Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dating in Japan: Goukon Culture

Aaah, the goukon. Strange, strange institution.

One of my sharemates invited me to a party at Futagotamagawa. Now, I should probably have thought a bit more before accepting, considering she is the queen of goukon. However, since I was not asked to pay for anything, I assumed it would just be a good time, and maybe a good chance to meet some new friends.

And guess what? It WAS a goukon, cunningly disguised as a birthday party.... oy vey.

I do not have a problem with this sort of set-up per se. As a college student I attended several, and had a great time. A couple drinks, harmless flirting and a chance to meet new people, cool. However, the problem in this case is that the stakes are much higher... also, while many of the girls attending were in their early twenties, the guys were mostly in their fourties.

While it may be safe to assume that many of the ladies present were seeking a high-earning mate (which is fine, as the exchange of youth for wealth is common all over the world), this is not my case. I enjoyed my college goukon because we were all about the same age, with lots of different hobbies and interests, and were not taking the event as a serious 'meet-market'. While I am actually very good at speaking with high-powered salarymen, thanks to my job, it feels an awful lot like work. Also, the feeling of being analyzed and weighed up as a potential wife is particularly unsettling.

To make the best of the situation, I managed to find a few nice people to talk to, and the food was wonderful. There were several entrepreneurs, who are usually pretty interesting people. Then I was  cornered by a web designer, who looked like he could be about 28 (but was actually 42!). Nice enough, but faaar too persistant, at which point I made my escape.

Thus, a few ground rules (for those interested) for actually enjoying these events:

1- Make sure you know the age range of the participants. A gap of more than 10 years is to be avoided (unless that is your specific interest, of course).
2-Also, avoid 'specialized goukon', where the male participants are all doctors, lawyers, ToDai graduates or whatever. Variety is much better!
3- Go to a goukon organized by a friend, or at least attend with someone you know. Very helpful for breaking the ice.
4- Try to make sure you will not be stuck sitting in one place all night, having room to move and talk to different people will make the whole experience much more fun.
5- Give out your mail address, but not phone number (although most people I have met have been quite polite and not bombarded me with mails)

Questions? Stories (especially painfully hilarious or weird stories)?


  1. Now this is one of those things I've always, always wanted to go to but won't get the chance to. Alas, thank you for writing this entry and telling us all about it. :)

    1. Its okay, most are not terribly exciting^^;

  2. The last Gokon I went on, I helped set up. The funny part about it was that I was setting it up with a married guy (who I thought was trying to get four of his SINGLE friends to come hang out with me and my three single friends) but instead went along as a member of the gokon (defeats the purpose, am I right?).
    The night ended up where the married guy was far more interesting than the very quiet other guys, and we all took turns dancing with him at the club we went to later.

    1. Yes, that does seem to happen a lot... very odd.
      Although at least you had fun!

  3. I have never heard of this before and I feel that I am sorely missing out! Random nampas with cute but dumb boys are fun for like 5 minutes, this has potential to be more interesting. I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be with INTENSE scrutiny, but I have to say that any guy I've ever dated has sized me up to some extent on the first date. Meh. (Side note - your photos aren't showing up for me. Sad pandas)

  4. As long as the age ranges are right, I think goukon have a lot of possibilities.
    Also, cheers for the photo thing...they were fine for a couple days, then went all weird!