The Road to Diversity, In Piecemeal Steps

My friend and I had some time around our hands and stumbled across a Japanese dating app. A Colombian at heart, he studied abroad at Waseda University in the literature department and just came back a year ago. We would spend many a time discussing books, debating about the Oxford comma, and yearning for fictional characters to exist. He tried to take a stab at the app because it was available in the iTunes store, he was studying Japanese, and he was curious how the app differed from Tinder among all the other mainstream dating apps. 


As we expected,everything was in Japanese, down to every last detail. He roamed around the site, and received a few matches, say 5. He sent the first message to all of them, and surprisingly, they replied within a couple hours (startling compared to Tinder). Only that he couldn’t read the message unless he confirmed his age from the following methods: driver’s license, passport, insurance card. He snapped a picture of his New York State license, but it was quickly rejected by the app. 


I sent over an email to them in Japanese for him, and the response was as follows, paraphrased:


Unfortunately, we’re unable to confirm your age using an overseas driver’s license. Our app is designed for people within Japan. Please see rule number 2 of our terms and conditions. Should you confirm using an overseas passport, we will check your signature in addition to your age. 


What if an international student in Japan wanted to use it and they only had their home country’s credentials? I thought as soon as I read the message. Dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble have international features, where users can even swipe those who are in other countries. This Japanese dating app, however, restricts even foreign driver’s licenses, an official form of documentation regardless of its country. It seems as though they leave no room for alternatives, flexibility, let alone diversity. 


“Don’t sweat it, man,” I told him. “After all, it’s better to meet people in person.” 


As a Japanese-American, I could somehow get by if I had to live there for a couple of years as I look Japanese, could get by with conversation, and know just enough of the customs and rules, but I can’t imagine what’d it be like for someone completely different, as my friend. While Japan is gradually welcoming foreigners, adapting to the country may take some time as many Japanese corporations and cities are “just not ready” yet. 


“But I believe in it,” my friend said. “It’s not easy to please everyone at the same time. I was given silverware instead of chopsticks at a restaurant one time because they were being considerate, not because they were racist. It’s just a matter of time until we begin to welcome more and more cultures.”


At the end of the day, we probably expected too much, as the app wasn’t heavily advertised in America anyways. 

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