Once again, I shall be blathering on about Japanese drinking culture. Today’s lecture is all all about the….gokon.
A “gokon” is a fun Japanese custom for young single people, essentially a group blind date. A guy approaches a girl he likes, then they each invite three or four single friends of the same gender as them, for a little party. “Go” means combination, and “kon” comes from “konpa” (“party”). So gokon means “combined party,” as in two groups of friends mixing together.

It’s quite a nice concept I think, and cuts out the awkwardness of solo dating. The Japanese are famously shy and retiring, so having the company of your pals makes dating significantly less nerve-wracking. At a gokon, even the most timid soul can meet a member of the opposite sex without crapping their pants or developing a stress ulcer. Also, for the girls, it’s a much safer alternative to having a date on your own with a total stranger, who may or may not be the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper.
There are other perks to the gokon method of dating. If none of the girls or boys at the gokon take your fancy, you can just get drunk, play party games, or chat to your friends. Plus, if you do plan on getting serious with anyone you meet at a gokon, you know in advance what kind of annoying friends you’re going to have to put up with in the future.

I, myself, was once persuaded by a friend to attend a gokon. He had taken a shining to a girl who worked in the Subway sandwich shop he went to for lunch most days, and he asked her out. The girl proposed a gokon, with three other girls from the shop, so my friend dragged me and two other curious mates along.
We all went to a funky sci-fi-themed izakaya called Dementia, or something like that. As is customary at gokons, the girls all sat along one side of the table, and the boys on the other side. Apparently it’s normal at these shindigs for the two groups to whisper among each other about who they’re keen on, or even email each other on their phones. “I got first dibs on the one on the left. Hands off!” I wasn’t aware of this custom at the time, and thought the girls’ conspiratorial behaviour was quite unsettling. What were they plotting? I was getting quite paranoid.

One major setback that we hadn’t was anticipated was that only one of the girls could speak English and none of us guys could speak Japanese, which meant the conversation was about as absorbing as reading the back of a shampoo bottle. Doh! This was a grim turn of events for someone who enjoys a little flirtatious wordplay. There was only one thing to do in that situation. Drink!

In the end, my gokon experience was pretty uneventful, and no coupling happened (that I know of!) but I’m in favour of the gokon system in theory. If you and your friends are single, you could do worse than setting up a gokon. Just, whatever you do, don’t coyly approach a stranger and suggest a “gokan” because “gokan” means “rape.” This pronunciation mistake, as I have learned from experience, does not go down well at all.

10 Responses to Gokon

  1. Shu says:

    I laughed out loud when I read this.
    What did your girlfriend say about this gokon debacle?

  2. roaf says:

    Don’t worry. This was years ago, pre-girlfriend.

  3. Simaldeff says:

    Gokon could be fun … if you take them as a night out with friends. When people go out to find a gf or a bf they often forget they could simply meet a new friend.

  4. roaf says:

    Yeah, I think it’s a good system becaue there’s no pressure on anyone.

    The Subway sandwich shop was much friendlier after that night!

  5. ramblingsofaculturefreak says:

    jaja…I can Imagine…Goukan omoshiroii desu!!…jajajaj

  6. Sarah S. says:

    Dating in a group is great idea and really does take pressure off. I’m laughing picturing all the girls texting each other while the guys sit there watching and wondering if they’re passing muster or being fought over.

    How horrifying that the word for “combined party” and “rape” are only one letter off! I’d be petrified of mispronouncing it. Good info to have!!

  7. roaf says:

    Yeah. A friend of mine made a similar mistake recently. The word for “shoes” and the word for “arse” are almost the same. He said to a girl “ii ketsu” instead of “ii kutsu.” So he basically said “nice ass” instead of “nice shoes”! Watch your pronunciation, or you might get a slap in the face for complimenting someone’s shoes.

  8. simaldeff says:

    Anyway a compliment is compliment … most of the girl I complimented on their ass were “pleased” about it. Plus, it’s better to have a nice ass than a nice pair f shoes, as the you can change shoes but not ass.

  9. Viet says:

    Sure… Your friend blamed it on pronunciation, but I bet it was a Freudian slip 🙂

  10. […] dating party is my translation of the Japanese term gokon, a place where usually three to five guys and an equal number of girls go out together and see what […]

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