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I can best describe it as courting with initial ambiguity.Things also move much more slowly than in the west.This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but more of a rule of thumb.Being in a group diffuses the pressure and allows each party to take stock of the company the other keeps.Initial dating, or the lead up to dating, always begins in a group.You go out with mutual friends, or a group of your friends and a group of her friends together.If the other returns those feelings, then they become boyfriend and girlfriend.The relationship then proceeds as relationships between boyfriends and girlfriends do. At the point of kokuhaku is where we consider two people to begin dating.
I’m sure people can find exceptions to what I am putting forth as general rules. Additionally, I am a man, so all of my understanding comes from the perspective of a man.
Everything before that is considered getting to know each other in a friendly manner.
In the West we would argue that dating is simply getting to know someone better with romantic intent to see if you would like a relationship with them, so that the time spent outside of the group would be considered dates.
Obviously how soon they are willing to have sex after becoming boyfriend and girlfriend is based on the individual.
The use of kokuhaku is also a bit of a culture shock for Westerners.