That’s right, I can tell you about succeeding at dating apps. A little, at least.
But this summer, I actually managed it. Going on dates, meeting new people, making out. Succeeding at dating apps is actually possible. It’s just incredibly annoying.
For a trans, queer, foreigner in Japan, options are definitely limited. Most of the heavily advertised apps in Japan are hetero-only, while privacy concerns means half of accounts don’t even show their face in the photos. I was fooled multiple times by straight men who had set their profiles to Female, only mentioning they were dudes days or weeks after matching with them. Normal people would have given up. But I wasn’t gonna let that happen.
So, here’s basically what I did. If you’re queer and in Japan, this might work. But ONLY if you live in one of Japan’s main metro areas. When I lived in Aomori and Shizuoka, none of this worked well. You’ve got to be able to meet up with people in 90 minutes by train, tops.
Succeeding at Dating Apps: The Apps I Used
- This app really sucks but it has the most people. I paid $25 for Tinder Platinum and absolutely went to town swiping as much as possible in that month I had it. Tons and tons of matches, like probably over 150 from April to September, but most of them went nowhere, and a few total creeps–no other apps had creeps.
- I was getting absolutely nothing off this app, unlike in Shizuoka where I met some Tokyo people through it. It seems my account was glitched, so I had to delete the app. Sad. Only one match through this from April to August.
- Only foreigners use this, so there’s a ton of travelers and no easy way to filter that. I found it extremely difficult to actually get anywhere; even if we matched, the other person almost never sent a message. And the conversations always peetered out so quickly. I did meet one person through this app though!
- This lesbian-focused dating app blocked my account for almost 2 weeks because I was using a VPN when signing up. By the time I got access, I didn’t end up using it much. But it looked nice.
- This is by far the best app experience I had! It’s another lesbian-focused dating app, although nonbinary and transgender people are totally allowed. I always assumed this app would be full of foreign travelers, but actually it’s almost all people who actually live in Japan! Wow! I only started it in early September, but I quickly matched with tons of cool people. The actual app needs some work, though; I paid for a month of premium for this one, too, and it had very nice features but implemented in a very odd way.
- Sadly, tons of Zoe people also refuse to message first, just like Tinder. Conversations also move much, much more slowly than on Tinder, probably because people don’t check the app very often. That’s probably a good thing!
The Methods I Used
Succeeding at dating apps meant doing unsavory tactics, stuff we’re primed not to do in our social media world. But I got a lot of dates with these… I have no idea if they work outside of the specific context of LGBTQ+ dating in Japan, but they worked for me.
- Carpet Bombing
- Send as many likes as possible, even if you didn’t read their profile too closely; as long as you confirm they don’t trip up your red flags. After you match, if they turn out to suck, just unmatch them.
- When you have a free evening (or morning), send off as many first messages as possible. Most people will NOT message you first. You have to take the initiative. So, message them all, and make it personalized to their account. Only 25% of people will even respond to you, so just through this you’ll whittle it down really far, and then only half of those people will make it past 5 messages which is a really sad fact.
- IMPORTANTLY, you have to actually have a genuine conversation here, and not talk to too many people at once; generic small talk doesn’t go anywhere and your attention span is always limited. I’ve been on both ends of this one, where one of us is clearly juggling several conversations at once and it goes nowhere because of it.
- The carpet bomb method, when you are queer in Japan, is vital. So, so, so many straight girls use Tinder looking just for friends. Most of them won’t match you if your profile is upfront about LGBTQ+, so just wade through the seas and don’t get wrapped up in that really hot person who shares all your interests and you instantly imagine a long loving life together with and then they don’t reply to your first message… :'(
- Meta Conversation
- Really early on in the conversation, if no other topic has come up yet, ask people why they’re using the app in the first place; this tends to become a pretty nice conversation about each other’s intentions and helps you suss out if people aren’t for you. Getting meta is a B. A. Baker cliche but it has helped me make friends and dates.
- Schedule a meeting real quick
- Ask to meet up and schedule something within the first couple days after talking to someone. Almost all dating app conversations will peeter out and die by that time, so if you don’t ask to meet up by then, you probably never will. You don’t always have to take the initiative in planning, but you should probably take the initiative in asking. It’s usually not too forward! Don’t worry! You can schedule it way out in advance; you probably have to when you’re busy adults.
- Complain about all the straight girls on Tinder together
- This is solid gold.
These tactics felt weird for me at first, but the more experience I got, the easier it became. I’ve gone on a lot of dates now. No relationship or anything. But I’m not ready for that yet anyway. Now, I have a very low amount of money, so I’m slowing down the dating train a lot. Honestly, I went on way too many dates in August and September! It exhausted me! But I had many experiences, good, bad, awful, and great, which makes me very happy.