtle thing, requiring attuned perception of finely nuanced words and actions. Particularly in the modern era, where platonic friendships between men and women have become more common than they were in the past, it can sometimes be heard to tell when you and a member of the opposite sex are still just good buddies, and when you’ve become something more.
To try to get a better handle on the situation, Japanese women’s interest and cinema Internet portal Tokyo Joshi Eiga-bu conducted a survey of 390 women, asking them what line signifies a man and woman have become “lovers” when it’s crossed. Below are the top six responses.
6. “If just the two of us go out to eat or have fun” (2.1 percent of respondents)
This might sound like an incredibly low bar for cementing a romantic relationship, and indeed, the women who chose this are part of a very small minority. That said, Japanese social interactions, particularly with classmates or coworkers, are often group affairs, and so some feel that a man and women leaving out the rest of their mutual acquaintances implies a significant level of emotional intimacy.
5. “If just the two of us go out of town together” (5.7 percent of respondents)
Everything said in entry number six gets cranked up a notch if the man and woman are headed far away for it to be classified as a day trip, and even more so if overnight travel is involved.
4. “If we go all the way” (10.5 percent)
Yeah, penetration tends to burst the illusion that two people are nothing more than good pals.
3. “If we hold hands” (13.8 percent)
It’s a little startling to see extended palm-pressing surpass sexual intercourse as an indicator of a legitimate romantic connection, but their relative positions on the list speak to certain attitudes in Japanese culture and society. Japan can be surprisingly blasé in its acceptance that people have physical needs, and what goes on behind the closed doors of a love hotel can, as long as the proceedings remain clandestine, sometimes be shrugged off as consenting adults attending to those needs.
On the other hand, holding hands speaks to a more emotional desire for romantic companionship, so some participants felt made it the more telling sign that a guy and a girl are going steady. Add in the fact that it’s relatively uncommon for friends, or even family members, to hug or otherwise physically show affection, and holding hands seems like an even bolder development in the relationship between two people.
2. “If we kiss” (24 percent)
As a more passionate expression of one’s sentiments than holding hands, but one that many would say isn’t as viscerally satisfying as sex, kissing accounted for almost as many votes as the previous two entries combined.
1. “Unless we tell each other we’re lovers, I don’t think of us that way.” (40.5 percent)
To some, the top pick (and by a wide margin) might sound needlessly dispassionate, or even clueless. But Japanese society places a lot of importance on what it calls the kokuhaku, literally “confession” but generally used to refer to an explicit declaration of affection. It’s such a part of idealized romances, including those depicted in TV dramas and anime, that some people think that until the kokuhaku is done, you really can’t be totally certain that you and the object of your affection are a couple.
It’s a bit ironic, given that Japanese couples are largely considered to be less vocally affectionate than many of their foreign counterparts. Still, if a guy wants a Japanese girl to know he’s serious about her, he’ll probably have to tell her his feelings directly before the relationship can begin in earnest, so it’s a good thing that there are a lot of options for how to phrase that declaration.
It won’t mean you’ve become lovers, but you can follow Casey on Twitter anyway.
[ Read in Japanese ]