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Marriage agencies no longer a lucrative business in Japan

But dating apps may not necessarily be the panacea for singles seeking meaningful, long-term relationships
A woman plays a popular dating simulation game in Tokyo in this file photo.

A woman plays a popular dating simulation game in Tokyo in this file photo. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 09, 2024 11:58 AM GMT

Historically, marriage in Japan has been deeply rooted in societal and religious practices, serving as a crucial institution that goes beyond the union of two individuals.

In the Shinto tradition, for example, marriage is considered sacred, embodying the union of not only the couple but also their families, with rituals and ceremonies that emphasize harmony, respect, and the continuation of family lineage. But also, Buddhist practices influence marital unions, focusing on the spiritual bonding and mutual growth of the partners.

That is why in Japan marriage has always been seen as a foundational element of society, emphasizing its role in maintaining social stability and continuity.

Therefore, in the past significant importance was placed on the compatibility of background, values, and objectives of the two partners. These considerations stressed the role of marriage as a strategic alliance, often facilitated by matchmakers or more recently marriage consultation agencies, ensuring that the union was in harmony with broader familial and societal expectations.

That is the reason why the ancient practice of the ‘middle man’ is still alive to this day, especially in the countryside.

But in recent years a revolutionary shift has started. Japan has witnessed a notable decline in the number of traditional marriages and consequently a decline in consultation agencies, a trend that has raised concerns about the changing dynamics of finding a partner in the modern world.

"The digital revolution has transformed many aspects of human interaction"

Over the last year alone, a staggering 22 such agencies have either filed for bankruptcy, ceased operations, or dissolved.

This phenomenon can be largely attributed to the seismic shifts in societal and lifestyle patterns, among which the advent and rise of dating and matchmaking apps stand out as a significant disruptor.

While these apps have gained popularity for their convenience and wide reach, they bring forth a set of challenges and limitations, casting doubt on their efficacy as the optimal way to find a lifelong partner.

The digital revolution has transformed many aspects of human interaction, including how people seek out romantic relationships. Dating and matchmaking apps, with their algorithms and swipes, promise a vast pool of potential partners and the allure of quick connections.

However, these platforms may not necessarily be the panacea for singles seeking meaningful, long-term relationships.

One of the primary issues with these apps is the superficial basis on which connections are often made. Profiles are usually judged based on photos and brief bios, leading to decisions that hinge more on physical appearance than on deeper compatibility factors that are crucial for lasting relationships.

Moreover, the paradox of choice presented by these platforms can be overwhelming. With an endless array of options just a swipe away, users may find themselves in a constant search for someone better, leading to what is known as the "swipe syndrome."

"Dating apps can be rife with users whose goals range from casual dating to scams"

This phenomenon can result in a reluctance to commit, as users hold out for an ideal match that may never materialize. Such an environment fosters short-term interactions rather than the development of deep, meaningful connections that are essential for a successful marriage.

Another major challenge is the authenticity and sincerity of users on these platforms. Unlike traditional marriage consultation services, where clients are thoroughly vetted and intentions are clear from the outset, dating apps can be rife with users whose goals range from casual dating to scams, making it harder for individuals genuinely seeking long-term commitments to find compatible partners.

This lack of vetting and accountability has led to numerous instances of fraud and deception, undermining trust in the whole process.

Ultimately but no less worrying is the impersonal nature of app-based interactions.

Communication through screens often obscures non-verbal cues and the emotional nuances of face-to-face interactions, leading to miscommunications and a lack of genuine connection.

Traditional marriage agencies, on the other hand, always offer a personalized service, including face-to-face consultations and tailored matchmaking, which often leads to a more meaningful initial connection between potential partners.

In my personal experience, I have met a few Japanese who were married this way, and on the contrary, marriages started on matching apps don’t seem to be as long-lasting.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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