Social Issues

Anonymous love letters: alternatives to Japanese dating apps

By Edurne Morillo and Yoko Kaneko

Tokyo, Aug 19 (EFE).- With a highly aging population and a birth rate at historic lows, a Japanese city has decided to take action and promote a more traditional method to find love: taking pen and paper and writing letters to potential suitors.

The project, launched by the city of Miyazaki, asks its young people to find a partner in a much more traditional and analogous way: writing a letter, instead of simply swiping right or left on dating applications.

“I thought that people would perceive it as something old, but during the pandemic it went very well, since young people see it as something new that they have never done before,” said Rie Miyata, director of a local consultancy in charge of the project who is also part of the team that unites couples by their interests and personality.

About 500 people, 60 percent women and 40 percent men, have been encouraged to send a letter and 17 couples have already formed. Although wedding bells are not ringing yet, the organization considers this figure a success.

Under the name “Koibumi” (love letters), the process is open to everyone, including people who do not currently reside in Miyazaki, as they also seek to revitalize the area and there are also no age limits to participate.

Singles must first fill out a list of preferences and hobbies, including, for example, their favorite films or books, and three times a year, the organization matches these people and allows them to send up to 5 letters before deciding if they want to meet in person.

Unlike most dating sites and apps that rely heavily on appearance, “Koibumi” prohibits the use of photos, encouraging those who are insecure about their appearance or shy, hoping participants base their decision on personality and not only physical appearance.

After the exchange of letters and once both parties decide to meet, the people meet in front of a mailbox, painted yellow to make it easily recognizable, and have their first date.

After it, the organizers of the project interview them individually to find out if they want to continue knowing the person or not, although according to Miyata, only on one occasion did a person say that they did not want to see the other again.

“Now that visual information dominates us and the birth rate is low, we wanted to create a project that is warm and gives people with an interest in falling in love the courage to go out and do it,” Miyata said.

Japan registered a historical low in births in 2021, with a total of 811,604, according to government data, which reflects the aging trend in the country, also accentuated during the pandemic.

This figure represents the lowest documented so far since the Japanese Health Ministry began to record these data in 1899, and is also in line with the number of marriages.

In 2021, 501,116 nuptials were registered in the archipelago, about 25,000 fewer than the previous year, reaching its lowest level after World War II and prompting some prefectures to seek “konkatsu” methods or activities to find a wife or husband.

The southern prefectures of Miyazaki and Kagoshima are pioneering projects to promote weddings, where single people are 49.1 percent and 49.9 percent between 30 and 34 years old, respectively, according to data from the Japanese Interior Ministry. In Tokyo, this figure would reach 58.8 percent.

In addition to “Koibumi,” the Miyazaki government has founded a marriage assistance center, where meetings and events are organized to find a partner and from which some 116 have already left, according to data from January.

Kagoshima also founded a similar center in 2017, where encounters are facilitated and some 56 couples have come out of it, while other local governments are now exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence for this very purpose. EFE


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