Posts Tagged ‘konkatsu’

Cinderella stories inspire women to find their prince on social networking sites

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women's fears about online dating

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women’s fears about online dating

According to a recent study by Trend Soken, the phenomenon of the “Social Cinderella” is one of the driving forces behind changing attitudes towards internet dating among young women. “Social Cinderellas” are women who snag “high spec guys” (i.e. well-educated, good-looking men with high salaries) via social networking sites. As stories about these fairy-tale romances spread, more and more women have begun to warm to the idea of internet dating.

Out of the 500 single women in their 20s and 30s interviewed for the study, 81% said that they felt had few chances for romantic meetings in their daily lives and 58% believed that social media was an effective tool for finding their dream man. Columnist Ai Azawa states in the report that modern Japanese women are throwing themselves into their work and are also really into self-improvement, as a result, they’ve got higher standards and are not particularly interested in settling for the men in their immediate social circle.

Azawa says that she often hears Social Cinderella stories. But how common are they in practice? Out of the 61.4% of respondents who claimed to regularly use social media, 16% said that they’d encountered a dreamy guy in this way and 9.4% said they’d even managed to strike up a friendship with the guy in question.

The study uses the term social-networking services to loosely refer to a whole slew of sites, from professional matchmaking websites to social networking sites like Facebook and Mixi, so it’s important to bear in mind that women are not necessarily signing up for dating services. One 26-year-old women questioned for the study mentions attending “meetings of social networking communities.” This could mean joining a group of people who meet over shared interests. Not necessarily aimed at encouraging people to hook up, social clubs tied to a hobby may be one of the ways that women are using the web to widen their social network as they fish around for potential partners.

There are also matchmaking sites linked into Facebook. — sites like Omiai, which currently has 270,000 registered members. Omiai caters to the Cinderella element by boasting that 2,313 of the members are guys who have annual earnings of over ¥10 million. As many are cautious about the perils of online dating, the company highlights its safety policy which allows users to remain anonymous while chatting with a potential partner.

Safety and privacy is a huge concern for Japanese women, so other social networking dating clubs take the risk out of going to meet with a stranger by bulking up the numbers. Pairs of friends who sign up for the rather unfortunately named Nikukai (meat club) service can go on double dates together at yakiniku (Korean barbeque restaurants). Nomitomi (drinking buddies) is a service that holds group mixers for singles, meaning singles don’t have to risk it alone with an unknown person.

Fighting for their lives, local governments shell out for matchmaking services

Friday, May 24th, 2013

If you’re single, looking for love and live in Itoigawa city, Niigata Prefecture, the local government will be happy to pick up the hefty tab for registering with an online dating agency. According to a recent article in J-Cast, the municipality of Itoigawa has taken the unusual step of partnering up with professional matchmakers Zwei in the hopes that young local singletons will find love through the web.

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Declining birth rates threaten the future productivity of Japan, so it’s in the best interests of local government to help romance bloom between residents via konkatsu (marriage hunting) activities. By lending financial support to machikon (large-scale singles mixers),  konkatsu seminars, day trips and group dates, the local government obviously wants its citizens to make babies.

Unfortunately there’s little hard data available to show whether spending public money on konkatsu activities actually leads to  marriages. In March 2011 the Cabinet Office published a survey on marriage and family structures. Out the 1698 municipalities that took part, 552 had actively supported konkatsu activites. However, 283 of these had stopped these activities because of a perceived limit to their effectiveness, lack of funds and a decline in demand. Some simply held one event and that was it.

Itoigawa, however, don’t seem to have done too badly. Since it began supporting konkatsu activities in 2007, 18 local couples have tied the knot. Feeling it could do better and hearing about a similar scheme in Inami, Wakayama Prefecture, where the municipality helped citizens out with Zwei’s fees, Itoigawa decided to call in the professionals.

Single people aged 20 or above who’ve been living in Itoigawa for more than a year and are up to date with their residency taxes can get the initial fees of ¥63,840 (roughly $621) paid by local government; however, they will have to foot the monthly membership fees themselves. Zwei offers quite a comprehensive service, not only organizing omiai (interviews to gauge marriage potential between parties), but also mixers where people might find someone special.

It’s too early to say if this scheme will be a success. In Wakayama, four people applied for financial support with fees for Zwei in 2011, though it’s not known if any of these led to marriage. Nobody applied in 2012, despite inquiries from parents with unmarried children.

One of the key stumbling blocks might be the stigma attached to online dating in Japan. The launch of Xlace, another konkatsu website, back in April this year, however, does seem to indicate that the market is slowly growing; whether other local governments will also enlist help from online dating agencies to stimulate couple generation remains to be seen.

