Blog Vocabulary

Top 10 Japanese phrases for dating

As Valentine’s day approaches, you will want to know these top 10 Japanese phrases for dating in Japan


In our last lesson, we looked at 10 useful phrases for going to a Japanese Izakaya. In this lesson we’ll be looking at the top 10 most useful Japanese phrases for dating in Japan.

However, right off the bat, I should clarify this is not a “how-to-pick-up-hot-chicks” or dudes in Japan type article. I’m not really qualified for that. I could write books about being slapped in the face by Japanese women but that’s another story…

However, if you do happen to find yourself romantically entangled with someone from Japan, you might find my top 10 phrases for dating in Japanese useful. I created this list from watching too many cheesy Japanese TV dramas, listening to J-pop songs and of course real life conversations with people here in Japan. I also interviewed a few Japanese friends who were kind enough to tell me which phrases were more natural and commonly used. Interestingly, I also learned which phrases were a little old fashioned or not used at all anymore.

I highly doubt these phrases will guarantee you romantic success with the opposite sex directly. However, you’ll probably inspire a few chuckles from your Japanese friends who might say 変な外人 hen na gaijin (weird foreigner). But they say humour is sexy so who knows…

So for all you rose-in-mouth Romeos and Juliet sans, here are my top 10 Japanese phrases for dating in Japanese.

Dating in Japan is like this sometimes
“You forgot our anniversary?!”
1. Asking someone out for dinner in Japanese
A: 今度の土曜日一緒に食事でもどう?

B: いいね、是非行きましょう。

A: kondo no doyōbi ishho ni shokuji demo dō?

B: ii ne, zehi ikimashō

A: Would you like to go out for lunch/dinner with me?

B: Yes, I’d love to. (Yes, by all means)

Note: When agreeing to someone’s invitation you can say いいね ii ne which literally means “it’s good”. Incidentally, いいね is what’s written on the “Like” button on Facebook in Japan. 是非 zehi is commonly used to accept an invitation. It means someone like “by all means” or in this case simply “Yes”. One last point is 食事 shokuji means food and depending on the context, it could refer to lunch or dinner.

Eating out in Japan
How about some sushi and beer?
2. Asking someone to have tea with you in Japanese
A: 帰りにお茶でもどう?
B: うん、大丈夫だよ
 A: Un, daijōbu da yo
B: Yes, sure
A: kaeri ni ocha demo dō?
B: Would you like to get some tea (on the way back home?)

Note: You can use the phrase …でもどう demo dō to mean “How about doing …” as a way to ask someone out. Just say the activity you’d like to do at the beginning of this phrase. For example:

食事でもどう? shokuji demo dō? – How about getting some food?
夕食でもどう? yuushoku demo dō? – How about getting dinner?
映画でもどう? eiga demo dō? – How about watching a movie?
買い物でもどう? kaimono demo dō? – How about some shopping?

According to my Japanese friends, another classic phrase that is often taught to ask someone out is お茶しませんか ocha shimasen ka – Won’t you have tea with me? After a rather long debate with friends and one too many glasses of sake we came to this conclusion: It’s a phrase that usually implies you are asking someone out on a date. However, it depends on the context of the situation and it might not be used so much by young people in their teens or twenties any more.

Traditional Japanese tea
Would you like some Japanese tea…Are you asking me out on a date?!
3. Asking someone to hangout in Japanese
A: 今度の日曜日空いてる?どこか遊びにいかない?
B: そうだね、一緒にどこかへ行こうか。
A: kondo no doyōbi aiteru? dokoka asobi ni ikanai?
B: sou da ne, issho ni dokoka e ikou ka
A: Are you free this Saturday. Do want to hang out somewhere?
B: Yes, let’s go somewhere. / Sure, why not?

Note: 遊びにいかない asobi ni ikanai literally means “Won’t you come out and play?” and is a very natural way to ask someone to hang out in Japanese. It’s used a lot in daily conversation and not just in a romantic setting.

4. Saying you are busy in Japanese
 gomen ne, chotto yotei ga haitterun da
 Sorry, I’ve got something scheduled then

Note: Again this is a useful phrase to say you are busy to turn down an invitation or appointment in various social situations. You can also use it when you think the person asking you out on a date is a ghastly horror of a human being but you don’t want to be rude.

Japanese Takoyaki
So, I was thinking, maybe if you were free we could go get some octopus tenticals…
5. Giving a someone compliment about their clothes in Japanese
 kyō no fuku sugoku niatteru. sugoku ii
 Your outfit really suits you today. It’s really good.

