Kokuhaku: Japanese Confession Culture

The act of smuggling love letters into the shoe cabinet of the person they admire by Japanese boys and girls is widely featured in many school anime and manga, making viewers sob. This is part of the wonderful Japanese Kokuhaku (confession) culture!

The act of professing love to another person exists in all civilizations, but in each region, the means of expressing it has its own unique qualities. For the Japanese, they give significant emphasis to the confession (Kokuhaku), regarding it as an important milestone, signifying the beginning of an official partnership.

The Japanese are famous for their “Aimai – 曖昧” communication style, which is a vague and unclear way of speaking in order to maintain harmony in communication. Therefore, acknowledging one’s love for a person is an act that requires a lot of courage, done very carefully by them.

What is Kokuhaku?

The original meaning of the word “Kokuhaku – 告白” is “to confess, to admit,”  and this word is also commonly used to mean “confess.” The Kokuhaku act is performed by a man or woman to declare their love for the other person and hope to start dating that person.

Anime: Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui

Although it is possible to visit each other a few times through private or group dates, the Japanese only actually begin a genuine, official love relationship after the Kokuhaku stage. Even though it’s simply a simple word, Kokuhaku has particular power: it makes life “bloom” when feelings are reciprocated or “stalemate” when the other side refuses to confess.

The culture of storing love messages in the shoe cabinet

In these age of mobile phones, email, and messaging applications, handwritten letters are becoming less and less prevalent. Although not as common as in the past, the tradition of putting love letters in the “shoe cabinet” (“Getabako – 下駄箱) of Japanese students is still continued to this day. It is also a cute culture, widely utilized in manga and anime girls to portray a youthful and joyous life.

For generations of Japanese high school students, Getabako is the ideal covert place to send a letter expressing your love to the boy or lady you admire. To properly put a love letter in your partner’s shoe cupboard without anyone finding out, you’ll need to come to school early or stay late and wait for the appropriate opportunity.

Confess and respond to confessions in Japanese

If you’re the one confessing

For those who like frankness and confidence with their confessions, here are some Kokuhaku “hits” directly for you:

  • 実は、(〇〇)が好きです。今度、ご飯でも行かない?
    Jitsu wa (the opponent’s name) ga suki desu. Kondo, gohan demo ikanai?
    Actually, I really like you. Next time, would you like to have dinner with me?
  • 実は、(〇〇) が前々から気になっている。もしよかったらデートしませんか?
    Jitsu wa (the opponent’s name) ga mae mae kara ki ni natteiru. Moshi yokattara de-to shimasen ka?
    Actually, I’ve been watching you for a long time. If yes, date me!
  • 私たちは前から友達だけど、実は好きになった。
    Watashitachi wa mae kara tomodachi dakedo, jitsu wa suki ni natta.
    We’ve been friends before, but I really like you.

If the opponent is someone you work with or you both play in a group and you want to know more about them, you can try the following approach:

  • 帰りに一杯/コーヒーはどうですか?
    Kaeri ni ippai/ko-hi- wa dou desuka?
    Do you want to stop somewhere for a beer/coffee on the way home?
  • 今度の(金曜日)一緒にご飯でも行きませんか?Kondo no (kinyoubi) issho ni gohan demo ikimasenka? Next Friday, would you like to have dinner with me?
  • 一緒に(東京ディズニーランド/新宿/お台場)にでも行かない?
    Issho ni (Tokyo Dizuniirando/Shinjuku/Odaiba) ni demo ikanai?
    Would you like to go to Tokyo Disneyland/ Shinjuku/ Odaiba with me?
  • あなたはカッコイイ/ハンサム/スタイリッシュですね。飲みに行かない?
    Anata wa kakkoii/hansamu/sutairisshu desu ne. Nomi ni ikanai?
    You look cool/handsome/stylish. Would you like to have a drink with me?

If you are confessed

After putting all your heart into saying the confession, the only thing to do is wait for the other person’s response.

Usually, if you agree, the simple answer will be “いいよ – Ii yo!” Longer, you can say “そうだね、一緒にどこかへ行こうか – Sou da ne, issho ni dokoka e ikou ka” (Yes, let’s go somewhere).

Or maybe the opposite: “本当に?俺/私も好き!– Honto ni? Ore/Watashi mo suki! – Really? I like you too!”

To refuse, you can simply say “ごめんなさい – Gomennasai” (Sorry). Or in case you are invited to go somewhere, you can reply with: “ごめんね、ちょっと予定がある – Gomen ne, chotto yotei ga aru” (Sorry, I have work to do).

Failed confessions should be avoided

Confession is an art; so many individuals make blunders and make the other person terrified and avoid it. Here are some incidents of male failure confessions provided by various Japanese women through a poll by My-Navi-Woman:

“He confessed to me by text message, but it was 5 a.m.”

Obviously, it’s disrespectful to text someone when they’re undoubtedly fast asleep. Moreover, in the 4.0 era, using text messages to confess or break up is rather usual, but for some people, it seems that this way reveals that the other person is not totally serious about the relationship.

“I was confessed to by a colleague in a long letter. ” Although I have never spoken to him before and only know his face, the letter is too long and includes too many things that genuinely terrify me.”

For a lot of individuals, it’s probably not fun—or even scary—when someone they don’t know well knows so much. At the first confession, do not express too many things to avoid making the other person feel dubious.

A few further examples to avoid:

“He hugged me from behind and confessed.” “Before I knew it was your confession, I felt terribly threatened.”

“As a middle school student, I was confessed to in writing on a chalkboard one morning at school. “It’s incredibly embarrassing because all my friends know.”

“He listed various female anime characters and told me I was cuter than all of them, and that’s why he wanted to date me.”

Confessing by text message but at the time when the other person is sleeping is something that should be avoided. Photo: tofugu.com

“On a train, a random man confessed to me in a loud voice: “I’ve been in love with you for a while.” I could start with being buddies, but instead, we start Can we get to know each other at first? I was very afraid and lied that I was married. ” I didn’t take the train for a while after that.”

Kokuhaku is an all-or-nothing game. Some people think this is the best way to know if someone genuinely cares about them; on the other hand, many people desire the relationship to develop on its own because they fear rejection and grief.

Whether the confession will make the relationship better or worse, the consequence of Kokuhaku still helps you know what the other person is thinking. Moreover, the confessor himself also won over himself when he was brave enough to speak his opinion. As for you, should you or should you not reveal to the person you secretly love and miss?

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