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The Everything Japanese Guide






marriage interview 

One of the enduring myths about Japan is that women are forced into “arranged marriages.” There is indeed a tradition of parents arranging introductions to suitable marriage partners; but Japanese women have historically had the right of refusal.  

Nonetheless, many Japanese marriages have begun through “arranged” introductions. Most Japanese professionals work extremely long hours, and they don’t have a lot of time to spend in bars and other nightspots, waiting for a “perfect stranger” to see them from across a crowded room. Although both men and women have personal freedom in regard to romantic matters, the Japanese do approach courtship somewhat pragmatically by Western standards.  

When a man or woman decides that it is time to marry, he or she will actively seek introductions through friends, relatives, and coworkers. Japanese seem to enjoy playing the role of matchmaker, or nakōdo ( 仲人); and the matchmaker will exercise considerable effort to match the romantic hopeful with someone whose looks, background, education, and career prospects are a good fit. 

The first meeting between the two prospective lovebirds—known as an o-miai—takes place in an upscale restaurant or similar location. The matchmaker usually attends this first meeting, as the matchmaker still has some important work to do. He or she provides an initial face-to-face introduction, and then gets the conversational ball rolling. (Many an o-miai would consist of a couple eating in silence if not for the prompting of the matchmaker.) Of equal importance is the matchmaker’s role following the o-miai. If there is a mutual interest in continuing the relationship, the matchmaker will be the bearer of good tidings. On the other hand, if one party rejects the other, the matchmaker will gently communicate the bad news. 


There is also an extensive “introduction” industry in Japan. Unlike its American counterpart—the dating service industry—the Japanese o-miai agencies flourished before the internet, and were widely used by social fast-trackers. There was never a sense of “desperation” associated with using an o-miai service. 

Another important difference between the American and Japanese introduction field is the intentions of the average customer. Whereas a member of an American dating service may have very casual objectives, the goal of a Japanese o-miai agency customer is to find a marriage partner.