Note: I asked my female Japanese friends about a compliment that would genuinely make them happy. They came up with the phrase above. I tend to believe them as Japanese women and even men take great pride in their appearance. If you say this to a Japanese girl and you get slapped in the face it might mean you aren’t saying it in the right way…or I need new friends…or both. You have been warned.

6. Giving someone a compliment about their smile in Japanese
 waratta kao ga honto ni kawaii yo ne
 You smile is really cute

Note: This is pretty obvious. You can add “kawaii yo ne” after the thing you are complementing. For example: ドレス、かわいいよね – doresu kawaii yo ne – Your dress is cute. 髪型かわいいよね – kamigata kawaii yo ne – Your hairstyle is really cute. This is usually used to complement women rather than men.

7. Confessing your love to someone in Japanese
 suki desu ! yokereba boku to tsukiatte kudasai
 I like you. If it’s OK, let’s date.

Note: OK, I know this translation sounds a little clunky in English but when confessing your love to someone in Japanese it’s common to use the phrase 好き suki which means “like”. It’s possible to say 愛してる ai shiteru which literally means (I) love (you). However, in real life it’s not really used so much between lovers or family members. You’ll hear it sometimes in cheesy TV dramas and a lot in J-pop songs. However, even in romance, the Japanese tend to be less direct and a little vague with their feelings. So 好き can be used in many situations from saying you like a certain type of ice cream to saying you like or love someone enough to want to marry them.

Enoshima is a famous sightseeing area and dating spot for couples
8. Telling someone the feeling is mutual in Japanese
 hontō? watashi mo suki!
 Really? I like you too!

Note: This is the phrase to use if someone has confessed their love to you and the feeling is mutual. And now, a grammar point. The Japanese language often leaves out the subject, object or indirect object of the sentence. So although it’s grammatically correct to say 私もあなたのことが好き watashi mo anata no koto ga suki – “I like you too”, it is more common to simply say 私も好き – watashi mo suki which literally means “I also like”. Like who? Well, in this case, it’s understood from the context. If someone is looking at you with starry eyes and shoving roses in your direction and you hear the word “suki”, you can bet they’re talking about you. YOU are the context of the sentence, if that makes sense.

Yes, romance is difficult in Japanese too…

9. Telling someone you are seeing someone else in Japanese
 jitsu wa tsuki atteru hito ga irun da
 To be honest, I’m seeing someone now.

Note: Use this phrase to deal with an unwanted romantic advance. Or you could punch them in the face which happened to me once. But she was drunk and I didn’t actually ask her out and…it’s a long story.

10. Telling someone you want to break up in Japanese
 shibaraku kyori okokka
 Let’s take a break from this relationship / I need some space

Note: Although it’s possible to use the verb 別れる wakareru to talk about breaking up, しばらく距離おこっか – shibaraku kyori okokka is one of the most natural ways Japanese use to talk about taking a break from a romantic relationship.

It’s common to see dating couples dressed in traditional summer Yukatas attending festivals


Here is some extra essential vocabulary related to dating and romance in Japan.

なんぱ nanpa – to hit on someone

付き合う tsuki au – to date
ano futari, tsukiatteru mitai
It looks like those two are dating

初デートhatsu deeto – the first date
hatsu deeto wa kaiwa ga inochi
On the first date, conversation is everything

デートに誘う deeto ni sasou – to ask someone out on a date
nande itumo hen na yatsu kara deeto ni sasowarerun da rō
Why am I always being asked out by weirdos?

彼氏 kareshi – boyfriend
kareshi ga dekitan da
I’ve got a new boyfriend

彼女 kanojō – girlfriend
itsu kanojō ga dekirun da rō
I wonder if I will ever get a girlfriend

恋人 koibito – lover
ano futari koibito dōshi mitai
Those two look like their lovers

愛人 aijin – Secret lover / mistress
kare wa aijin ga iru rashii
It seems he has a mistress

遠距離恋愛 enkyori renai – Long distance relationship
dō yattara enkyori renai ga nagatsuzuki dekiru ka na
I wonder how you can continue a long distance relationship

浮気 uwaki – to cheat on someone
uwaki saretara zettai wakareru
If I got cheated on, I’d absolutely break up

一目惚れ – Hitomebore – Love at first sight
kare to hajimete atte, hitomebore shita
When I met him for the first time, it was love at first sight

Cheers! And good luck with your dating adventures from Learn Japanese Pod!

One reply on “Top 10 Japanese phrases for dating”

Does #6 (always) work for asking someone to date? Is it really wrong to use it simply as a compliment? 例えば、ともえさんの笑った顔が本当にかわいいと思います。

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