Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blind Date - Japanese Style

I’ve been reading about omiai - お見合い (arranged blind date) on the net and scratching my head. One of my close friend arranges omiai and seriously, the stuff on the net and the reality couldn’t be more different. But I guess, this is exactly what happens when articles on wikipedia are written by people who have never seen the actual process in real life and instead base their entries on fancy “scientific” research, books and other second-hand materials. I’ve always thought it was only the case with travel entries (regurgitated, out of date guidebook info), but apparently, it’s a common wikipedia disease and other topics are not immune either.

Anyway, we were supposed to talk about omiai. And if you want the official cultural, historical and social anthropology info, by all means, go to wikipedia. But if you want to know how omiai really functions these days, keep reading.

My friend is something called “nakodo” - 仲人、which basically is a fancy Japanese term for a matchmaker. Last weekend she set up a blind date for two total idiots, and despite her best efforts, the match didn’t work out.

The woman was a 36-year old pharmacist. A typical vapid, shallow, high-maintenance Japanese, who selects her friends based on the number of Gucci bags they own and the stores they shop at. Her attitude towards her fellow human beings goes a long way toward explaining why at the age of 36 a pretty woman like her is still single. She’s also dumb as a doornail. For the blind date she showed up at a hotel in a totally different town, about an hour away from the actual meeting place. Well, at least it was still in the same prefecture! And really, I’m kind of nervous that this person works as a pharmacist at a major Tokyo hospital. I can only hope that her ability to fill prescriptions is better than her ability to read email and follow directions. When she and her Gucci bag finally made it to the right town and the right hotel, the guy and my friend had been waiting for her for over an hour.

She eventually showed up, sat down and fully expected to be treated like a Gucci bag carrying queen that she was.

How about the guy? Imagine a 40-year old never married engineer. Yeah, I know, the word “geek” just doesn’t quite say it, now does it? Zero common sense, zero social skills and zero pretenses. But a rather large bank account. Well, you can’t expect refined social graces from an engineer who spends most of his evenings jerking off to internet porn. No job, no matter how well-paying, and no bank account, no matter how sizeable can make up for a total lack of common sense when it comes to dealing with vapid, high-maintenance Japanese women. But I guess he liked what he saw (or was really desperate for some live action as opposed to a blow up doll) and wanted to meet her again. Needless to say, she, through nakodo (the matchmaker), said “no”.

Then why did they agree to meet in the first place? Because, at their age, chances of finding a partner using more traditional means are slim to none. The woman’s only requirement was “a good job and lots of money”. Things like ancestry, social standing and other useless bits tend to get thrown to the wayside when a woman, no mater how pretty, is approaching 40. When women are in their late twenties, they want the 3 Hs: height (tall guy), high salary and high education. But the older they get, the more willing they become to meet someone, anyone, with at least one of the Hs – preferably high salary.

Guys are even less picky. For many, a living, breathing woman is all they ask for. Preferably a woman with no children or ex-husbands lurking in the background.

But sometimes, even with such pared down requirements, the date doesn’t work out. The woman may say she’ll be happy with a guy who makes a lot of money, but in reality she wants someone who also looks like a movie star, treats her like the 8th wonder of the world, worships her on his knees on a first date and oh yeah, is hung like a Shetland pony. I told my friend she should try to match this bimbo with a foreigner – there are plenty of white guys out there who are obsessed with this kind of Japanese woman.

But in the meantime, it looks like we (yes, we, because now it has become a joint effort) are going to try another engineer – good job, good salary and yeah, he is taller than her. And I’ve seen the pictures – the guy’s not butt ugly and doesn’t make me want to poke my eyes with a sharp stick.

So, as you see, wikipedia can quote highly regarded cultural references all it wants, but real life is something else entirely.

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