Finding love or even just a meaningful connection can be difficult in Tokyo. If love dolls or rented dates are not quite up your alley, then this is where someone like love coach Lily Davis comes in. Since graduating from Sophia University in 2015, Davis has been working as a personal trainer, model and interpreter, but her latest venture is love coaching, which she began last year. So, what exactly does the job entail and what kind of advice does she give to clients? Weekender recently spoke with the ambitious 24-year-old to find out.

How did you get started as a love coach?

My friend had a [coaching] business and asked if I’d help. I’ve been told I’m a good listener and a lot of people come to me for relationship advice, so I thought why not give it a go? Things went well and after a while I decided to start my own little company.

So, what exactly does a love coach do?

It depends on what the client needs. Sometimes they just want to talk so there will be sessions where I’m mostly listening. On other occasions you’ll have someone in a relationship that isn’t going well, and I dig deeper to find out what’s going wrong. More often than not I deal with people, usually men – over 80 percent of the people I see are male – with very little experience when it comes to dating. I give them advice on how to talk and act, trying to build their confidence.

What do you say to them?

I tell them to get out there, meet more women and get used to chatting with various people. The reason many of these men have no experience is the fact they’ve never approached someone for a date. They’re waiting, hoping that one day women will suddenly start talking to them, but that’s not likely unless they’re hot. [laughs] Most of these guys fear rejection, believing they’ll have failed if they get turned down. Failure is something we learn from, so I suggest they take action and not worry about making mistakes.

Do you think the issue of “not making the first move” is more of a problem in Japan than in other countries?

Yes, I believe so. Generally, men and women in Japan are not good at expressing themselves. As a nation we tend to be quite shy, especially when it comes to romance, and this makes it more difficult to find a partner. The working culture here is another hindrance. People don’t have time to date and, rather than going out, tend to release stress by playing video games or other indoor activities.

Does the rise of dating apps make it easier?

Overall, I’d say yes. There are more opportunities to find a partner than ever. I have [couple] friends who got acquainted through Tinder and are still together. The problem is people are forgetting how to communicate because we spend so much time texting as opposed to meeting face to face. Some of my clients are fine when it comes to messaging, but are too afraid to arrange an actual date.

How do you get those clients to open up?

It’s about creating a comfortable, friendly environment. We start with ice-breakers to get to know each other. There’s a good chance that sensitive topics are going to be discussed so it’s important we both feel at ease speaking about different issues. I ask lots of questions to get to the heart of the matter and figure out what they really need. Of course, they can tell me anything and sometimes it can be extreme. I think my clients appreciate being given a platform to chat openly as they often feel restricted when trying to express themselves with friends or colleagues.

What advice do you give to clients who struggle to form long-lasting relationships?

I try to find out where they’re going wrong and work from there. A problem I regularly hear is that men expect women to say what they want, when we often tend to express our feelings indirectly. It could be something simple like a woman asking, “Are you hungry?” He should know she’s saying she wants to go for something to eat, but it’s surprising how many guys fail to pick up on these little things. It’s not necessarily what she said, but why she said it. Another issue that regularly comes up when I speak to female friends and clients is sex. The complaint is often that guys care too much about themselves and therefore don’t try hard enough to satisfy their partner.

What are some common mistakes women make in relationships?

I think in general we’re more emotional and sometimes just talk without really listening. Even if a partner gives good, logical advice we ignore it. That was a mistake I made in a previous relationship. I would ask for his opinion, he would say something constructive, and I would get annoyed: “Why are you saying that? Just listen to me!” He was naturally confused as I was the one that came to him.

Describe your ideal date.

It would be with [the actor] Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a beautiful country by the sea such as Greece, Italy or Croatia. He would take me to a classy restaurant overlooking the setting sun, then to a bar, and finally to a hotel room with a stunning view.

To book a love coaching session with Lily Davis, email [email protected]

How Konkatsu (Spouse Hunting) Parties Are Helping Japanese Singles Find Their Match

Going a step further than Lily Davis is 32-year-old entrepreneur Saori Yamamoto, who not only advises people seeking love, but also helps them to find it. Last year she launched her own multi-faceted company named Thousand Light, which features numerous services including love consultation, matchmaking, dating seminars and konkatsu (spouse hunting) parties. With around 400 clients, the business has enjoyed a rapid rise in its first 12 months.

Saori Yamamoto

“The interest in these kinds of services is continuing to accelerate as more people enter their 30s and 40s without a partner,” Yamamoto tells Weekender. “I believe one of the main reasons for this is the advancement of technology. Human interaction is decreasing because we’re able to function in our daily lives without having to communicate with others. Engaging in regular conversation as part of a relationship or marriage seems like too much of an effort for some so they put it off for as long as possible.”

“Teens and people in their twenties are also maturing at a slower rate,” continues Yamamoto. “Previously people started working at 16 and were expected to tie the knot by 19. Nowadays, the majority remain in education until 22 and take a while to adapt to adult life. We want to settle in to our jobs and enjoy our freedom, but then without realizing it reach an age where we think it’s time to settle down and look for the quickest way to do that.”

The konkatsu boom took off in Japan around a decade ago and is still thriving today. Competition is fierce, but Yamamoto believes the personal touch that her business provides gives her an edge over rivals. “The consultations are productive, the parties are intimate and when signing up, customers know they aren’t just going to be a statistic on a database,” she says.

“Clients range from people with little or no experience in dating to divorcees, who I can relate to as my first marriage failed. I was 26 and not mentally prepared for the commitment. Six years on and I’m engaged again, but this time I feel ready. I’ve learned from my mistakes. It’s important to look at yourself in the mirror and admit where you’ve gone wrong and not blame others. If you can do that you have a better chance of finding happiness in future relationships.”

More information about Saori Yamamoto’s Thousand Light events at (Japanese only)