[From July Issue 2011]
The term “konkatsu” which denotes the “matchmaking activities of an individual seeking a wedding partner” became common parlance approximately three years ago. Many private companies have helped build this industry, but in recent years, municipalities have also been participating proactively. Of them, Shinagawa Ward (Tokyo) is considered to be the industry’s pioneering municipality because it established the “Shinagawa Marriage Support” program in 2008. Three times a year the municipality partners up with O-net Inc. marriage service company to throw matchmaking events.
Each event starts with a seminar in which participants learn about their own personality type and how to communicate with the opposite sex, before the real party begins. “Before, we used to divide the men and women for the seminar. But now, we have all the participants attend the seminar together. Initially, these events were hosted at popular venues within the ward such as the aquarium, places which stimulated interaction. But after we combined the seminars, we saw that at the party the participants opened up quicker than before,” says KATO Toshiaki of O-net’s PR Group.
As of April 20, 2011, Akita Prefecture, which recorded the lowest marriage rate in Japan for 2009, introduced a data-based marriage matchmaking (omiai) system. Akita Prefecture established the “Akita Kekkon Shien (Wedding Support) Center” in 2010, to provide young men and women with information about matchmaking parties hosted by local companies. As a result, they have succeeded in bringing together a total of 5,400 party goers, with 11 couples reported to have tied the knot.
“Some question why the prefecture has to go so far. But because of Akita’s current situation, the government decided that there is a need to go this far in order to stop the declining annual birthrate. That is why the municipality decided to introduce the matchmaking system,” says KIMURA Masahiko. The supervisor for the Akita Prefecture Declining Birthrate Policy Team, explains, that, “Although the system aimed for 500 annual registrations, there were already 60 applications submitted a mere five days after the system launched. This number reflected the high interest of the local citizens in this kind of municipal service.
These matchmaking services have unparalleled trust from the users because they are hosted by the municipality. Additionally and on a positive note, since the local government provides monetary support for the service, the fees are affordable in comparison to those of private companies’. Hence, the choices in the field of konkatsu are now more varied. However, psychiatrist Dr. ONO Hiroyuki feels there are cases where people fall into a depressed state because they have a hard time finding a partner.
“During konkatsu activities an individual evaluates themself from many angles. Because of this, when the match does not work, one feels like the entire self is being rejected,” he explains. As a result, Dr. Ono has established the “konkatsu hirou gairai (matchmaking burnout care service)” at the Kawamoto Mental Clinic (Sumida Ward, Tokyo) where he is an advisor. Furthermore, he additionally learned that just visiting a mental health clinic has a negative impact on konkatsu activity, so he also set up a Skype counseling service.
To prevent becoming “konkatsu depressed,” Dr. Ono also advises people to find konkatsu friends of the same sex to talk to about their inner feelings with, and not to set severe limitations, such as a certain age by which to get married, etc. So in this day and age when konkatsu is no longer a trend, it seems that industry-related businesses have taken on greater roles, including municipal participation and mental health care.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo