Marriage, once taken pretty nearly for granted, is now one lifestyle choice among many. Economically poorer ages than the present one saw most people marrying regardless.
Today, many young people cite unsatisfactory financial prospects as a reason for remaining single. As of 2010, 34.6% of Japanese men and 22.2% of women in their late 30s were unmarried. That may be fine with them; it is not fine with their parents.
Parents tend to want to see their children settled. What can they do with grown children who have other ideas? Those who reflexively respond “Not a damn thing” are wrong. On the contrary, reports Shukan Post (June 26), parents lately are active as never before in the marriage market, seeking mates for their adult single offspring – with or without their knowledge or approval.
“Omiai” is the traditional term for the arranged first meeting of prospective marriage partners. More recently, “gokon” has taken over – mass parties organized by private and civic organizations to bring singles together. Now we are seeing the emergence of “parents’ omiai” and “parents’ gokon.” Parents come with photos and written descriptions of their marriageable children and pass them around. If the parents hit it off, so might the children. Wedding bells might ring yet, gladdening the hearts of parents in despair of ever hearing them.
Pioneer in the field is a Sapporo marriage consultancy called Office Ann, whose first parents’ omiai was held in November 2000. Since then they’ve gone national, with more than 160 events attended by 15,000-odd parents. Roughly half of them are mothers alone; 20% are fathers alone. The remaining 30% come as couples. Cost? Around 15,000 yen per person in Tokyo, closer to 10,000 yen in smaller centers.
How many get what they come for? “I couldn’t say precisely, but I would guess around 20%,” says Office Ann director Michiko Saito.
That sounds suspiciously high to Shukan Post. Another question, not considered here, would be how many of the children successfully married in this fashion will be thanking their parents, or cursing them, five or 10 years down the road. Be that as it may, some heart-warming stories do emerge, among them this one of a father aged 80 who, afraid that his shy 48-year-old son would never taste the joys of matrimony, attended a parents’ omiai in Osaka. Beginner’s luck? Maybe. Anyway, he met the parents of a 38-year-old woman, and the young people hit it off. So far – four years later – they are living happily ever after. May it continue.
“The important thing,” advises Saito, “is to not have an exaggerated estimation of your own child’s virtues. Keep your expectations within bounds. Children tend to demand a good academic record, perfect body, beautiful face. Realistically speaking, there’s no point in laying down conditions that aren’t likely to be met. Parents should say to their children, ‘Character is the most important thing. Be satisfied with someone you’ll be able to feel comfortable with.’”© Japan Today