This weekend was my first time meeting my boyfriend’s parents, and it was something that I was dreading and worrying about until it finally happened. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to understand them well enough, or that my Japanese would be too terrible for them to like me. I spent a bit of my free time the week before just brushing up on Japanese vocabulary, and trying to imagine different conversations we might have and how they would play out in my head. Basically I was just obsessing over it to the point where I was doing more harm than good. I ended up only getting 2.5 hours of sleep the night before and was a tired mess the next morning!
How I Met My Boyfriend
My boyfriend and I started dating on Christmas Eve of 2017. It was our first time meeting, and we originally got to know each other through Tinder. My expectations were pretty low for our date, because I had some mediocre to very disappointing experiences with a few Tinder dates in Japan up until that point. I’ll probably post more about those experiences later. Because of those other failed attempts at finding a suitable partner, I told myself that this would be the last Tinder date I’d ever go on regardless of how it went. I actually ended up canceling our first planned date, because I was going through so much with moving and work that I just wasn’t up for it. I decided to give the second planned one a try, because he seemed like a nice guy and had a very interesting and unique hobby.
So, we met up in Machida the night before Christmas. After meeting each other at the station and walking around a bit, we went to a restaurant where he made a reservation. Right away I felt attracted to his personality, because there was something different about him that I wanted to learn more about. We ended up talking for four hours, and honestly the time just flew by, and before we knew it the time was getting late. The waiter at the restaurant was eyeballing us wondering if we were ready to leave yet, so we knew that was our signal that we should probably head out.
We said goodbye at the station, and I didn’t know the proper kind of etiquette to end a date. I read a lot about Japanese men not hugging or kissing in public, so I kind of kept an awkward distance, and we parted ways with a handshake! Talk about formal! We had a great night together though, and we continued messaging each other on the train ride home.
After the First Date
Things seemed to progress very slowly but at a nice pace over our next few dates. It took a while for us to hold hands, and even longer for us to hug or kiss. I didn’t want to rush things though, and enjoyed just getting to know him, and experiencing new places together. Life in Japan is quite different when you’re dating a Japanese person versus another foreigner, like I had for four years prior. I felt much less like an outsider, and more like I belonged to the community. I introduced my boyfriend to some of my friends, and he introduced me to some of his, and I knew it was only a matter of time before we’d also have to meet each other’s families.
However, I didn’t realize I would be meeting his family so soon! At exactly three months from our first date, we met at Yokohama station to head to his parents’ house. I was scared, I was nervous, but most of all I was just plain sleepy. We stopped at a cafe to grab a coffee and small bite to eat. Then I talked him into walking to a nearby mall and just browsing around a bit. To be honest I was procrastinating and just trying to prolong having to meet them as much as possible. Eventually he said we should get going, and we hopped onto the train line to their house.
Visiting His Parents
When we first arrived at their home we walked around back to his mother’s garden. She grows a lot of fruits and vegetables in their back yard, and we were admiring them when she suddenly popped out from around the corner and exclaimed, “Why are you guys walking around back here instead of coming in through the front?!” while laughing. She’s a very thin woman with short hair and roughly my height. They immediately jumped into talking about the garden, and all I could do was smile nervously and wonder if I should introduce myself.
My boyfriend and I followed his mother around to the front of the home and inside to meet his father. It was there that my boyfriend introduced us, and I told them my name, and he told me to call them mom and dad. They asked me again how to pronounce my name, and we giggled a bit as they struggled with it, because pretty much every Japanese person does.
We went into the living room, which was a tatami room with a kotatsu similar to these and a TV in the corner. My boyfriend spoke with his parents briefly, and they left the room shortly after to take care of some things and to give us a chance to look through his childhood photo albums. He looked nothing like he does today! My boyfriend looked more like he was half Japanese when he was younger, and changed quite a bit into more of what he looks like now after junior high school.
Eventually his father came back, and said that his mother was waiting at a yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant for us. We all hopped into the car, and he drove us there after passing by and pointing out the old house where they used to live. My boyfriend’s older brother is living there now with his wife and two kids, and they renovated it. We drove for about ten minutes through very narrow and winding roads until we reached a very small yakiniku restaurant right next to an intersection.
Going Out to Dinner
Luckily we beat the dinner rush and were able to sit down quickly. My boyfriend told me that this was a restaurant his family frequently visited, and it used to be run by a bunch of old women. It was in a tiny space and was packed full of people. All of the grills used charcoal, and the place was exceptionally smokey. At one point my eyes were watering from getting so much smoke in them, but dear god was the pain worth it! That small place in the middle of no where had some of the juiciest beef I had ever eaten! Each piece melted like butter in my mouth.
His mother handled all of the cooking, and we could barely keep up. As soon as I finished eating one piece of meat, she’d have another two ready! His parents chatted quite a bit and his mother asked me a few questions. It was a bit hard to make out what she was saying, just because of all the noise in the restaurant. There were families squeezed between each other at the small tables, yelling out orders, chatting, laughing, overtop of the loud sounds of sizzling meat. She complimented me on my chopstick use (which always happens) and asked if there were any Japanese foods I didn’t like. When I told her I couldn’t stand sazae she laughed and said it was one of his father’s favorite foods! I felt a little bad about that (not really).
We finished eating after about an hour or so and they walked up to the register. Our grand total came out to about 6,000 yen ($60) for four people to fill up on steak. Talk about a pretty amazing deal! When we walked outside, there was a line of people sitting and waiting outside of the restaurant. My eyes continued to burn from the smell of smoke. My hair smelled like smoke, my jacket smelled like smoke, and just about everything else. We all jumped back into the car and made a pit stop on the way home.
My boyfriend’s father pulled the car up to a shop that sold sweets, and he explained that it was his family’s tradition to pick up some ice cream after eating yakiniku. Aside from ice cream the shop also had pastries, cookies, macarons, and many other sweets. I was feeling pretty full from dinner, and even sleepier than before since I had a belly stuffed with meat. I didn’t really think about eating any ice cream until his father handed me a strawberry cone, asked if I liked it, and I couldn’t refuse. They bought about 4 different kinds at the counter, and then we were back on our way home.
It was very dark by then, and must have been around 7pm. I wasn’t sure how long we would be staying, but we sat down in the living room for a while and my boyfriend’s mother began telling me a bit about the family. Both of his older brothers had gotten married. One at the age of 26 and the other at 36. I kind of felt that they were hinting at it being a good time for him to do so as well. Japanese people can be very subtle with their way of saying things. She handed him a tablet and asked him to fix some trouble they were having with registering for something. It took him about an hour to solve the issue, and I listened to his mother and father talk during that time.
We finally got ready to leave a little after 8:30pm. I made the mistake of letting my sock touch the floor area in the genkan (entryway) and his mother warned that I might get my sock dirty…oops! I definitely have to work on putting my shoes on more quickly and gracefully. Before we actually left she handed me a bag of homegrown vegetables. I’m cooking them with some pork now as I write this. His parents drove us back to the station in their car, and we said goodbye very quickly because they let us out at an intersection and the light had just turned green.
I felt relieved and happy that I made it through the day. They were wonderful and nice people, but I was struggling the whole time due to the lack of sleep. At least now that I’ve met them I won’t be so nervous the second time around. Hopefully!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you’d like to know more, check out Why I Moved to Japan and please share your reasons for why you’re here or planning to come!