Wait... do Japanese people use dating apps at all?
There seems to be a certain stigma towards dating apps here in Japan. American magazine Fast Company claims that if asked, almost no one will confess using them.
This might go back to scams that happened in the 90s. Websites would require men to pay fees to subscribe in order to call beautiful women. These "beautiful women" were regular company employees (some of whom were not women at all) running a catfish scam colloquially called sakura, collecting the subscription fees as long as they could. While lots of legit apps are on the market now, in 2015 eight executives of several popular Japanese dating websites have been arrested on similar allegations, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Nowadays, however, an increasing number of young people seem to be comfortable looking for a partner online. If we think for a moment about the changes that have happened in society over the years, this makes perfect sense: more and more people move to larger cities for their job hunt, losing their social connections in the process. Long gone are the days in which your elementary school friend or your grandma would hook you up with that cute girl or guy they think is perfect for you. Now you've got to be proactive and hunt on your own!
If you're convinced and you want to give it a try, read below for a selection of the hottest apps of the moment! Just a reminder: most of these apps are in Japanese, so you will need some knowledge of the language to navigate them and set up your profile. Most people using them also speak only Japanese, so while you might come across the occasional proficient English speaker, they might be rare.
iOS - Android
Well known in the Western world, Tinder has made its way to Japan thanks to its intuitiveness. Swipe right if you like a person, left if you'd rather pass. It cannot get any easier than that! However, keep in mind that Tinder is mostly known for casual dating instead of long-term commitments. One thing that makes Tinder stand out from a lot of Japanese dating apps is the option to choose your preferred gender. So whether you're a male looking for another male, a female looking for another female, bisexual, or even just looking for platonic friends and connections of either sex, Tinder supports everyone.
iOS - Android
This app seems to be catered towards people wanting a serious relationship instead of just occasional dating. Like many other Japanese dating apps, Omiai works with your Facebook account, making signing up safer and easier (and to reduce scamming). The search function is also very detailed and allows you specify preferences in various fields, including nationality, education, income and body type. Since you can use it through your Facebook account, you can also access the app on your PC through their official website.
iOS - Android
Tapple seems to be used for both casual dating and long-term relationships. A common feature of Japanese dating apps is a pay feature for men. While both men and women can create an account for free, men have to pay a fee to be able to send girls messages. A key feature of Tapple is the wide selection of search categories related to your interests. You can look for people who enjoy music, art, drinking, dining out and so forth.
iOS – Android
While relatively new, Pairs had gained a large success for a series of reasons. First of all, no need to sign up for yet another account, as you use Facebook to access it (no, your friends won't know). Second, this automatically reduces fake profiles. Third, given the real profiles, it's a favorite among people looking for "real dates" and possible long term commitments, up to marriage. Fourth, the style and imagery of the website mostly caters to women looking to date online—something not so common among Japanese apps. While some people will undoubtedly use it for casual dating, the app was created with long-term relationships in mind.