First, how did it come about? After meeting through the dating site, Kazu and I started chatting and getting to know each other through Line, an instant messenger program for mobile phones. I knew immediately that Kazu was a good guy and was genuinely interested in me because he would message me immediately after he got home from work each day, and we'd chat pretty much constantly until bedtime. After a few weeks of chatting, we happened to be talking about food. I told him that my favorite type of nabe is a spicy red broth (possibly kimchi flavored?) from a brand called Aka Kara ("Red Hot.") Recently Aka Kara has also been making all kinds of other 'aka kara' flavored food items such as oden, curry, and karaage mix. I sent Kazu a picture of a new Aka Kara product I'd purchased, a 'nikomi-udon' (basically like a nabe but with udon noodles cooked in with the veggies and meat). I said something like "I hope it's good, because this package makes 2-3 servings, so I'll be eating this for a few days!" and he suggested it would be the perfect size for us to make together. At first I didn't think he was serious (and I'm pretty sure he wasn't actually ACTUALLY serious) but after me being like "Really? Like, REALLY really? Okay! My house or yours?!" we finally agreed to meet at his house the following Saturday night.
I happened to be hanging out with some friends in the same city where Kazu lives (about 45 minutes from my house) during the day that day. Our date was set for 6pm, so I left my friends early and went to meet Kazu. I was really nervous because, quite frankly, the first rule of online dating is to never meet a new person for the first time at their house, and I was going to do just that! I made sure to tell my friends the address of where I was going and who I'd be with and what we were planning to do, but actually at this point I didn't even know Kazu's last name or the kanji for his first name! In any case, I parked at a convenience store near his house (this was also calculated for my safety; I figured if I disappeared someone would notice my car parked there after a day or two and call the police) and messaged him that I'd arrived.
I will always remember the first moment I saw Kazu. There are a lot of important moments from our relationship that I don't remember, but this moment sticks out in my mind. He'd previously sent me a picture of himself (which I sent to all my friends, to show to the police if I mysteriously disappeared!) but he was way more handsome in real life. I remember thinking he looked really cool. I was sitting on the curb waiting for him, and I knew he was the one immediately, not because he particularly resembled his picture, but because he beelined straight for me. I was so nervous that I immediately stuck my hand out for a handshake and said "Hello!" in English. He responded a bit stiffly and then led me back to his apartment building.
I remember that during our first few dates I had a pretty hard time communicating with him. Even when we were walking back to his house that first night, I really couldn't understand most of what he said, so instead I babbled about stupid stuff (It's cold tonight! I wonder if it will snow. I love snow! Does it snow in this city? How about your hometown? That's too bad, I really love snow!) in Japanese. As long as I was speaking, he wasn't so I didn't have to feel bad about not understanding him, lol.
We got to his house and he showed me around (his apartment's very small, so this took about 20 seconds) and then we started to make the nabe. It was still very awkward between us because we were both so nervous, but having something to work on (cooking) helped. I brought the ingredients and he provided the nabe pot and the tabletop burner, both of which I didn't have yet at that point. His kitchen is especially tiny, so we couldn't really cook together, but I watched him work, commenting or asking questions occasionally and trying not to get in the way. When the nabe was done we ate mostly in silence (because we were concentrating on eating-- it was delicious!) and then after eating we cleaned up together.
After dinner, we'd both relaxed a bit and we sat together at his computer and he showed me all the websites on his bookmarks list. I think this is a bit strange, but it gave us plenty to talk about and I learned a lot about him. Unfortunately, he really likes to read news and when we visited his favorite news site, he started telling me about something that happened recently in politics, and it went right over my head. I had NO idea what he was talking about. I told him this, and he said "Oh" and changed the site to youtube. We spent most of the rest of the night watching funny videos on youtube.
It was a very simple date, but a lot of fun. At one point Kazu indicated that I should sit on his bed (his apartment only has one room, so the bedroom, living room and dining room are all in the same room) so he could show me a catalog from some furniture company he likes, and I felt a bit uncomfortable doing that, but he was a perfect gentleman and didn't try to do anything.
When I left around 9pm, he walked me to my car. I kind of lingered for a minute, because I got the feeling he wanted to kiss me and I kinda wanted him to, but in the end he didn't, so I left before it got awkward. Before I left, he told me that he'd like to see me again and I said I would like that too. The day after our first date, we started planning our second for the following weekend!
For me, it wasn't hard to tell that Kazu liked me as more than a friend because we met on a dating site, which makes it pretty clear you are looking for more than friendship. The fact that he continued to talk to me for weeks before meeting, and just as consistently after meeting reassured me that he really was interested. When I would get a bit insecure, I'd intentionally wait to message him until after he messaged me first, but he always messaged me as soon as he got home from work (whether in response to my message, or with his own message if I didn't send one first). Most of the other guys I spoke to on the dating site before meeting Kazu were pretty inconsistent in their messages, so I got the impression that they weren't especially interested. I never really had these worries with Kazu.
I'll leave the full details of how we became an "official couple" for another post! Let me instead leave you with a (recent) picture of Kazu making yakiniku at the table in his apartment where we ate that first meal of Aka Kara Nikomi-Udon!