The “Gaijin Hunter” Exists — But It’s Not What You’re Expecting
Most foreigners reported experiences with a “gaijin hunter”. But the reality of these interactions is more complicated than it seems.
By Eric Margolis
In a 2018 Japanese survey, 51.6 % of women and 40.8% of men said that they had some level of interest in an international marriage. Among Japanese men, the most desirable nationalities for a prospective international partner were Thailand, China, and Taiwan. Among women, they were the United States and South Korea. And more than 70% of Japanese people who studied or lived abroad had experience dating a foreigner at some point in their lives.
The “gaijin hunter” in Japan has become a general mythology — albeit one based on truth. The word gaijin means ‘outsider’ or ‘alien’ and is a crude way of referring to a non-Japanese person. Stereotypical gaijin hunters specifically seek out foreigners in their romantic life, sometimes just for a casual fling, other times in pursuit of marriage.
But just how real is the gaijin hunter in 2023?
[Editor’s note: This article largely focuses on heterosexual relationships and does not examine the complexities of dating for LGBTQ people in Japan. If you have experience with dating as an LGBTQ person in Japan and are interested in sharing your experiences, please reach out to us.]
The evidence for the “gaijin hunter”
While it’s difficult to find any convincing academic research describing gaijin hunters, a substantial body of research observes a fetish for whiteness in Japanese society.
A coloristic preference for pale skin has roots in traditional Japanese beauty ideals. But a paternalistic relationship with the U.S. during World War II and a century of media portrayal combined to put European whiteness on a pedestal. Scholars argue that the power dynamics of whiteness from the U.S. are…