Japan Today
Image: CyberAgent Inc

Tongue-tied singles turn to high-tech matchmaking services to help break the ice

By Luke Mahoney, grape Japan

Dating is hard, especially early on. It's awkward, stressful, and expensive. I would know. If there were video footage of any of my many first dates, they could likely be used as torture in some countries. So many unfunny jokes. So much sweating.

I doubt I'm alone. Speed dating parties, matchmaking services, and apps like Tinder clearly serve a need helping lonely individuals to connect. This is even more so the case in Japan, where typically reserved singles often struggle to form intimate relationships.

Indeed, dating is increasingly difficult for younger generations. With busy schedules and long commutes commonplace, overworked employees barely have time to rest, let alone find a significant other. Burdened by responsibilities, an increasing number of young people are giving up on love and resigning to solitude, possibly becoming so-called "parasite singles." Some, on the other hand, are turning to their parents to help find a mate.

The situation seems dire. According to a 2017 Yomeishu survey, 60 percent of single women are not interested or feel unable to involve themselves in a romantic relationship. Like their male counterparts, they are overworked and too exhausted to engage in activities outside of work.

According to the Japan Times, many appear to have sadly given up on love. By and by, working women feel reluctant to "waste time" on dating opportunities they feel won't lead anywhere. Men, on the other hand, express more of an interest in dating but are reluctant to get hitched. They feel that marriage will burden them with responsibilities they are too busy to shoulder.

Despite all the bad news, Japanese singletons still entertain the notion of "true love." Historically, arranged marriages were common here. While single people struggle to find the opportunity to date, only a minority currently continue the tradition. Rather, most are instead looking to konkatsu (matchmaking parties) and speed-dating parties to fill the gap and help them find that special someone. A sign the future is upon us, lovelorn individuals in lockdown are meeting virtually while shier singles are turning to AI-powered bots to do the talking for them.

Matchmaking Parties Turn High-Tech

Over the last decade, perennially single adults have increasingly turned to matchmaking services such as matchmaking parties as they search for a partner. These events are held at upscale venues such as hotels and provide the lovelorn a chance to mingle over finger food and drinks. Participants are screened, and certain requirements like employment status and salary are often stipulated.

During the current pandemic, although in-person parties have been canceled, the need has not decreased. Respecting the need to maintain social distancing, matchmaking services like LMO Corp are using Zoom to hold their parties online. Although the service was available before the lockdown, sparsely attended events jumped in popularity in March and April.

According to the LMO President, Kota Takada, "Following the virus outbreak, we were set to cancel a face-to-face matchmaking scheduled for March, but it suddenly came to my mind to hold it in a virtual format." The quick decision seemingly paved dividends as hundreds have joined LMO's online parties in recent months.

Japan is experiencing a rapid decline in fertility as single people struggle to find the time to meet. As such, Takada predicts that this shift online will persist even after the lockdown has ended. He remarked, “[Online matchmaking parties] are no different from usual parties, except that participants see others through their screens. I believe people in fact find them convenient and relaxing because they don’t need to go to the venue.” As workaholic young people typically prefer to stay in on their day off, he may just be right.

AI Assisted Speed Dating

LMO Corp is not the only matchmaking service leveraging technology to bring individuals together. Contents Innovation Program launched a 2019 event that employed AI robotics bridging the gap between tongue-tied daters.

The event centered around RoBoHon, a charmingly cute miniature droid developed by CyberAgent and Sharp. Participants answered a 40-question survey and loaded their responses into the droid. As singles "mingled," a pair's robots openly discussed their "client's" history. If the daters liked what they heard, they had the option of initiating a real conversation.

Apparently participants found some value in using RoBoHon as a wingman. Speed-daters didn't have to worry about overselling themselves, but rather could focus on listening and learning about others. One participant remarked, "It was easy because the robot explained everything about me, and I didn't have to say anything during multiple interactions." The event ended with four couples finding love.

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© grape Japan

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The Japanese dating world is so pathetic.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Burning BushToday 06:51 am JST

What a dystopian article.

Feminism taught women to put their "careers" first and love second.

Let's see how much satisfaction they get in life from that philosophy.

To the contrary - the real problem in Japan is that gender roles are so restrictive that men can't see any way around chaining themselves to a desk in order to afford to support a wife who doesn't work, and women see no other choice than to forgo a family if they also want a career.

The ideal would be less restrictive gender roles that allowed men to take paternity leave, and women to continue to work after marriage and childbirth.

Did you know that studies show the gender pay gap is only partly the result of sexual discrimination? It's basically a mommy tax. Women who have to take time away from work to take care of children get way behind in their careers. That wage gap is even wider in Japan because men almost never take a share of the household responsibilities, forcing women out of the office and into the home.

The aim of feminism is giving people more choices. Look at Iceland as a good example of what feminists are actually aiming for.

