Dating in Japan

I had actually thought the only thing I would write about dating in Japan would be on the dating spots that I found during my time here. But Gwyneth ‘s comment in my earlier request for ideas on what I can offer my readers brought me to writing about the culture. I’m not even sure if I am understanding her right, but there’s a whole lot of interesting experiences I might not have encountered if I hadn’t moved to Japan.

Everyone knows there’s something called gokon, otherwise known as a matchmaking party, in Japan. That is where small but equal numbers of men and women gather together for a meal in a hope to meet a partner. In the group, there’s typically a guy and a girl who already are friends and the guy will bring his guy friends while the girl would bring her girl friends along. A standard gokon is usually between around 2-2 and 6-6 but there’s no actual limit to that even though a ridiculously large one is called something else entirely (see the post on Machikon for more details).

While there still are people finding their match at gokon events, there gradually appears people who are just there for one-night-stands. I’ve even met married men at these events too. Many of them do not have their wedding ring on but are open about their marriage status probably just to see who is up for an uncommitted fling.

There are also shops known as 相席屋 (aisekiya or loosely, “shared table”), where men and women go to a seemingly regular cafe or bar at their own time in a hope to look for a partner. It’s usually free for women and costs a fee for men because let’s face it, men will flock there knowing there are women, and it being free gives women more reasons to be there. At the shop, you will be asked your purpose of going. Depending on the purpose—make friends/find a boyfriend or girlfriend/find a marriage partner—both men and women get different colored bands to put around their wrist. The women will be seated with food and drinks as with a regular shop and men will move between tables to talk with the women there. And you will know their purpose just by looking at the color of the bands. But let’s face it, even if a girl is there to find a marriage partner, they’ll probably say they are looking for a boyfriend because they may find it embarrassing. I haven’t been there yet although I intend to find out more about the place. Maybe I’ll write a post on that after experiencing it.

Interest Groups
There is an abundant of interest groups that sell their services to singles. In a sense, it’s pretty much like a gokon event, except that it does not necessarily have to be held at a restaurant. These seem less intimidating than actual gokon events since at the end of the day, if the guys are shit, at least you can enjoy the activities.

One-day Bus Trips
This seems a little interesting because you simply go for a short one-day bus travel with people you don’t know who share the same purpose. A friend said that girls will be seated on the window side while the men will rotate. It’s kind of like speed dating, except that the group will spend most of the day together traveling around. Depending on the system, sometimes you get buses stopping at different places to pick different people up so even if there isn’t anyone you fancy on the bus at first, someone whom you might fall in love with might just board at the next point. My friend, though, actually left the event halfway through because in her words, “all the men are weird.”

Matchmaking Agency
This is probably the oldest kind of matchmaking service ever and they obviously cost a lot more, but a female friend strongly recommends it to me because 1) you are matched based on scientific data, and 2) girls who sign up for these expensive services are mostly very attractive. Despite the overwhelming number of activities for single people, there are still people who are willing to pay for these to find their other half. I’m not so sure why but at least you can be sure people who signed up for it are serious enough to spend that sum of money to find their significant other.

TV Shows
There are dedicated programs aimed to match singles up around. I’m guessing there are more than I know but the most popular mainstream one called ナイナイお見合い大作戦 (loosely, Ninety-nine’s Matchmaking Strategy, where “Ninety-nine” is the name of the duo who hosts the program) is focused on bringing women to areas where population is in steep decline. These single women who don’t mind living in the countryside areas travel there to meet men who live there and if something works out between them, hopefully they can build a family there to help revitalize the area. Some of the more provocative ones are obviously only viewable only on cable or satellite TV, or online. One such example is オンナの噂研究所 (loosely, Women’s Rumor Research Lab) on BeeTV. The only difference is, this program doesn’t set out to matchmake but does all kinds of social experiments on participants and do not necessarily relate to helping people become a couple. One of their experiments that do tries to see if people can fall in love simply by kissing. So, a guy and a girl who have never met sit in a karaoke room; neither are allowed to talk to each other. At a 30-minute interval, they are required to kiss each other on the lips for a full minute. This will carry on five times. At the end of the kisses, they will leave the place separately. If they felt like they like the other party, they will meet at a pre-arranged location at a stipulated time. Yes, I’ve written about this before.

Drinking parties/BBQ
The most common place to meet people is through regular drinking parties and BBQs although they are not explicitly intentional events to matchmake.

Interestingly, there’s still some kind of social stigma in meeting your other half at these events and people are usually unwilling to confess that they met their partners through such activities. It appears that some of them find it embarrassing to be perceived desperate enough to actually find someone through these events even though the participation in them is less pejorative. I’m guessing the participation of it can be for fun, but when you actually find someone, you’ll be seen to be serious about it. Not that it’s a bad thing.


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