Making new connections over lunch

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Social Lunch app hooks up like-minded business people

A new way of networking is catching on with the twenty- to thirtysomething crowd in Japan. Social lunches arranged over the web, where those in similar industries get together for an informal chat have been growing in popularity lately. At the forefront of this trend is the Facebook app Social Lunch which matches up pairs of professionals for friendly lunches. The idea is that going with a friend you already know takes a lot of the stress out of occasion. According to J-Cast, since the app launched in October last year, 20,000 people have registered for the service and around 900 social lunch dates have taken place as a result.

The app, produced by SyncLunch Inc., is simple to use: Team up with a friend in a similar profession, type in preferred location and time and it will match you up with another pair who may be useful for you to network with for a lunch date. J-Cast’s writer signed up with a former colleague who was a graphic designer and was paired up with a couple of guys, one of whom was looking for design tips for his new website. The lunch was a success and seemed a possible opening to future collaborations.

A similar option is the Twitter-based Hirukai service from Digital Garage Inc. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, though, the meet-up organizer offers a space in their office for others to gather in. Bringing along their own bento lunches, those attending can swap ideas, or sandwiches, in an informal atmosphere.

The model for Social Lunch borrows something from gokon (group dating), in which  the presence of friends takes much of the stress out of an initial encounter with a potential partner. As marriage rates fall, gokon, konkatsu (marriage hunting) and now machikon events have been on the rise and this has been accompanied by a slew of  new apps to help young Japanese find Mr. or Ms. Right. As young Japanese are increasingly willing to try out group dating, it seems that the next logical step is for go-getters to find business partners by using similar methods.

Fun for one, online and off

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

While Japan’s konkatsu, or “marriage hunting” boom is into its third year, it seems that Japanese companies are embracing the fact that there are plenty of people out there who are rolling solo. Pulse has looked at a yakiniku restaurant that takes the embarrassment out of cooking meat by yourself, as well as places that serve ramen for one and cater especially to women looking to grab a solo drink and snack on the way home.

Dinner for two... sort of.

For the working woman who simply wants to have a relaxed meal at home with a little — and only a little — company, there’s the iPhone app Kare to gohan (Dinner with My Boyfriend). The English version is called PlusBoys. The app has photos of clean-cut young men who each have personality profiles and back stories: Biker and college student Tatsuya is “friendly, but a luck pusher. He likes going to rock festivals by himself.” There are photos of each of them whipping up a meal for two, accompanied by screens of cheerful “welcome home” banter. The instructions warn that checking on more than one character might make them jealous. (Is nothing simple?) As you proceed through the stories, you can buy new characters from within the app.

For guys, there are a handful of apps that will liven up a dinner for one – or make you seem popular with the ladies when you’re out with friends. That is, as long as your friends don’t see who’s actually calling: These apps send you “phone calls” from anime characters or, equally unlikely to actually call you, pop stars. A recent version of Dream Call requires you to pick up the phone and make appropriate “I’m listening” noises in response to the recorded pre-programmed chat and scores you on your “mm-hmms” and “I sees.”

And then, for the . . .  actually, we’re not sure who this is for. Hatofuru kareshi (pigeon boyfriend) is a dating simulation game where you are a second-year student at the St. Pigeonation high school, finding yourself increasingly attracted to your male classmates, who are all pigeons. If it comes to this, please, put down the iPhone and get out of the house.

While you’re out there, may we suggest checking out OneKara, the new karaoke place for soloists only? There’s no shame in a little hitokara. Rent a room for one and rock your own socks off.

Municipal meet-ups and pet-owner get-togethers for shy singles

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The food of love in Tochigi prefecture

The food of love in Tochigi Prefecture

What could be more romantic than a strawberry picking outing with a bunch of young singles in the pretty countryside of Tochigi Prefecture? Well, it depends on your attitude to romance, but matchmaking events like the Yellow Handkerchief Party are becoming increasingly popular and practical approach for singletons desperate for a good match.

According to Himote Times, in response to falling birthrates, local governments have reacted by jumping on the konkatsu (marriage hunting) bandwagon and setting up group dating miai for residents who find it hard to hook up with the opposite sex in the course of their normal lives. Far from considering such events as deeply unhip, many single people view the get-togethers as safer than the ones organized by more commercial interests.

Just recently Aichi Prefecture launched a group called Aichi Encounter Support Service. The service’s mission is to set up various miai events in the prefecture. In Ishikawa Prefecture, the Chamber of Commerce has set up a Yukata Coupling Party, a mixer where the participants dress in traditional Japanese summer clothing for July this year.

Even JR have got in on the konkatsu action. According to Mainichi, on June 20 a train on the Koumi Line that runs between Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures will host a dating party for train enthusiast singles in the 25-40 age bracket. Entertainment will come in the form of  train-themed games and quizzes.

It seems that commercial konkatsu events are becoming increasingly specialized since the boom caught the public’s interest back in 2008. Last year we reported on the popularity of gorukon, dating events for golf enthusiasts, and this year it seems that pekon (pet matchmaking parties) are now all the rage. Taking advantage of the recent trend for pet-friendly cafes, single dog owners can attend events such as this one held at the Blue Dog Café.