And come on - don't put careers in ".." as if women don't have real careers. That's just rude.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Having had several high school students over the years I can say this has nothing to do with work or stressed out lives, etc. Many people just can’t communicate. They don’t know how to. Many need some good juice in their system to open up. Even taking something like explaining elements of their culture such as why do Japanese celebrate New Years in their home town, many cannot answer. This problem extends itself into many facets of life. Let’s memorize; no need to understand. We have many stories. We need a change of education from the roots.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

talaraedokkoToday 10:50 am JSTHaving had several high school students over the years I can say this has nothing to do with work or stressed out lives, etc. Many people just can’t communicate. They don’t know how to. Many need some good juice in their system to open up. Even taking something like explaining elements of their culture such as why do Japanese celebrate New Years in their home town, many cannot answer. This problem extends itself into many facets of life. Let’s memorize; no need to understand. We have many stories. We need a change of education from the roots.

It can also be a matter of upbringing as well. My own father didn't tell me anything valuable about women or dating.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Strict adherence to out of date gender roles is the biggest problem, It fails both men and women who feel they have to live up to impossible ideals that they aren’t comfortable with in the first place. Also, the generally appalling communication skills many people have. I think it’s worse with younger people who communicate mostly through their phones and not through talking and reading body language. In my experience those under thirty have no idea how to engage in small talk with people who they don’t know. They just stay silent and, yes, start playing with their phone.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Burning Bush

Countries that maintain natural gender roles have the highest birth rates by far. All the countries that try to "let's get women focused on their careers" thing have dismal birthrates.

Exactly. Those countries with high birth rates are very often cultures with high levels of inequality, high levels of poverty, and high material and child death rates, because too many children is bad for women physically and puts families in poverty.

Birth control allows women to control their fertility.

Women who have the choice between a career, a family, and a family with a career are far more fulfilled than women who aren’t given any choices.

Moreover, men cannot produce human breastmilk, which is by far the healthiest food for infants. The actually act of suckling on a mother's breast also builds love, empathy and bonding between child and parent. Stay-at-home dads can't provide that in the same capacity as mothers can.

Of course! That’s why maternity leave is so very, very important.

Sorry to admit it but nature meant for mothers to be the primary rearers of children.

This is merely a personal opinion and not scientific fact.

it’s fine if someone personally choses to work while their wife/partner stays home with the children.. But don’t advocate that for every woman. We don’t all want that, and sorry, but you ain’t the boss of us.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Burning BushToday 03:31 pm JST

That's a matter of opinion and I'm sorry, you ain't the boss of everyone.

No, it's not a matter of opinion. It is a fact that giving women a choice leads to greater fulfillment.

I don't see how advocating for everyone being given a choice is trying to "be the boss of everyone". It seems to me that advocating for giving people a choice is the opposite of dictating one way to everyone. :)

There are plenty of advantages to marrying early and having many children.

Yes, there are. But there are also advantages to having one child, or never having children at all. Factors that need to be considered when individuals are weighing the advantages and disadvantages include whether or not someone wants children, income level, and whether help with childcare is available, among others.

In cultures where people marry at 20 and start having children soon, boys and girls are raised by 3 or sometimes 4 generations. A girl's grandmother is 45, and still strong and healthy. Her mother is 22 so her body is very fit and can provide ample nutrients to her via breast milk and she has tonnes of strength and energy to take care of her.

Well, generally yes, though I would point out that there are very few places in the world where 3 or even 4 generations live together. In addition older mothers' breast milk actually has higher fat content, which is better for babies - I googled that, since I was genuinely curious and I wanted to know whether your claim was accurate. As it turns out, there aren't many studies on the subject at all. It doesn't seem to be of any great concern.

The simple, traditional way of life is not all bad. For many people it beats the corporate slave thing where you end up getting married at 45 and raise 1 kid who has no brothers or sisters.

No doubt that is true for some women. My younger sister has wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since forever, and got a degree in childhood education and was a nanny for years before having her own baby. Now she is very happy stay-at-home mom. We are pretty much opposites in our lifestyles, but we get on great since neither of us have any need to judge the other for her personal choices. And I love being an aunt. :)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

marcelitoToday 03:05 pm JST

While I,m all for equality I think its hard to argue that "nature intending women to be primary child rearers " is not a scientific / biological fact as Burning Bush says.

Burning Bush is wrong. There is no scientific consensus that "women are better at child rearing than men". It is totally dependent on the individual person. The only reason people still think this is because of the culture they were raised in. There are cultures in which men are the primary carers, and to those cultures that is "natural".

The definition of the word "natural" seems to be "what tradition tells us is true" and has little to do with actual scientific findings.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's a scientific fact that humans are mammals and thus it is the female of the species that births children.


Babies spend 9 months inside their mother's body connected to it via the umbilical cording and sharing the same blood.


Then babies are reared from warm, fresh breastmilk that only the females of the species can provide.


There are also plenty of studies that show that babies have a stronger bond with their mother than their father, because of the biological connection.

That’s true directly after birth, but it’s not necessarily going to be the case in the long term. It’s also not going to be the case when the baby’s mother isn’t in the picture, whether because she’s died or another reason. So really, it’s a moot point.

Men can never replace motherhood, no matter how hard they try.

Well, men aren’t trying to replace mothers, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to make an argument for?

In fact, your overall point isn’t clear since none of this is even in dispute.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

To Girl in Tokyo: It is a pleasure to read your intelligent and accurate comments.

Thank you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Countries that maintain natural gender roles have the highest birth rates by far. 

Um, Japan?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The nearest guy in the photo is NOT dressed for a date.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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