Friday, April 24, 2009

She was of a marriageable age

年頃 So I think congratulations are in order - according to my Japanese teacher I am now of a marriageable age! You all know how much it must have thrilled me to hear that because I have been just waiting to be declared of a ripe age for getting hitched. She was so subtle about it too. After catching up on my recent trip to the continent she asked how it was seeing my family and then out of nowhere, was my father in particular worried about me? Sensei then elaborated on how she thought he must be worried about me living here by myself and basically wondering what the hell I am doing, especially in light of the fact that I am toshi goro or of a marriageable age. I laughed at her and explained there were no such worries and that if I did go ahead and get married at a young age, that would be more of a cause for concern to my parents. Isn't it funny that only a few years ago my friend and I were having in depth discussions about the downfalls of dating men over 30 and I am now discussing marriage strategy with my teacher in Japan?! (And, ahem, living with a man over 30 and finding no downfalls.)

This brief chat with my sensei could not have come at a more coincidental time as it was just last month at a Kaisha mixer that one of the Professionals (the one who always gives me chocolate and doesn't know how to end a dying conversation) took it upon himself to teach me a new word: kon katsu, a contraction of the longer term kekkon katsudo, which refers to the activities undertaken by one in search of a marriage partner. Similar to shushoku katsudo which is the name given to recruiting activities participated in by college students looking for their first job, kon katsu are the recruiting activities undertaken by singles looking for their first husband/wife.

From what I can tell, engaging in kon katsu involves taking a business-like approach to finding someone to mate with and will even involve paying a matchmaking service to set you up with other singles who meet your requirements. You then have interviews, I mean dates, and if all goes according to plan you will have completed a successful M&A transaction by the next fiscal year.

Now maybe it is all just a big coincidence but I am in my 25th year, which means I am going to go down in value after next year according to the Christmas Cake Rule. Despite congratulating myself on the fact that these silly Japanese rules are not applicable to me, perhaps I was wrong and those around me are subtly trying to marry me off. Or urge me towards marriage recruitment activities. Maybe not though, as I can remember my Japanese friends asking me when I was 22, 23 whether I wanted to marry the beau. Where I come from that isn't usually one of the first questions asked of another's gentleman friend. I remember feeling taken aback on numerous occasions when girls I had barely met started popping that question to me but now it rarely elicits a blink.

Never one to shy away from some light research, I found some interesting things about kon katsu and choosing a mate in general here in Japan. First the basics: in 2000 the average age of first marriage in Japan was 28.8 for men and 27 for women (for comparison's sake, in Canada it was 34.3 for men and 31.7 for women). Among some interesting lists of essential characteristics in a potential mate, there was this one:

- Non-smoker

- Can carry me [apparently she is a bit tall and wants to know her husband can carry her in a medical emergency]

- Has lived in a country where a language other than their native one is used

- Can speak more than two languages or is studying them

- Wants children right away

- Believes mothers belong at home [She was a latchkey kid]

- Won't cheat

- Places the husband/wife relationship above that with children

- Same interests

- Laughs at similar things

- Deeply involved in the children's education

- Likes to eat

- Smarter than me

- Good at telling jokes

- Can have a discussion without fighting and can accept that the other may have a different opinion

- Likes to dance

I wonder if that list was the product of one night's work...She has been married and has one daughter now in case you were wondering. The List, what a concept. Who is to say that method is any worse than just falling in love before knowing whether you partner can carry you or is smarter?!

I next looked to an article about how men and women are matching up these days according to their academic background and salary. Interestingly, the article says that young women planning to marry rich in the future best improve their mind and intellect over their physical appearance. Needless to say I was surprised. Japanese men are looking for women they can depend on and who can also bring home the bacon, not just sit at home polishing their nails. After surveying 525 women in their thirties and forties with university degrees, they found a surprising 61% to be single and 39% to have a partner. However, when they divided the results by salary, for the group of women making over 6 million yen, the percentages were almost the reverse of the entire group ones. What does this mean? Well the article says it means that career women making money are the most successful ones in finding love, or at least a partner.

The survey indicated in other figures that there is a tendency for income-earning men to marry income-earning women in a similar income bracket. Of women making more than 8 million yen, 75% of them had husbands making more than 8 million. You get the picture, rich men are marrying women with income of a certain level, not tending to go for women with low salaries. Someone from a marriage consulting agency is quoted in the article saying that men nowadays want wives close to their lifestyle, women who enjoy conversation and similar interests and who can contribute to an affluent lifestyle, rather than the "traditional" model where the man makes money and the woman is primarily at home, not earning money and probably not "out" in society as an income-earner would be. That's right ladies, we are being advised to "level-up" if we want to snag a rich one.

It's a jungle out there people. There are lots of more riveting statistics about how academic history also figures in, but I must leave it there for a cocoon bar awaits me in Shibuya this evening. I will end this by saying that despite being at my peak this year, I will continue to forge on as foreign salarygirls before me have (well, maybe not that many) and enjoy my non-conditional life with the beau, while the rest of Japan loses its head over marriage recruitment activities.

On a side note, there is a new dorama on Fuji starting this week called Kon katsu. Maybe this will help me gain insight into this fascinating mating practice.


Rydangel said...

i wonder if these arranged marriages last longer(without either spouse cheating)than the plain old fall in love,get married, and have a baby type. fortunately, my family has finally given up on both me and my sister getting married. we've both been in a long-term relationship. she just "shacked up" i'm just doing the friends with benefits". but after bringing him to 3 family reunions. i had to start leaving him at home, because the "when are you going to tie the knot and have a baby" questions were getting a bit tiresome. the sad part is, i started bringing him to distract my family from enumerating on all my many faults and to stop them from arranging blind dates for me. forr example- "look who stop by, it's {insert name}. he likes{insert subject} you should go out and show him around. you 2 would be good together". but for the 6 years it lasted, the silence was beautiful.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

I would hazard a guess that it depends on what each person's expectation is getting into it. Some people might expect to love the other person in time, while other may look at it more as a business transaction or for upping Japan's flagging population. Either way marriages are falling apart here a lot more than they used to, not as much as the US but I'm sure they will catch up soon enough!

How do you deal with those kinds of pressures? I've never really gotten than from anyone so it was strange to come here and suddenly be talking about marriage with everyone and their uncle.