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Singles in Japan give online dating a miss, write letters to find 'the one'

Since 2020, when the project began, 450 people have signed up with around 70 percent in their 20s and 30s.

June 20, 2022 / 08:58 PM IST
Unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, with identifying details like their full name, job and address withheld -- and of course, no profile pics on display. (Screenshot from Miyazaki Koibumi YouTube video)

Unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, with identifying details like their full name, job and address withheld -- and of course, no profile pics on display. (Screenshot from Miyazaki Koibumi YouTube video)

If you are sick of swiping and trying to find your perfect match on dating sites and apps, a Japanese city's new and successful matchmaking scheme may have the answer for you -- write letters.

Singles in southern Japan's Miyazaki are being encouraged to put pen to paper in a low-tech search for their soulmate, part of municipal efforts to boost the low birth rate.

The charm of handwritten correspondence has attracted so many young residents that organisers have decided to expand the Miyazaki Koibumi (Miyazaki love letter) programme to other areas.

Compared to online dating, "it takes longer, and inspires you to imagine the person you're in communication with," said Rie Miyata, head of a local consulting firm commissioned to run the scheme.

"It's less about how good your penmanship is," she told AFP, "and more the fact that you write every single character sincerely and with care, thinking deeply about the person you're writing to."

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"That's what makes letters so powerful," she said.

Since 2020, when the project began, 450 people have signed up -- more than double authorities' initial estimates -- with around 70 percent in their 20s and 30s.

To participate, members must first register on an official website and add information about themselves such as their hobbies, favourite films, books, sports, and the age of the person they would want to exchange letters with.

The letter exchange management office then selects and matches two people who seem compatible based on the registered information. If both parties agree, they can communicate through the office, Japan's The Mainichi had reported.

One of the Miyazaki Koibumi project's distinctive feature is that the letters are dropped in to a yellow postbox that is said to bring happiness.

But unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, with identifying details like their full name, job and address withheld -- and of course, no profile pics on display.

"Looks are often a decisive factor" when searching for a partner, "but in letters, you are judged by your personality," Miyata said.

Letters are posted to the organisers, who give them a quick read to make sure the note contains no obscenities or insults before sending it on to the eager recipient.

There are, however, rules that members have to follow. They can write letters of up to two sheets on designated paper. A pair can send and receive letters up to five times without revealing their name or home address. If both parties wish to meet face to face, operators take care when exchanging contact information. After that, it is left up to the members, the Japanese publication had reported.

So far, 32 pairs have set up face-to-face meetings, with romance blooming for 17 couples who have started a relationship.

One participant, a 25-year-old Miyazaki resident, said the idea had brought back fond memories.

"As a kid, I used to write letters to the girl I had a crush on," the man, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.

"I like how old-fashioned letters are. That made me want to join the programme."

Despite the city's original approach, it's not unusual for local governments to fund matchmaking programmes in Japan, which has the world's oldest population and one of the lowest fertility rates.

In 2021, the number of babies born hit a new record low of 811,604, and women are now expected to have an average of 1.3 children in their lifetime, far below the rate needed to maintain a population.

(With inputs from AFP)
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first published: Jun 20, 2022 08:58 pm
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