Dating, Love and Sex in Japanese

Dating, Love and Sex in Japanese

Okay kids, it's time to have the talk. If you're going to be dating, or maybe even (gasp!) having sex in Japan, you'd better be prepared—with the right vocabulary of course!

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This is the sort of thing textbooks and classes won't teach you, but it's part of life and part of the language. Even if you don't have the occasion to use this vocabulary yourself, it will be good to at least be able to recognize it when you hear it.

Please be warned that this article (especially the last section) ventures slightly into R-rated territory, so you may want to skip it if you’re not comfortable with that.

Dating a Japanese

The word for ‘to date’ in Japanese is tsukiau (付き合う). Before two people begin to tsukiau, usually one person will kokuhaku suru (告白する), or confess their feelings, to the other. They'll say "Suki desu" (好きです), or "Suki da yo" (好きだよ), which means ‘I like you’ (but is really kind of like ‘I love you’).

How to say ‘I love you’ in Japanese

If the feelings are mutual, the two people then become kareshi (彼氏) and kanojo (彼女), or boyfriend and girlfriend, and start going on lots of deeto (デート), or dates. They may often te wo tsunagu (手をつなぐ), or hold hands, and even kisu suru (キスする), or kiss— which is more colloquially called chuu suru (ちゅうする).

Here are a few phrases that may be useful in a dating situation:

A: 好きです。付き合ってください!
Suki desu. Tsukiatte kudasai! I like you. Please go out with me! B: お願いします!
Onegai shimasu! Yes, please!

Cultural note: The above exchange may seem quite odd and unnatural to English speakers, but it is quite normal in Japan. Person A has just kokuhaku shita, or confessed his/her feelings, and person B has agreed to a relationship. These two people may have gone on more informal ‘dates’ before, but they are now officially a couple.

手をつないでもいい? Te wo tsunaide mo ii?
Is it okay if I hold your hand?

すごく楽しかったよ。ありがとう! Sugoku tanoshikatta yo. Arigatou!
I had a lot of fun. Thank you!

Love in Japan Photo by LaPrimaDonna

Japanese love phrases

There’s all kinds of fun vocabulary you can use to talk about two people who are in love (or who at least think they are). ‘To fall in love’ is horeru (惚れる), and ‘love at first sight’ is hitomebore (一目惚れ). You can say a couple is rabu rabu (ラブラブ), which basically means they’re all mushy and romantic and probably can’t keep their hands off each other. (In case you didn’t realize, this term is a Japanification of the English word ‘love’ repeated twice.)

Two people who are ラブラブ may icha icha suru (いちゃいちゃする), or cuddle and be all touchy-feely (though not necessarily have sex). And if you’re really in love with someone, you’ll probably want to dakishimeru (抱きしめる) that person, or hold them tight.

Here are a few examples of how some of these romantic words might be used:

A: 今日朝起きたら、彼からバラの花束が届いてたの!超嬉しい。
Kyou asa okitara, kare kara bara no hanataba ga todoiteta no! Chou ureshii. When I woke up this morning, I saw he’d sent me a bouquet of roses! I’m so happy. B: へえ、いいなぁ!ラブラブだね。
Hee, ii naa! Rabu rabu da ne. Wow, that’s so nice! You guys are really crazy about each other huh?

彼女に一目惚れした切り忘れられないんだよ。本当にこの子しかいないと思うんだ。 Kanojo ni hitomebore shita kiri wasurerarenai n da yo. Hontou ni kono ko shika inai to omou n da.
Ever since I fell in love with her at first sight, I can’t forget about her. I really think she’s the one.

Set phrase: ~ shika inai (〜しかいない): ~ is ‘the one’

外でいちゃいちゃするのは恥ずかしいからやめようよ。 Soto de icha icha suru no wa hazukashii kara yameyou yo.
Let’s not be all touchy-feely in public. It’s embarrassing!

Cultural note: You will rarely see Japanese couples do anything more than hold hands in public. Physical affection is generally considered something that should be shown only in private. So don’t be surprised or offended if your Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t want to kiss or hug you in public. It’s not you—it’s just their culture.

