If you’re a Westerner watching movies involving Japan before WWII, you’re not going to see a lot of the romance tropes that you’re accustomed to seeing. No dating, no sex scenes. Not even a quick kiss on screen. Only a few words and subtle gestures are exchanged. Why is that? Japan deemed PDA obscene. Kissing in public was considered an offense bad enough to have police respond. Anything physical, which should only be between a married couple, needed to be done where no one else could see. Marriage for love was far from the norm as well.
However, during the American Occupation of Japan, which happened after WWII due to fears of Japan turning to communism in it’s defeat, this changed. The US looked to Westernize Japan as much as possible while also bringing the comforts of home to the American GIs stationed there.
American films were brought to Japan. These films presented full blown kissing scenes in public. Sex was also shown. Even though these scenes weren’t what Westerns would deem explicit, it was for the Japanese. Women with romantic and sexual desires were being presented to the Japanese on a wide scale for this first time.
Japanese were also observing Americans participating in PDA in real life! American GIs had no issue kissing their girlfriends, Japanese or not, in public whether the culture was into it or not. Japanese men often found this shocking, but Japanese women found themselves envying it.
Americans were taking their girlfriends out for dates in public. The mingling of the sexes in public was also new for the Japanese. Gifts picked by Japanese women from a Sears catalog for their dates to buy were becoming fairly common. US soldiers often bought their girls chocolates, flowers, expensive jewelry and clothing on top of that.
The American GIs presented a chivalry unknown to Japanese women previously. These Western men paid for these dates and gifts. They held the door open for their dates. Striving for romance and even marriages founded on love were now well within reason for a Japanese woman.
There were also the words. American Men were much more vocal way more often. In expressing woman’s beauty as well as her pleasing qualities over and over. Enchanting her with this way. Japanese women ate it up.
In response to the changing times, the Japanese started releasing materials on dating and how to kiss, even how to have mutual orgasms. Kissing in public was no longer a police matter.
As a result of the American Occupation, romance was represented on stage, film, press and elsewhere in Japan now by the Japanese themselves. Strangely enough though, free love was discussed over radio in 1940s in Japan, but not until 1960s in US.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t conservative aspects dealing with PDA in Modern Japan. While kissing in public won’t generally get a law enforcement response, culturally it’s considered rude. Japanese women are expected to pay her share on a date with a Japanese man. Japanese men also still expect Japanese women to serve at home and in the traditional ways expected in times past.
Today, there are more Japanese women who date Western men than Japanese men who date foreign women. Showing that despite Japan being more conservative, that Japanese women’s expectations on romance and love has changed forever.