One Japanese city hopes to help people find love through old-fashioned letter writing Photo: AFP/File

Yours sincerely: Singles charmed by Japan letter-writing scheme

By Tomohiro Osaki

Sick of swiping and tired of Tinder? Old-fashioned love letters may be the answer, says one Japanese city whose unusual matchmaking scheme has been a surprising success.

Singles in Miyazaki Prefecture are being encouraged to put pen to paper in a low-tech search for their soulmate, part of municipal efforts to boost the low birth rate.

The charm of handwritten correspondence has attracted so many young residents that organizers have decided to expand the program to people living farther afield.

Compared to online dating, "it takes longer, and inspires you to imagine the person you're in communication with," said Rie Miyata, head of a local consulting firm commissioned to run the scheme.

"It's less about how good your penmanship is," she told AFP, "and more the fact that you write every single character sincerely and with care, thinking deeply about the person you're writing to

"That's what makes letters so powerful," she said.

Since 2020, when the project began, 450 people have signed up -- more than double authorities' initial estimates -- with around 70 percent in their 20s and 30s.

Applicants are screened by Miyata's team and paired with potential suitors based on information they submit about themselves like their favorite films, books and sports.

But unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, with identifying details like their full name, job and address withheld -- and of course, no profile pics on display.

"Looks are often a decisive factor" when searching for a partner, "but in letters, you are judged by your personality," Miyata said.

Letters are posted to the organizers, who give them a quick read to make sure the note contains no obscenities or insults before sending it on to the eager recipient.

So far, 32 pairs have set up face-to-face meetings, with romance blooming for 17 couples who have started a relationship.

One participant, a 25-year-old Miyazaki resident, said the idea had brought back fond memories.

"As a kid, I used to write letters to the girl I had a crush on," the man, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP. "I like how old-fashioned letters are. That made me want to join the program."

Despite the city's original approach, it's not unusual for local governments to fund matchmaking programs in Japan, which has the world's oldest population and one of the lowest fertility rates.

In 2021, the number of babies born hit a new record low of 811,604, and women are now expected to have an average of 1.3 children in their lifetime, far below the rate needed to maintain a population.

© 2022 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Interesting idea but I’m too lazy and impatient for something like that. Seems like a pain. And yeah, pictures play a big part as most people are shallow to a certain degree. An unattractive woman could have a beautiful soul but it’s not gonna work if there is no physical attraction. And a beautiful woman may have an ugly personality and that also won’t work in the long run even if there is sexual chemistry. There’s a reason dating apps are so popular.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

A step in the right direction, as shown by its popularity. There’s been a focus in modern society on finding one’s soulmate, but no one marries their soulmate. When you marry, at that instant, you have become soulmates.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Sounds fun, anything is better than dating apps in Japan. People here only take pictures of the back of their hair, desserts, that one time they went to the beach, or pets in profiles. Completely wild why people even sign up if they can’t even muster a profile shot lol

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Sounds fun, anything is better than dating apps in Japan. People here only take pictures of the back of their hair, desserts, that one time they went to the beach, or pets in profiles. Completely wild why people even sign up if they can’t even muster a profile shot lol

and when the japanese actually show their faces in a picture on SNS, everyone else's eyes/faces are blurred/censored with black boxes etc. including children, not totally creepy.

But I like this idea of love letters without pictures, a great way to know each other (like in penpal times) and after all, its not like the people here are remarkably different from each other in terms of looking

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It’s difficult to imagine how this would work in a culture like Japan’s, where collectivist tendencies extend even to hobbies and preferences. So many people I’ve met say their favorite things are “tasty food”, “cute cafe”, and “outdoors”. How people can select partners based on that is a mystery to me. But then again, maybe they just try it out. I believe people could be in successful relationships with almost anyone if they were open minded enough - arranged marriages can be more just as successful, if not more, than traditional, for example. Perhaps that’s a strength of this letter writing approach.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I write the letters,that make a Sweet Japanese Princess,heart sing

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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