Arguments with a Japanese Man

Arguments with a Japanese man might not come as easy as with someone from your own culture. I learned this over time with Yohei. Yohei is a positive person and seems to rarely take offense to anything. Therefore, I guess I assumed “arguments” would not be an issue. Not that arguments are ever easy or fun but still.

I’m sure you’ve witnessed an argument, or personally been in one, that didn’t go well at all. I was always taught that, even in the best relationships, it’s natural and even healthy to have arguments occasionally. I was taught not to shy away from them but to try my hardest to be respectful and try to put myself in the others shoes. No two people are exactly the same so it only makes sense to not always agree on things.

Again, I assumed Yohei and I would be able to handle arguing without it being a huge concern in our relationship. We’re both pretty laid back and positive people, so I was shocked the first time we had an argument. It was started by me and he didn’t handle it well. Honestly, I can’t even remember what it was about now. It was some small issue, as it usually is, that I calmly brought up with him. He didn’t understand what I was even talking about so I tried explaining it better. I’m not one to sweep issues under the rug. If something bothers me enough then I’m going to bring it up. While I don’t remember what it was that I brought up, I do remember how it ended.

Yohei basically got frustrated with me having an issue and “arguing” about it and shut down. When I say he shut down, I mean he literally told me not to talk to him and left the room. That was that. The end. He was done. He was pretty calm. No screaming or even raising his voice. One second we were talking, the next second he calmly announced that he was very angry and did not want to talk to me. He then walked into another room and shut the door. Super calm. Like night and day. I was lost because I just couldn’t see when or why his anger had started. Literally the only thing that told me he was angry was his “announcement” and then him walking off on me.

Long story short- Japanese men tend to shy away from conflict. Maybe conflict isn’t the right word because I wouldn’t define it as really that. More “discussing feelings.” Him and I have grown a lot from these arguments. He’s become more tolerant of me and will try to understand things more when they come up. So it takes way longer for him to get to shutdown mode. Also, I’ve started to learn what things trigger his anger more in an argument. I also know when to just give him his space. (something I wasn’t as good at in the beginning.) He’s also gotten better at at least letting me know that he’s getting angry before it gets to shutdown mode because often I can’t tell visually until it’s too late.

We’ve discussed it and it really comes down to a huge culture difference. While we both are positive people, we’re still from two different cultures. Japanese people are taught to keep things to themselves more and Americans are taught to let it out and talk about it. Now, this is just what I’ve learned from dating Yohei so I’m sure there are exceptions. Maybe some Japanese people are more comfortable discussing their feelings than him. From my personal experience though, Japanese tend to bottle more up. Most Japanese people won’t even admit to not liking someone. If you ask what they think about a certain person; watch their body language as they answer. If they like the person they might be more open about it. On the flip side though, If they don’t like the person then they probably won’t flat out say that. They will say they like them but you’ll be able to tell by body language that they probably don’t really. (Unless you know them very well. Yohei is very honest about other people to me but he knows me more personally and has now lived in America for so long that sometimes I think it rubs off on him.)

Yohei has told me that basically Japanese people, especially men, are taught to just suck it up. You need to deal with your feelings and emotions on your own and not complain. Complaining is not good. For example, you’d NEVER talk back to your boss in Japan. Basically “be a man.” Which is frustrating because it’s very different in America. The whole “be a man” thing is actually getting old here. So many people are criticized for telling boys things like “boys don’t cry,” or “suck it up” or “be a man.” We are all about being comfortable discussing our feelings or concerns and how this is natural in relationships especially.

Looking back at how I explained our first argument above. Basically, the issue was brought up at the time by me because he was taught not to bring up issues and instead suck it up. Because I brought it up he tried to be a good boyfriend and discuss it but was struggling with understanding. He was gradually getting angrier throughout the calm discussion but I had no clue because, visibly, I had no clue he was even a tiny bit angry. He was literally hiding his emotions the entire time. At some point his anger became so great that he was worried he would actually not be able to control it so he “announced” calmly that he was angry and didn’t want to talk to me. Then he left because that’s how he controlled it. He removed himself from the entire thing and got his emotions in check again privately. I understand this all now but I bet you can imagine why I was so confused at the time.

Anyways, if you are reading this out of curiosity, try not to judge too harshly on either side. We both grew up with completely different standards of what is considered “acceptable.” While it’s been frustrating at times, we both try to meet more in the middle when it comes to arguments and we honestly don’t argue too often anyways.

For those that may be reading this because you too are dating a Japanese person: I hope this helped shed some light onto why arguments may be a struggle right now. I know I personally was googling like crazy after our first one or two arguments. I think I typed something into google like: Why does my Japanese boyfriend get angry so easily in arguments. I really had no idea what to type to find an answer but eventually did. If your Japanese boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t ever seem to bring stuff up just keep in mind that chances are high that something has probably bothered them at some point. (Now that this is a discussion that Yohei and I have had; he is comfortable to finally bring up issues that may be bothering him about me too. In the beginning though I rarely heard a complaint. Or if I did, It wasn’t portrayed as a big of a deal as it apparently really was.)

Please feel free to comment your own experiences below. Everyone’s different and I’d love to hear! 🙂