The Best Japanese Pick-up Lines (with Cultural Notes)

You’ve met someone: Maybe you’ve met over a gaming session, bonded over your mutual love of reading manga or just seen them randomly on the street. In any case, you just know that they’re the one you want to be with, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to use Japanese pick-up lines to sweet talk that special someone you’re sweet on.


Early Flirting

During initial dating, there’s a kind of “pre-game.” Early dating often begins in a group situation. You’ll go out with mutual friends, or a group of your friends and a group of her/his friends. It would be wise to only bring friends of the same sex. Bringing a friend of the opposite sex can be misinterpreted by your crush.

Once you start dating, know your street etiquette. PDAs aren’t too common in Japan. Romantic gestures such as hugging and kissing are considered best kept private. Holding hands can be acceptable, but couples holding hands aren’t seen very often on the street.

For those of you who aren’t looking for a male-female relationship, consider doing some reading on how Japanese culture views homosexual and other non-traditional relationships. That way, you can make sure you’re going in with all of the information you need before you talk to your crush. Most mainstream advice is still written for male-female couples only, unfortunately, but that doesn’t have to get in the way of your romance. Just be sure that you’re aware.

There are also a few other notable subcultures in Japan that would warrant further research if you’re interested, such as love dolls and virtual dating, both of which play roles in Japanese romantic culture.

In any case, during the early stages of getting to know someone, the compliments should be light and sweet. Don’t lay it on too thick.

Let’s say you want to tell your companion that they look beautiful. Maybe you want to ask them if they happen to be a model? Try it with:

(きれいですね。もしかして もでるさん?)
You look beautiful. Are you a model?

Of course, everyone loves a compliment, and while basing a relationship entirely on looks isn’t going to work in the long term, it will help you to start off on a good foot, especially if said with a bit of humor.

But what if you’re a beginning Japanese learner and even that seems too ambitious? Here’s a good one to try:

(すみません、えいごが わかりますか?)
Excuse me. Do you understand English?

If you’re not too strong in Japanese and you’re hoping that your crush can meet you halfway, then this is a viable option for getting your first conversation started. And of course, if you need a little bit of help with your pick-up lines, there’s an app for that.

Asking Someone Out

Eventually you’ll likely want to ask the person out. You could use a simple, straightforward phrase like:

Will you go out with me?

It’s the classic question, right to the point. Your intentions won’t be mistaken. Just be sure to spend some time getting to know your crush first. If you lead with this, you’ll increase your chances of rejection.

If you’re looking for something more subtle, you could try something like:

(しごとがえり ですか?もしよかったら、のみに いきませんか?)
Are you going home? Would you like to grab a drink with me?

It’s a little smoother, and you can use it to seem a bit more casual. Some other more casual, but not ambiguous options include:

(あそびに いこう!)
Let’s hang out!

(ふたりで いこう!)
Let’s go together!

(/いっしょに いたい!)
I want to spend time with you.

If you’re the shy type, you might want to get help from a friend. In that case, you might want to go with something like:

(だれか しょうかいしてくれませんか?)
Could you introduce me to (hook me up with) someone?

It’ll help you get started. It’s not exactly asking someone out, but when you find a person you trust who can help you get your love life kick-started, then it’s worth a shot. Maybe they can help you with that special someone.

Getting Closer

Confessing Your Feelings

After several group outings, you might be able to go somewhere more private for a one-on-one date. Common locations for these kinds of dates are movies, parks and cafes, but there are some other appropriate options.

Among Japanese young people (high school and college-aged students), two people start dating by making a “love confession.” That’s where the phrases “I like you” and “I love you” below might come into play. Just know that it’s not uncommon for a woman to confess her love to a man, so don’t be surprised if it happens.

Dating often becomes something more when people express their feelings. When it comes to talking about your feelings, then you have two options. For lesser feelings, say:

I like you.

This provides you with a solid option. If you feel more, then you can say:

I love you.

A Little Bit Closer

You’re beyond casual dating and you’re looking to get closer.

If you’re looking for “labels,” the word for “boyfriend” is 彼氏 (かれし) or  (かれ), and “girlfriend” is 彼女 (かのじょ), though it’s best to check with the person before you label them this way. It’s just more respectful of your partner.

To become more physically intimate, try:

Let’s hold hands!

It’s a small but good first step on the path to physical intimacy.

If you want a hug, then you can get close by saying:

Let’s hug.

To ask for a kiss, try:

I want to kiss you.

Just make sure you get a “yes” before you go in for the kiss.

One other key sentence you may also hear is:

ほてる いこう。
Let’s go to a hotel.

You may not think much of this, but when two people go to a hotel when they’re in a romantic relationship or are considering/starting one, you know what happens. This is one way of getting your point across without being too straightforward.

Committing for Life

Just in case things go really, really well, you should know how to propose to your sweetie:

(けっこん してくれる?)
Will you marry me?

Of course, you should bear in mind that you should know that person, and their family, very well. Don’t jump in too quickly.

Japanese Dating Culture

A word of caution: Be careful with these pick-up lines, since using them haphazardly could be seen as inappropriate. Don’t approach a stranger in a bar and start spouting off lines to them. The words might be right, but they won’t work very well. Nothing is more of a turn-off than someone who just doesn’t get it.

The romances you develop with a Japanese person may move much more slowly than the ones that you’re used to if you live in a western country, and that’s often reflected in the words and phrases used in Japanese to talk about love. Don’t be worried if it’s going “too slow” for your version of normal—you may be right on track. Group hangouts early in the relationship aren’t a blow-off, nor is a lack of physical contact. Remember the culture of the person you’re seeing and be respectful of it.

One other note is to be careful with your gendered statements. Remember, Japanese is a pretty gender-sensitive language. If a woman uses words with a male gender, she might be considered “masculine” by the general population.

For example, the words (ぼく) or (おれ)—to say “me” or “mine”—should only be used by men. Women say (わたし) or (わたくし) , which is considered more polite. (Though they can be used by men as well, if they want to be more polite.) So watch your informal pronouns to make sure you’re sending the right message.

It’s great to be who you are, just be sure you’re expressing yourself the way you mean to. Don’t let a language mix-up keep you from the person of your dreams.


One last note: every person and every situation is different. But there are some general rules that you can follow to make sure that you understand what’s going on.

With some patience, the right lines and some time, you could soon find yourself dating the person of your dreams. Just remember to respect their culture, take it slow and top up your language skills.

You can always refer to Japanese movies and series to help you navigate the dating game. For more context on these phrases, the FluentU language program has subtitled Japanese videos that show you how native speakers flirt and communicate with each other in the media.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

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