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Friday, June 9, 2006

Dating agencies go after parents

Worried moms and dads take classes to prod kids to wed

Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — The number of people marrying later in life or not at all is growing, contributing to the declining birthrate, and now parents must step in and apply pressure to motivate their offspring to seek out nuptial partners, professional matchmakers say.

News photo
Dating expert Kiyoharu Ohashi lectures parents with single children in Yokohama in May.

Kiyoharu Ohashi, head of Bridegroom School, a Nagoya-based nonprofit group that gives dating advice, said that without the community pressuring young people to marry before it's too late, as was a traditional practice in the past, it's up to parents to instigate matchmaking.

"The current marriage situation is tougher than many of you may think," Ohashi told a recent gathering of parents whose offspring are still single. "You can't leave it up to your children. You have to persuade them to consider an arranged marriage.

"Marriage is about age," he told the seminar put on by Wish Consult K.K., which runs the matchmaking service Marriage Club Wish Yokohama. "You may be able to fall in love at the age of 50 or 60, but the older you get, the lower the chances of getting married."

Seminars on finding a mate generally target men, teaching them the basics of approaching and talking to members of the opposite sex.

But now, there are many talks focusing on parents worried that their single offspring might never tie the knot.

The 15 parents who attended the recent seminar in Yokohama sighed and nodded in agreement as they listened to Ohashi's hourlong talk.

"I am going to talk it over with my son," said one mother, who asked not to be named. She said her 36-year-old son "has never wanted to talk about (marriage) whenever I try to bring it up."

She said one thing that worries her is what will happen to him if he gets sick later in life and doesn't have a spouse to care for him.

Another woman said her 44-year-old son, who lives with her, works with male colleagues and sleeps through his weekends "just like Mr. Ohashi described" in the lecture.

Ohashi told the worried parents that more women — described as well-paid and spending their money on hobbies, clothes and trips abroad — don't want to lower their standard of living by getting married.

Meanwhile, men's salaries are not rising as much as they used to. Many devote most of their time to work and rarely go out on weekends, preferring to sleep in. He warned that their lifestyles were depriving them of opportunities to meet potential partners.

According to a 2000 survey conducted by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, 12.6 percent of men and 5.8 percent of women aged 50 had never married, compared with 3.3 percent of men and 1.7 percent of women in a similar survey conducted in 1970.

Marriage Club Wish Yokohama started holding the parent seminars in April, after seeing that parents played a big role in persuading their offspring to get married.

Wish Consult President Akira Yasui said many singles come to the Marriage Club with their parents and, in some cases, the parents come alone. He said the firm decided to start focusing on the parents as they appeared to be more concerned about their single offspring.

"Singles, especially men, tend to be shy about going to a matchmaking firm either because they are too busy with their work or too proud," Yasui said. "But if they don't, they may eventually miss out on a chance to get married."

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