After an initial dormancy, the iPhone has boomed in Japan over the past two years and attracted hordes of app developers. Japan Pulse has previously reported on iPhone apps for car sharing, moms and moms-to-be, streaming concerts, children’s books and business cards, but now app store dealers have infiltrated the gokon – the Japanese group blind date.
Gokon (合コン) is a contracted form of the word godo konpa (合同コンパ), which literally means “combined company.” For a gokon, generally one girl and one guy will reserve a location and agree to bring along a set number of their friends (of the same sex) for a combined date. The goal? Get your drink on and woo/be wooed.
iPhone apps and Japanese blogs have found many ways to use the ubiquitous phone while at a gokon. What Japan Thinks has an English-language rundown of a Goo survey that asked site visitors which apps are best suited for use at a gokon.
Standard gokon etiquette states that initial seating arrangements should be men on one side of a table and women on the other. “Gokon de Shuffle” gets things off to a running start with seating randomization, a fun way to mix up the evening. Will it put you next to the girl of your dreams? Or the friend she brought with her who is . . . nice. This was the highest rated app in the survey.
There are plenty more ice-breakers at the App Store. “Touch Scan Pro” and “Love Touch” both offer love compatibility tests where users give fingerprints in exchange for readings. (The former also includes lie detection, an IQ scan and a horoscope reader.) While apps like this may claim to offer services, in the end they are really just plain fun, and the Love Touch site rightly warns users not to take the results too seriously: “This is really random . . . please don’t fight.”
Once the beverages start to work their magic, conversation topics get more daring. “Dice Talk” helps catalyze that process with a little Truth-or-Dare style sets of questions, with three different modes for friends, significant others or gokon.
Clearly the goal of all these apps is to induce some sort of interaction. A group of young adults huddled around an iPhone on a date, however, unfortunately recalls the world author Gary Shteyngart describes in “Lenny Hearts Eunice,” an excerpt from his upcoming novel “Super Sad True Love Story” which details a future in which people lie next to each other and, in lieu of actual interaction, stare at their “äppäräti” – futuristic iPhone-like entertainment devices.
But not all of this can be blamed on the iPhone – people have been always been searching for shortcuts to meaningful interaction, and some of these apps only mimic things that exist in the real world. One Japanese blog suggests using “PullPullPic,” an app that lets users alter photographs – not unlike purikura, which has existed for decades.