Yuko and her two friends enjoy their lunch on Kuta Beach on a warm Sunday, digging into nasi campur (rice with mixed vegetables), fried fish, tempeh and chilli sauce.
They chitchat with local tour guides while they eat off woven palm-leaf plates.
“I love Bali because of its delicious cuisine and friendly people,” says Yuko, a Japanese tourist who came to Bali two days ago.
It’s not easy to find such friendliness back home, the 34-year-old says.
During their vacation, Yuko and her friends have hung out at nightclubs in Kuta and strolled around the beach.
“It’s so fun to be in Bali,” says 34-year-old Chika.
This is the friends’ third visit here in the past year.
Yuko has another reason for frequenting the island. “I have [a relationship] with someone here,” she says.
Yuko hopes she can eventually marry her boyfriend. “I want to get married to a Balinese man so I can have handsome children,” she laughs.
Her friends also dream of snagging Balinese husbands. “Balinese men are so friendly,” Chika says.
Single Japanese women are spoiled for choice when it comes to spending leisure time here. Some enjoy the beaches, while others prefer the nightclubs around Kuta.
Apache, a reggae-themed bar on Jl. Legian, Kuta, has become a favorite with Japanese tourists.
The night before Yuko and her friends head for the beach, a host of Japanese women dance the night away to a Bob Marley tribute band. Most of the women are here with local men.
While on vacation here, many Japanese women date local men, mostly tour guides.
For some it’s just a holiday fling, but others expect to build a serious relationship.
“[Japanese women] love local men living in Bali, either native Balinese or migrants from Java or Lombok; they don’t care,” says Joko, 30, former tour guide and now an employee at a surfing company.
“As far as they know the guys are Balinese.”
He adds Japanese women and Balinese men have very different motives for getting into a relationship. While the women mostly enter the relationship because of attraction, he says, most of the men are in it for the money.
“Most guys just want to take advantage of the women to get new things and enjoy a lavish lifestyle, and the women shower them with lots of gifts,” he says, adding he used to do this frequently himself.
“At the very least they can get a motorbike out of it.
“It’s so easy to seduce Japanese women. Just chat with them for a few minutes and they’ll fall
Given the situation, Joko goes on, Bali’s many gigolos usually target Japanese women.
“I think it’s because in their country they’re more closed off, they don’t have many friends, so they feel really flattered when we talk to them,” he says.
“They think we’re very friendly.”
Samsul Bahri, 35, from Jember in East Java, belies the cynical majority. He married Japanese tourist Kawakubo Mana 11 years ago, and they now have a son.
“I married her because she wanted me,” he says.
“Indonesian women usually look for fair-skinned men, but Japanese women usually prefer darker ones like me.”
The two met on Kuta Beach. He was her tour guide.
“I never thought she’d fall for me... and then we got married.”
Weri, 28, from Sulawesi, also married a Japanese woman. He lambasts the gold diggers stringing Japanese women along.
“I know of some Japanese women who got stressed out because they were used and then abandoned,” says Weri, who has twice married a Japanese woman.
The whole situation has made the women easy prey for criminals.
In the last few months, there have been two cases of Japanese women being murdered in Kuta.
In September last year, the island was shocked by the rape and murder of 30-year-old Rika Sano, who was reportedly robbed and kidnapped by a man offering her a motorcycle ride.
Police have since arrested the prime suspect, David Wicaksono, who is now awaiting trial.
Last month, 41-year-old Hiromi Shimada was found dead in her rented home in Kuta, reportedly killed by two men working at a nearby construction site. The two were arrested several days after the murder.