Do Japanese couples say “I love you” to each other? The short answer is, of course they do, just less than we do in the West. The long answer is that expressing affection for someone is something most Japanese consider to be very special, not to be done very often, or around others. There are two ways to express love for someone in Japanese: 好きです suki desu, which generally means “like” but which has strong implications of love when referring to a person; and 愛してる ai shiteru, a specific statement of deep-felt love. While I tell my wife I love her every morning as I leave for work — Japanese kind of expect Americans to be overly-generous with their emotions — the male Japanese staff report that they never tell their wives they love them, or only once every few years (“to increase the impact when I do say it”). It isn’t just Japanese husbands who are sparing with their affection. The other day I caught an interesting TV show in which female shoppers in a supermarket were offered a 10% off coupon for groceries if they’d agree to call their husbands and tell them they loved them in the middle of the store. While 50% of the women in Osaka were able to make the call, only 10% of the wives in Tokyo could overcome their embarrassment and tell their husbands “I love you.”
Some information on Japanese couples.