Omiai and Miai-gekkon, Arranged Marriages in Japan
Miai-gekkon, arranged marriages is still a prevailing custom in Japan. Miai-gekkon is an alternative to love marriage, which seems to be ideal for some. However, the marriage proposal known as omiai has many benefits that are still considered worthy.
One is that through omiai person can learn many facts about large numbers of potential partners. Although one can accept the proposal, one can refuse also without having to face the embarassing situation.
Also, omiai includes parents into making the selection so they really can't complain later. And perhaps most importantly, omiai eliminates the need for seeking the right one and being perhaps rejected. Many men in Japan choose omiai because of this. It is even sometimes heard from man in Japan that "dating would be so uncomfortable because I would have to figure out so many things".
The process of omiai begins by contacting nakodo, a go-between. Nakodo is not a matchmaker and doesn't charge for his/her services. It's just someone who wants to help out of his/her goodwill. In the old times, nakodo was that distant aunt in the family who paid sometimes too much worry of the children's life. This was very clearly displayed in Yasujiro Ozu's movies, especially in Banshun "Late Spring. Nakodo will also sometimes pay part of the cost of the weddings.
The omiai meeting itself is usually a formal meeting in where first the both parties, including their parents have dinner or food together. Sometimes nakodo comes along to this meeting. Most commonly they will wear formal clothes. Some choose to wear kimono and some a western suit. After this they might have coffee or drink.
Then, parents will leave the potential couple to spend some time together, walking in a park or so. What happens then is their choice. Although there might be some pressures from parents, they are free to do what they want. If they choose to get married, then that marriage will be called Miai-gekkon.
Today's Japan, 40% of Japanese women remain unmarried at the age of 29. And now since Japanese women are becoming more self sufficient, having their own jobs and independent lives, it is feared that the marriage rate is reaching alarmingly low. This will naturally have impact for the birth rate, thus making Japanese worried.
Omiai is often portrayed in Japanese TV drama and is seen as a beautiful custom.
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