Being noticed, the problem of geo location dating and a small town.

I was looking through my drafts recently, and realized I never actually posted this. It’s… almost a year out of date, but I hope you enjoy it.

So… Like many things in life, being in rural area changes up. Combine low amount of people, with being rather visually distinctive and it was inevitable that one day I would just run into someone who recognized me from one of the geo location dating apps, like 9monsters.

Earlier this year it happened. I cycled to Geo, to browse their games. Finding a wonderful ice blue DS Lite in wonderful condition. When I was leaving though, an older man walked up to me and said “… 9monsters?” as if it was some kind of weird secret code…

Which to be fair, it is.

And I knew this day had to come. After all, on 9mon I am the only white man within about 70km of me, maybe more. (although that’s changed now) It was inevitable that I would run into someone nearby who would remember me from the app.  I had mentally prepared for this. And said:

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リーンリーンドキドキ, Niihama Speech Contest

So for the last little while I have been preparing for a speech contest! Not in English but in Japanese. As per usual, I usually start with too high a goal. Which makes things interesting, but… also frustrating.

Back in Australia I worked with The Human Library and Working it Out, two great organizations, to tell my story about realizing I was gay and coming out as part of various programs designed to increase acceptance/sensitivity to various minority groups. It is a really good, refined polished talk that I enjoy a lot, although wouldn’t mind adding a few extra pieces. It might appear more in a written form on this blog one day.

But this talk I had been doing for several years, I had decided would be great to do in Japanese! Since Japan has such a large part to do with my coming out story, and is in part one of the reasons this country is so special to me, because it played a large part in me finally accepting this part of myself.

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9monsters, and appli dating in Japan.

So, this post is going to cover, a lot of ground. But basically this is all about gay dating stuff and with a lot of focus on apps specifically. You might be familiar with two of the more popular dating apps in the west, Tinder and Grindr. Grindr was quite a revolution for both dating apps and smartphone social apps too! Maybe not being the first smartphone social app to use the GPS functions to find people close to you but one of the first to become popular within a community.

Grindr become somewhat synonymous with gay men’s smartphones, and thanks to some distinctive notification sounds, if your phone wasn’t on silent it would certainly enable a little bit of an audible gaydar. The app itself was honestly a little crap to say the least from a technical side. But the combination of actually having users and the convince of not constantly being asked out by people from impossibly far distances was great.

Tinder is a little different from what I gather in terms of execution thanks to the swipe left/right system, but sticks with that general concept of GPS based match making and since it’s release in 2012 has become similarly ubiquitous with singles.

I gather tinder isn’t very popular here, but I know grindr isn’t.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this. But one day at a bear bar in Matsuyama I asked the barkeeper why it wasn’t popular here. When I stayed in Fukuoka several years ago it seemed pretty popular still but now, it was far more foreigners compared to Japanese people.

He told me a rather unfortunate tale of why grindr had become unpopular, and one that sadly makes too much sense. It was too popular. While I don’t want to generalize too much, Japanese gay men usually aren’t as out as men seem to be in Australia. Even young men. However, it become not common knowledge, but not unknown that a lot of gay men used this mysterious grindr app to chat and meet up. Some people who were not so open minded started using it as… a gaydar and so it became a tool for outing.

And outing someone when they haven’t decided to do it themselves, that’s just crap.

I should note, I haven’t been able to find anything written up to confirm all that, but having asked another bartender they backed it up too.

But because of this grindr issue, many people quite reasonably fled to other lesser known apps. The main ones being 9monster, and Jack’d

I’ve been umming and ahing this post for a while, and written about 5 significantly different variants of it because the reason Grindr had a problem was over exposure, and while I know this blog doesn’t have the reach to over expose either of these, but it doesn’t help either. Obviously, I’ve decided to go ahead.

So, 9monsters, often called 9mon by it’s users is in many ways, much like the rest of these dating apps. And just like Grindr 9mon is also very buggy and lacks a lot of basic polish. Really the only major notable feature it includes that would be considered a pro is a nifty auto translation feature that if messages aren’t sent to you in the language you’ve set as your own, they’ll have a translation underneath… Which I find a bit nifty when I am unsure on a kanji or word.

However, while that’s the only feature I’d deem particularly notable, there is one aspect of 9mon I find amazing. So firstly, why is it called 9monsters? Well I’ll let 9mon explain

Every user is grouped into 9 category monsters according to breeding in this application. Breeding allows you to find:(1)Your type, (2) Which category/monster other users think you belong to, (3) Who likes you. Each user can enjoy meeting people through this revolutionary “breeding.”

While some types seem to be based of gay type/animal associations I’ve heard of, like Bear and Wolf. I have never really heard of “Bulky Bison” or “Lovely Dog.” But anyway you pick your monster type, and then the fun begins!

9mon level

Yes, 9monster has a leveling system! And this is not a WoW bear druid no no, this is a level 53 wild bear, How did he get so high level? He used this button a lot.

