When someone asks you ‘Would you like to make new Japanese friends?’ or ‘Do you want to meet some Japanese people?’, the first thing that comes to mind for most people are dating websites, dating apps or to go to a local nightclub. Although the fastest way to make new friends is through the internet, you must be cautious not to become a ‘Catfish’ victim. Sometimes the photos are different from the person behind the profile! When you go to nightclubs in Tokyo in places like Roppongi, Shinjuku, or Shibuya, you may meet dishonest or dubious characters. In the nightclubs, there are probably more tourists than local Japanese people anyway because they try to attract more tourists. It is also very hard to chat, with all the noise and excitement.
Have you ever heard of the Japanese Izakaya chain restaurant called ‘Aisekiya’? Just hearing the name may make you feel confused if you know the definition of ‘aiseki’. ‘Aiseki’ means to share a table with strangers, and ‘Aisekiya’ is a restaurant where you can share a table with other strangers and meet them for a little conversation. You have the opportunity to sit with unfamiliar faces and meet new people who are also willing to meet new people. While enjoying the food, you can easily chat with the other people who share your table. This dating system is very popular among young Japanese people. You must be over 20 years of age in order to participate. Their selling point to female customers is that there’s no entrance fee or time limit for female customers! But for male customers, there is a fee of 1,500 yen for every 30 minutes. It’s an all you can eat and drink system for men and women.
Ok! If you are curious enough to expand your comfort zone and experience this special local izakaya, you may ask ‘how do I begin?’ It’s easy! First, you can download the app. Remember it’s not a must but I recommend it because you can check in advance through the app how many seats are available at each restaurant, the number of men and women, analysis of who is suitable for dating, and coupons. If you download the app for the first time, they offer male customers 2,000 yen for 60 minutes and for female customers that get the app for the first time and stay more than 60 minutes, gets 1,000 points. You can use the accumulated points to get luxury presents! There are many ways to get points. Please check the app for more details.
The app is only available in Japanese.
Next, let’s go to the restaurant! Remember, you must at least go with one other person. They will not let you in if you are alone. Anyway, it’s easier to start a conversation with strangers when you have friends to support you! Most ‘Aisekiya’ will accept reservations.
When everyone is completely seated and everyone has their drinks, remember to say ‘kanpai'(cheers!) with your soon-to-be new friends. This is a common way to break the ice in Japan. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, you can also order soft drinks. Then, just take your time to introduce yourself and talk about any topic you like(please note: Japanese people don’t like to be asked personal questions so, try not to ask too many private questions the first time you meet them). I suggest you play some drinking games which is another great way to break the ice. If you think you have connected well with your new friends, you can exchange your digits so you can meet up again. You must make your decision within 30 minutes because every 30 minutes you must move to a new table. This can be beneficial if you are feeling bored with the people at your table. If you don’t like the people at your table or you feel bored with them immediately, you can excuse yourself to the restroom and get the ‘exchange table card(席替えカード)’. You fill it out by writing your table number and the number of people at your table. Then you can secretly pass it to the restaurant staff. They will assist you to move on to a new table. Both men and women can enquire for the table-changing-card. The staff will be very discreet about the request and tactfully go about the request by not exchanging immediately. Instead, they will wait 5 minutes and come to the table and have a great explanation as to why they must exchange tables. For example, they may say that the number of men and women customers are not equal today and so they must change the tables early. As not to embarrass anybody, they are very good at not letting on the real reason of the exchange.
Do not wear eye-catching or extremely sexy clothing, just be clean and simple.
Be polite and friendly when you move to a new table. ‘Kanpai!’ always helps to break the ice. Concisely introduce yourself and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to talk. Do not whisper with your friends, be glued to your mobile phone, do not push others to drink more alcohol or say something rude. Remember to thank everyone when you are leaving the table,’Arigato-gozaimashita’.
About the language:
As a foreign customer, I recommended that you have at least a conversational level of Japanese. The participants of ‘Aisekiya’ are usually Japanese locals. They probably won’t be able to speak English.
All sorts of people come to ‘Aisekiya’. It is a great place to practice your social skills. Depending on the branch, certain age groups are coming to specific locations but most people are students or office workers. There is also a particular branch called R30赤坂店, and you must be at least 30 years of age. There are other similar types of restaurants with the same kind of concept but the fees and rules might vary. But for women who don’t want to pay the entrance fee, don’t forget that’s only at ‘Aiseki-Izakaya’!
Hope you liked my ‘how-to’ on the Japanese style speed dating at ‘Aisekiya’. Why don’t you give it a try next time you’re in Japan? It might be an interesting experience for you. I guarantee that you will have a great time!
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