On Jan 1, Japanese pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki announced her marriage to Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz. The marriage was culminated after a whirlwind romance of just five months.
Since Hamasaki resides in Japan and Schwarz in the U.S., the couple had only met on a few occasions before tying the knot. Schwarz, moreover, speaks no Japanese. How did they keep the embers of their romance glowing while half a world apart? According to Nikkan Gendai (Jan 12), it was through emails and Twitter messages that Hamasaki sent to her beau in English.
"One can assume the couple didn't come to their decision after long deliberation," says a reporter for a woman's magazine. "And they apparently have no plans at the moment to live together."
While Hamasaki's courtship may be somewhat unusual for a celebrity, courtships via the web by ordinary individuals have become increasingly common occurrences.
Nevertheless, some resistance to such "virtual encounters" may persist in Japan. A survey conducted by marriage information magazine ZEXY found that only 4.7% of respondents said they had made their initial encounter via the Internet.
"Through exchanges of emails, it's natural for feelings of love to develop," says journalist Tetsuya Shibui, author of "Web Love" (2006, Chikuma Shinsho). "Actually, more than face-to-face encounters, it's easier for people to be open to their partner, and at the same time, it's easier to fantasize about them. With conventional romances, through repeated dating people become more familiar with their partners, but by use of emails, the next time they meet feelings of familiarity tend to be intensified."
"But it's a two-edged sword Shibui adds. "Because the emails tend to heighten expectations, when the actual meeting turns out to be a disappointment it can put a real damper on the relationship."
The body of a person in love secretes dopamine (associated with the reward system of the brain), phenethylamine (related to the so-called "chocolate theory of love") and other enzymes that impart a pleasurable sensation, which is why people in the throes of a romance are too giddy to take sensible advice from their parents or friends.
Likewise, emails may discourage their recipients from making rational judgments. Take the recent case of a female office worker, who over a period of seven years remitted a total of 130 million yen she'd embezzled from her company to a man she only knew via email. It was not until her trial that she met her dream lover for the first time, and he turned out to be short, pudgy and bearded -- nothing at all like the photos of a male magazine model he had been sending her, claiming to be him.
Author Shibui is convinced that people in their 30s are particular vulnerable to mail romances.
"The more active the person, the shallower their human relationships tend to be," he says. "For example, in many cases, no matter how many connections they make via attending matchmaking parties, they get nowhere in their romances. By contrast, corresponding via the Internet makes it easier for them to pinpoint their targets, and incrementally increase romantic feelings.
"It would seem that more than four mails a day elevate the sense of familiarity. During the daytime, the free community sites with chat functions, like Amoeba Pig or Excite Friends are full of women in their 30s and 40s, searching for companionship."
The Internet can be a convenient tool, but it's definitely not the place to let one's hormones run wild, Nikkan Gendai remarks.© Japan Today