9mon breeding

Man this is one unfortunate bit of engrish I am sure no one at 9mon even thought too much about it’s implications. But yeah, the app uses some extremely light RPG elements to encourage you to feed data into its algorithm. Breed more people, get bred by people, level up, get some minor rewards as you do (like every 15 levels getting placed in the daily featured list), get better suggestions and find out what type you really are too! It’s just really odd that all this happens through the word “breeding.” And a bit unfortunate that the app encourages you to “breed” with anyone you like, which adds a layer of promiscuity that is always somewhat present in these apps and brings it to the foreground.

I was going to talk about a few other things but I think this post is getting a little long! But I hoped you enjoyed learning a little about 9monster and grindr’s lack of presence in Japan.

Christmas Eve in Japan

MERRY CHRISTMAS…

Although at this point it is boxing day. Anyway, this was the first Christmas since 2006 I have spent away from my family. Because of that, and the fact I had taken the Christmas period off, I wanted to do a few things I wouldn’t normally be able to do on Christmas, and had wanted to do for a little while. So it was off to Matsuyama, the major metropolis of the Love Princess. (although, Saijo is where all the cool kids are at).

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The first thing to do was to go to Melon Books and Lashinbang, both very close to each other, and buy some general goods. In my only previous visit I didn’t fully explore the shops as there was a large amount of naked women in the shops. This time however, amid the naked ladies and various fan games to come from Touhou, I found a lot of rather nice looking Boys Love doujin (fan work). So i picked up the Nitro Plus, FREE and Hetalia ones I found all nice and cheaply.

In my previous trip, I had managed to miss ANIMATE, a big anime and manga goods chain store across Japan, and scored some nice trinkets, my favourite being the Card Captor Sakura phone decoration. However, the Persona 3 pencil case is pretty cool. Now I might actually start using a pencil case rather than the single pen approach.

dogo

After all that and checking into my hostel (which, supposedly fully booked, netted me a room with 6 beds and 1 person) which is very near the Dogo Onsen (Hotspring/bathhouse). Seem familiar, there is good reason for that. The Dogo onsen was supposedly a major inspiration for the bathhouse in Spirited Away. It is also one of Japan’s oldest Onsen, and one which past emperors have visited. This being my Christmas eve, I was extravagant and took the most expensive option available, the bath of the spirits with Private room at a whopping 1500 or so yen. Honestly, while the service was amazing, the actual onsen experience was much like my experience in other places, if not a little worse. It was a lovely experience overall, but it’s really just a little more old school than a modern onsen, and that changes very little. Although, perhaps I did miss something?

To end that day off I went to a few gay bars I had read about online. I went too early as is typical of me, but that combined with the fact Christmas eve isn’t a great bar night meant that I mostly just chatted with the bar tenders. Which was really nice. I did learn a few interesting bits and pieces about gay culture here though. How widespread these are I can’t really tell you, but they sounded likely to extend beyond Matsuyama.

Firstly, the thing that surprised me was the concern when I entered each bar. They were like ‘… so… You know what kind of bar this is…’ The first time I was very confused, because I thought it would be obvious I knew since it was out of the way, so I said, ‘no, not really, I just read about it online and it sounded good.’ Thinking he might have been refering to like a special drink system or maybe more like the niche of gay people they cater too. After a few more awkward exchanges, I realised he was unsure if I knew it was a gay bar. After that it was all much more at ease and generally really pleasant conversation ensued. A few interesting things popped up, and I have come to understand that I really need to select a type I am into, because the fact I don’t have a set type is immensely confounding it seems.

At the second bar though, it’s appeal was more for bears, which I am not the most into, but they are usually really nice to talk with in my experience in the west, can’t say so much in Japan. Anyway, I was curious about dating app use here. A lot of the popular western apps, Grindr in particular, have little to no people on them in Japan outside of westerners and people in larger cities. I was interested to know why and the answer I go was kind of worrisome. Apparently Grindr had gotten quite popular in Japan too. Too popular in fact. To the point that people outside the gay community started to know about it, and were using it to out people. Being out in Japan is not as common as it would be in Australia. I have gathered that westerners can get away with being out because we are always outsiders and so it doesn’t add too much on top of what we already have.  (Gaijin, 外人, means forienger but the kanji more sort of implicate outsider. Gaikokujin 外国人, more directly says someone from another country. And there is a difference I have gathered over the last year or so in reading, but maybe for another time). For a Japanese person, it seemed much more troublesome, at least based on talked with the few people here I have about being out.

So for the Japanese gay community, Grindr actually ultimately caused some serious problems, and so they migrated over to other apps. Not that I think my blog will be a major hit with the kinds of the people who’d want to use these apps maliciously, but, I certainly don’t want to help cause more issues in that regard. One of the more popular ones is has quite an amusing and horrifying metagame element though…

Anyway, with those gay bars, I ended my evening finished watching the Meryl Streep film It’s Complicated and then slept, excited for Christmas day!