This writer can testify from personal experience that old-style omiai (arranged marriages) in Japan are for the most part pretty stuffy affairs. The first three I tried didn’t work out well at all, and I was starting to feel all kinds of nagging self doubts when finally I went calling on the home of the miss who was eventually to become my missus.
She was a cute little thing, with bobbed hair, freckles and a dimple. Worked at a bank. There I was, seated at the low table, my legs starting to fall asleep as I sipped greet tea and masticated a horribly over-sweetened lump of mochi (glutenous rice), stuttering along trying to make awkward conversation and nervous as hell.
Up to this point I sensed things weren’t going all that well, but the hand of fate moves in truly mysterious ways. Her elderly grandpa (may he rest in peace) waddled past us in the corridor en route to the toilet, and at that moment happened to break wind in an exceptionally loud and melodious manner.
“Ojiisan!” she scolded him, giggling. “We have a visitor. Try to maintain your sense of decorum!”
“Eeeeh, well yours are as loud as mine, and anyone who marries into this family will just have to get used to us!” the impudent old rascal retorted.
Everyone laughed until tears ran down our cheeks and right then and there I knew she was the gal for me.
Omiai are much less common in Japan these days, but I hadn’t realized how much they’ve changed until I picked up the latest issue of Jitsuwa Taiho (May).
The magazine reports that the recession is having a significant impact on women’s attitudes toward marriage. To wit, they want to get hitched sooner rather than later, to make sure they’ve got a steady meal ticket and companion for their old age.
But signing up for matchmaking services can be a money- and time-consuming process. So to expedite things, women like Chieko, who’s now 36 and still a spinster, are attending “omiai parties.”
“I didn’t have a boyfriend from my mid-20s onward, but of course wanted one,” she relates. “By the time I reached my 30s all my friends were married, but even though I’m not bad looking and had a good job, romance just eluded me.
“So when I turned 35 I made up my mind that I’d have to get moving before it was too late.”
Chieko found a service on the Web called Netto Konkatsu, and registered. The blog section of the site
invited members to a party, held in a penthouse suite at one of the city’s large hotels, where interested males could participate for 10,000 yen. Women paid half that figure.
“The participants included doctors, company owners, computer whizzes, and the like,” Chieko says. “Both
the men and women there were almost like celebrities, and I felt out of place. I guess I must have had too much champagne, but I started getting pretty tipsy and the next thing I knew, this guy was trying to get me into the bedroom. I felt in the mood, so I went along.
“But when we got there, a couple was already in the room, having sex. In the other rooms too.”
It seems that the party was an all nighter, and people were showering, donning bathrobes, and then, after downing a couple more drinks pairing off and having sex.
“They started swapping partners and it turned into one big orgy!” Chieko blushed.
Well, Jitsuwa Taiho remarks, if nothing else, parties like these ought to be a practical way to establish whether or not one is sexually compatible with a potential spouse. (K.S.)
Source: “Omiai paati ga ranko ni hatten,” Jitsuwa Taiho (May, page 66)
Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.