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“It’s a culture that still prizes indirectness and a greater level of subtlety.”But I’m more interested in sites designed explicitly to match couples.So I decide to try out Pairs, a dating application linked to Facebook that, along with Match Alarm, Niku Kai, and Yahoo Omiai, is one of the country’s most popular.On a recent trip there, I often asked people if they or their friends were involved with web dating, and time and again they shook their heads.Widening their eyes, they blushed, as if I’d said something dirty and controversial.Given Japan’s dating and demographic crisis, why the squeamishness about meeting in cyberspace?To understand Japanese dating sites, the first thing you need to realize is that many don’t seem like dating sites at all.Its birthrate is among the lowest on earth, and the number of marriages is in decline.
The country is in the middle of something of a sex crisis.Pairs presents itself modestly; its website is covered with Western-style wedding dresses and veils.Yet the messages the app sends your inbox don’t sound as wholesome. Models, nursery school teachers, nurses, nutritionists, college students, office ladies [receptionists]–we’ve got them all! It quickly reassures me that “You won’t see your Facebook friends in Pairs” and “Facebook won’t show your history of searches in Pairs.” It may as well have said, “We know you’re ashamed of using our business, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.”“Our design is more for women,” says Takeru Kawashita, marketing chief of Pairs. “She actually messaged me first,” says the software engineer, who’s now 23 and working at a web startup in Tokyo [names of daters in this piece have been changed to protect their privacy].
But I wasn’t really attracted to her in person, so I said no.”Onuki is a rarity in Japan: Somebody who will openly discuss meeting romantic partners online.When they finish school, many people find that it suddenly becomes extremely tough to make new friends.