Deer Sex Japan Photo by Gnurou

Having sex

I’m pretty sure a bunch of you just scrolled down to read this part. (Hentai! Perverts!) But okay okay fine, here’s the juicy stuff you all want to know.

The Act

The general word for ‘to have sex’ is simply an adoption of the English word: sekkusu suru (セックスする). This is probably the safest word to use in any situation when you want to bring up the subject without being offensive.

A more colloquial term for sex that’s very commonly used is ecchi suru (エッチする). This word has a rather interesting origin: It comes from the first letter (H) of the romanization of the word hentai (変態), which means ‘pervert’ or ‘perverted’. The word エッチする is the equivalent of ‘fuck’ in Japanese, but it’s not vulgar and therefore tamer than the English counterpart. エッチ can also be used as an adjective. For example, エッチなこと means ‘sexual things’, or ‘dirty things’.

‘To have sex’ can also be implied with the word yaru (やる), which literally just means ‘to do it’. Obviously this is used in situations in which the meaning can be inferred from context.

In heterosexual sex, the time from penetration onwards is referred to as honban (本番), or literally ‘the real thing’. If you’re going to do this, you’ll probably want to make sure to have a kondoomu (コンドーム), or condom.

Important phrases for consensual and safe sex:

  • Irete mo ii? (入れてもいい?): Is it okay if I put it in?
  • Kondoomu motteru? (コンドーム持ってる?): Do you have a condom?
  • Yamete (やめて): Stop.

Interestingly, the word for ‘to cum’ or ‘to have an orgasm’ is just like the word for ‘to go’: iku (いく). “It feels good” is kimochi ii (気持ちいい), and “It’s starting to feel good” is kimochi yoku natte kita (気持ちよくなってきた) (which implies that you’re about to, um… you know, ‘go’).

Boy parts and girl parts

Penis: The general word for this is once again just an adoption of the English word: penisu (ペニス). A more colloquial word is chinko (ちんこ), or ochinchin (おちんちん). But these sound a bit childish, especially ochinchin (which is basically the equivalent of ‘weewee’). Between adults in a sexual context, it is actually more often said by not saying it at all: The particle no (の) is simply added to the name or pronoun of whoever possesses the part being referred to, and it’s understood.

Japanese Penis Festival Photo from a Penis Festival by ZenXacred
For example, kare no (彼の) (‘his’) or ore no (俺の) (‘mine’). I.e. “Kare no wa ookii hou nanode”... (“He’s kind of big, so you know…”). Generally the Japanese prefer to be subtle. Oh, and finally, the word for ‘erection’ is bokki (勃起), and ‘to have an erection’ is bokki suru (勃起する). But if you were actually about to have sex with someone, it would be more natural to say something like “Ookiku natte kita,” or literally, “It’s gotten bigger.” See what I mean? Subtle.

Testicles: The officially correct term for these is seisou (精巣), but you probably won’t use that. The most common slang term is kintama (金玉), which amusingly means ‘golden balls’. (On that note, there is a rather strange and hilarious traditional tale of a tanuki, or a raccoon dog, with giant kintama. There’s even a song about it. Seriously.)

Breasts: In more proper situations, a woman’s breasts are simply referred to as her mune (胸), which literally just means ‘chest’. It is simply implied and understood that a woman has more attached to her chest than a man does. But there is also a colloquial equivalent of ‘boobs’, which is oppai (おっぱい). A woman with very large breasts has kyonyuu (巨乳), and a woman with very small breasts may be called pechapai (ペチャパイ), or flat-chested.

Japanese body parts cheat sheet

Vagina: The politically correct Japanese word for vagina is chitsu (膣, a kanji that can easily be remembered by its radicals: 肉 meat, 穴 hole, and 至 climax), and the slang term is manko (まんこ). Please note that the latter can be somewhat vulgar and should be used with caution (basically just like the English ‘pussy’). A somewhat ‘cutesy’ way to refer to it that sounds less vulgar is omanman (おまんまん). This last word is also one that is appropriate to use with or referring to children in a non-sexual way.

If you should happen to find yourself in a steamy situation this Valentine’s Day, I hope the above vocabulary will be useful to you. After all, dirty talk is a part of the language that everyone should be aware of.

Cover: Rilakkuma "Honey" Condoms. Photo by Max Hodges