Whether you’d like to hook up with someone under the watchful eye of your local government or prefer to attend a private event where you can meet someone who shares your passion (be it for trains or dogs) similar pricing systems seem to apply across the board: Men have to shell out more. The Yellow Handkerchief event sets men back ¥4,000, while women only pay ¥1,000, while the pekon event we mentioned costs ¥4,500 for men and ¥4,000 for women. While the dating scene may be undergoing a revolution in Japan, the old-fashioned notion of men footing (at least the majority of) the bill still applies.

New hobbies for swinging into spring

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The beginning of April marks a new start for most Japanese, not only is it the new start of the financial year but it’s also the beginning of the academic year. It’s also the time when many people decide to try their hand at a new hobby, so with this in mind we decided to investigate what activities are popular this year and try to look at the reasons why these hobbies are trending.

Yoga still ranking high (gbSk photo; link below)

Yoga still ranking high according to shyumisagashi.com (gbSk photo; link below)

One portal that consistently came top when searching the web for hobby ideas was Shyumisagashi.com (Findahobby.com). Not only is the site a compendium of hobby ideas, but it also gives rankings for the popularity of various hobbies, searchable under different catagories of age and gender.

The No. 1 ranking hobby on the site for all ages and genders was yoga. Though yoga was introduced to the Japanese in 806, the recent boom for the activity dates back only to 2004 when increased media exposure sparked on increase in its availability at sports clubs. The reasons people take up yoga are twofold: to lose weight and to combat stress. Enrolling for regular yoga classes can be difficult for some overworked and underpaid office workers, so with this in mind, as part of their Smart Sports Fitness line, AU launched their Ouchi (your home) Yoga Salon in December of last year: Customers follow a yoga workout that is demonstrated on their phone and then receive a mail from their yoga “trainer” encouraging them to keep up the good work.

While yoga is still No. 1 in the women’s ranking, the No. 1 hobby for men, according to Syumisagashi was, perhaps unsurprisingly, photography. What was less expected was the No. 2 ranking across the board of both sexes for “travelling alone in order to find yourself.” The appeal of this was cited as “to enjoy your travel at your own pace.”

Other top ranking hobbies that intrigued were paper crafts at the No. 5 spot and squash at No. 8. Bad news for the struggling eikaiwa (English conversation business), still reeling from the Nova shock, was that the previously popular activity didn’t even hit the top ten for either gender.

Though they also didn’t hit the top spots, we’d like to give a nod to the hobbies that lend themselves to the burgeoning konkatsu (marriage hunting) trend. According to this survey from Goo Ranking (Dec. 2008) taking up a hobby, ranked No. 8, for men as an effective method of finding a partner, while for women, it scored high at No. 3.

This thread on 2chan concerning “hobbies to take up in order to meet members of the opposite sex” contains a rather cynical list (presumably concocted by a male reader) of top ranking hobbies to find women based on considerations of “percentage of women, quality of babes and cost incurred.” Coming in first place is flower arrangement, next is cookery and third is tea ceremony. Women who are serious about searching for a mate might take the same approach and take up golf which, last year became a popular sport for marriage-hungry ladies.

Whatever their motivations, whether it be for fitness, fun, stress release or hooking up with a potential life partner, this season is sure to see people signing up in droves to make a fresh start to the new financial year.

Photo by gbSk

Trends in Japan 2009: changing gender roles

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

New man? Otomen's main character is in touch with his feminine side

New man? Otomen’s main character is in touch with his feminine side

You’ve probably seen them, preening  in front of station mirrors in public, teasing their hair until it looks just so. Or maybe you’ve seen the beauty products available to them, including foundation and eyebrow tweezers.

No, not the gals; we’re taking about the much hyped new breed of man known as soshokukei (herbivorous). According to the talking heads and pop psychiatrists, the herbivore is more interested in his appearance, less interested in his career and increasingly passive with girls. The phrase was coined by writer Megumi Ushikubo back in 2007 and has caught on so much that some men now proudly describe themselves as herbivores without feeling any social shame. Typical herbivore pastimes include such things as cooking, clothes shopping and eating sweets, and naturally the older generation of carnivorous skirt-chasing careerists are appalled by this new tribe, seeing them as lazy and unwilling to take on the responsibilities of an adult man.

This year a popular TV series was launched depicting just such a man in crisis with his public identity and private desires. “Otomen” tells the story of Asuka Masamune. Adept at judo and karate he appears to be the toughest guy in high school, but behind closed doors he loves sewing and romantic manga. The manga that inspired the TV series was extremely popular, showing perhaps that the character struck a chord, albeit with the young girls at which the drama was aimed.

Continue reading about changing gender roles →

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