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The quest for love -

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The quest for love

Broadcast: 16/10/2009

Reporter: Mark Willacy

Japan's population is declining faster than any other nation on Earth, due in part to the failure
of the country's young people to go forth and multiply. Trying to reverse this trend are thousands
of match-making agencies and programs. One organisation has nearly 1 million young members, all
eager to find their perfect matches.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Japan's population is declining faster than any other nation on Earth, due
in part to the failure of the country's young people to go forth and multiply. Trying to reverse
this trend are thousands of match-making agencies and programs. From Tokyo, North Asia
correspondent Mark Willacy reports on the quest for love.

MARK WILLACY, REPORTER: Forget the candle-lit dinners at expensive restaurants; this is how the
lonely and the lovelorn in Tokyo now hope to find their perfect match, while filleting chicken and
dicing onions.

This is Konkatsu, the latest Japanese match-making craze, and this version combines cooking with
courting.

SHINOBU AHIKO, MATCHMAKER (voiceover translation): We can tell people's personalities by the way
they cook together. People can see whether their companions are caring people, if they help out in
the kitchen and wash dishes.

MARK WILLACY: Japanese men are not renowned for spending much time in the kitchen. But nursing
school teacher Akikazu Hatakeyama is willing to brave unfamiliar territory to find his true love.

AKIKAZU HATAKEYAMA, SINGLE (voiceover translation): I'm too shy to approach women so I hope this
type of gathering will help me show my true personality to women.

MARK WILLACY: It's been said that the path to a man's heart is through his stomach. Having tried
almost every other match-making tactic, 34-year-old Midori Shirozai has come tonight to continue
her quest to find a husband.

MIDORI SHIROZAI, SINGLE (voiceover translation): I'm in a hurry to marry and so I've attended many
drinking parties looking for a partner, but because my standards are too high, I haven't found
anyone. Then a work colleague told me about this cooking and match-making event.

MARK WILLACY: Demand for match-makers in Japan is surging. There are now 4,000 agencies devoted to
playing Cupid and more than a million young people have signed up seeking love.

SHINOBU AHIKO (voiceover translation): Because of a diversity of lifestyles, working hours have
become irregular and people often work late. So young people have trouble meeting people outside
their work.

MARK WILLACY: In a country where time is of the essence, what better way to meet a potential
partner than by speed dating? At these so-called coupling parties held across Japan, participants
get three minutes to make their pitch. When time's up, it's on to the next seat and the pitch
begins again.

Once upon a time in Japan, parents would arrange unions between young people, a custom which has
largely died out. But tonight, 200 mums and dads have gathered in Tokyo to try to arrange the
ultimate backroom merger.

Tazuko Yoshida is desperate. She's come to this parents' night out to find a wife for her
38-year-old son.

TAZUKO YOSHIDA, MOTHER (voiceover translation): I think my son has a problem. I think he's not
active enough. I'm looking for a woman for him who can cook and is kind.

MARK WILLACY: To do that, Mrs Yoshida has filled out the obligatory form which lists her son's age,
education, height, blood type and whether or not he's open to marrying a divorcee. She then haggles
with the parents of every prospective mate. Mrs Yoshida has located the mother of a good prospect
for her son. The woman pours over Mrs Yoshida's son's CV like someone studying the racing form
guide. Her verdict: not good enough for her daughter.

Down, but not out, Mrs Yoshida maintains her son is still a good catch.

TAZUKO YOSHIDA (voiceover translation): My son is very gentle. He is tender-hearted. Is that not
enough?

MARK WILLACY: Back at the cooking and match-making evening, there's no sign of a meddling mother or
a fretting father. Instead, the food is ready to eat and everyone is beginning to warm up and have
fun.

So what of our two young hopefuls seeking love?

AKIKAZU HATAKEYAMA (voiceover translation): I think this is a good way to meet people, but I won't
know if I've met the right person until the evening is over.

MIDORI SHIROZAI (voiceover translation): Well, I do have someone in mind who I feel good about, but
I don't know how he feels about me.

MARK WILLACY: For the match-makers, that's a start. The rest is up to them. Mark Willacy, Lateline.