When it comes to konkatsu (spouse-hunting), author Kensuke Ishigami knows whereof he writes. Divorced in his 40s, now 59, he has spent the better part of 15 years pursuing remarriage. He’s downloaded matching apps, trolled marriage sites, consulted marriage consultants, attended miai matching parties. His books tell his stories. They are rich in personal experience. Alas, he’s still single. His spirits are high, though. He’s still trying, still writing.
Marriage as an institution faces unprecedented challenges. Single life is now socially acceptable, and many are choosing it. Others would marry, barring financial constraints. Wages are low, costs high – especially the post-marriage costs of setting up a household and educating the kids. Marriage is increasingly considered an unaffordable luxury.
There’s much to be said, pro and con, about single life, but an epidemic like COVID-19 puts it under serious strain, says Spa! (Aug 31 – Sept 7). It notes a dramatic surge of konkatsu among middle-aged people. The tension of potential infection, enforced isolation, loss of jobs and business, with no end in sight after a year and a half, takes its toll – on all of us of course, but on the lonely in particular.
Spa! calls Ishigami “a middle-aged konkatsu addict.” Through various avenues he’s met and dated models, announcers, doctors, Ginza nightclub hostesses, even a yakuza’s former mistress. It’s exciting but fraught. Strange things happen.
Just recently, he says, he connected with a banker. She’s 41, comely, vivacious; they met for dinner, had a good time, arranged a second date. Before it happened he received a message from her via Line: “Damn you, you old creep!” How? Why? What had he done? He’s still shaking his head – and gamely preparing to go back to square one.
Several anecdotes of this kind lace Spa!’s article. Space limits us to one more. Why not a happy one?
Yu Maruyama (a pseudonym), still single as he entered his 40s (he’s 44 now) saw his parents, with whom he lived, preparing for retirement and thought he’d better move on in life. He’s in advertising, earning a respectable 5 million yen a year. Was his age a drawback? He saw it more as an asset – “I didn’t waste my time;” life had seasoned him as it can’t a younger man. Confident enough, he went forth. There was this rebuff and that failure to click – the usual setbacks, and then, at last, a hopeful encounter. The woman, six years younger, shared his interest in rakugo, traditional Japanese comic stories.
That, too, fizzled, and after only two weeks. Now Maruyama began to get discouraged. Previous encounters had aroused little enthusiasm in him. This one had been different, or seemed so, and to see it go up in smoke so quickly gave him pause. Maybe he just wasn’t the marrying kind.
Months passed, konkatsu abandoned. Then one evening – at a baseball game, baseball being his other absorbing interest – a friend said, “Let me introduce you to a friend of my wife’s.”
Maruyama shrugged. He wouldn’t say no, but said yes without much conviction.
This woman was 10 years younger, and cared nothing for either rakugo or baseball. Still, their first date was fun. A second followed. Then the coronavirus surged, the government declared an emergency, and conviviality went on hold. They kept in touch online, and somehow the thing blossomed. In June they were married. They’re doing fine. We join Spa! in wishing them well. There’s just one tender spot, Maruyama says – the age difference. His wife is a tactful woman, however, and has so far refrained from teasing him about his first gray hairs.© Japan Today