Welcome to Tokyo Meet Market

Miai: match making

Posted on: February 19, 2009

Miai, (literally “looking at each other”) or is a Japanese custom whereby unattached individuals are introduced to each other to consider the possibility of marriage.

The practice of miai emerged in 16th century among the Samurai class to form and protect strong military alliances among warlords to ensure mutual support. Later, during the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868) the practice of Miai spread to other urban classes trying to emulate Samurai customs. After the Pacific War, the trend was to abandon this restrictive arranged-marriage system, in favor of more Western ideals of love marriages. Currently, only 10-30% of marriages in Japan are arranged and love marriages are the social norm.

However, parents and children of bourgeois family deeply wish to maintain the social standard and life style of Japanese bourgeois family by finding an appropriate partner with the same or higher social status.  Ideally, the couple and their families should be of equal social status. Therefore, though love marriages are considered ideal in the society, the main concept of miai, to be introduced to an eligible single man/woman and to objectively select the initial criteria with marriage in mind, are still favored and practiced casually by majority of the young people.

The criteria used in the match making practice have not changed greatly.
The candidates and their families are judged on a large set of criteria aimed at determining the suitability and the balance of the marriage. This criteria is formally known in Japan as iegara (family background) which  include:

  • level of education, particularly the name brand of the university attended
  • level of income
  • occupation and status
  • physical attractiveness
  • social standing
  • hobbies
  • bloodline (family disease history)

Many Japanese women look for three attributes: height, high salary, and high education, commonly known as “The Three H” syndrome. What about the fourth H attribute, for great H!? (H in Japanese means sex)

These criteria of a good partner are so ingrained in everyone’s mind … that you would hear this kind of conversation all the time….

Girl 1: “Why do you look so happy?”
Girl 2: “I met someone and I’m so happy, I think we are in love”
Girl 1: “Oh, what does he do? What’s the name of the company he works for?”

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What is Tokyo Meet Market?

From the Western perspective, what goes on in the Japanese dating scene is really different and interesting! In this shy nation of Japan, meeting new people is almost institutionalized, dating and romance is littered with conventions that protect people from social awkwardness. What are dating conventions and rules in Japan? How do the shy Japanese people meet new people, develop affection, and express their passion? As I research and answer these question, I will write a real time report of what's going on in the Tokyo dating scene, or the "Tokyo Meet Market" here in this blog. I hope you enjoy my blog and a trip around Tokyo Meet Market with me!

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