Japanese singles looking for love are not waiting for fate to take its
course. They are actively searching through something called a
"marriage hunt." The popular phrase is giving matchmaking companies a
big boost in business. The Japanese government is even joining in on
Love songs set the mood for a matchmaking party in
Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district. Tables for two line the room where men
sit on one side, the women on the other.
The couples exchange
something called profile cards detailing everything from their work
schedules to hobbies. Both sides have one minute to introduce
themselves until they are asked to change seats.
More than 50
people fill the room on this night. Exeo Japan the country's largest
matchmaking company describes this as a smaller group. Spokeswoman
Fumiko Nishizawa says some events draw more than 100. There is so much
interest in these gatherings that Exeo can not find a room big enough.
says people are always surprised at the number of people taking part in
the events. They are taken aback by how many men and women are still
This 39-year-old man is too embarrassed to give his
name. He says he has been here four times now because he can not meet
women anywhere else.
Matchmaking services have become a booming
business in Japan, thanks to a popular book released last year. In the
book Marriage Hunting Era co-author Touko Shirakawa wrote that
singles had to work harder for true love, and that waiting for a soul
mate was not enough.
She coined the term "konkatsu" - a play on the Japanese words for marriage and action.
says there was an entire industry built on matchmaking. But it was
considered an embarrassment to search for a spouse so aggressively. She
says people were secretly searching until her term "konkatsu" made it
okay to do so publicly.
Shirakawa compares the "marriage hunt"
to a job hunt. She encourages hunters to perfect the resume and dress
to impress. Some companies even host seminars to prepare people for a
matchmaking event. The term "konkatsu" has become so popular there is
even a television drama named after it.
That popularity is
welcome news for Japan, where the birthrate has been declining for more
than three decades now, and the country's population is beginning to
shrink. The percentage of men and women who remain single into their
late 30s has tripled since the 1980s. And the government says without
marriage, there are no children.
Shirakawa says in the days of
lifetime employment, singles often looked to the office for a life
partner. Companies took care of every aspect of their workers lives by
housing them in dorms and feeding them in cafeterias. They hired single
women to work, who often married co-workers. Women were forced to
resign once they married.
Over the past 20 years, lifetime
employment has become less common in Japan. Companies now provide fewer
social services for their workers, and many women are intent on
building careers, so they delay marriage. But Shirakawa says the global
economic crisis has helped renew interest in marriage. She says singles
are now looking to tie the knot, for financial stability.
government says surveys show 90 percent of single adults would like to
marry, so some city officials are organizing their own marriage hunts.
Back in Ginza, the 39-year-old man wraps up the two-hour event by writing down then names of his top three choices.
If one of those women pick him, the host announces them as a couple.
does not hear his number called on this night but he is not
discouraged. He says he has been picked before at these events, but
still has not been able to establish a successful relationship.