With a highly aging population and a birth rate at historic lows, a Japanese city has decided to take action and promote a more traditional method of finding love: take pen and paper and write a letter to potential suitors.
The project, launched by the city of Miyazaki, proposes that its young people find a partner in a much more traditional and analog way: writing a letter, instead of just swiping right or left on dating apps.
“I thought that people would perceive it as something old, but during the pandemic it went very well, since young people see it as something new that they have never done before,” explains Rie Miyata, director of a local consultancy in charge of the project and who also She is part of the team that unites couples by their interests and personality.
About 500 people, 60% women and 40% men, have been encouraged to send a letter and 17 couples have already formed. Although wedding bells are not ringing yet, the organization considers this figure a success.
Under the name “Koibumi” (love letters), the process is open to everyone, including persons not currently residing in Miyazakisince they also seek to revitalize the area and there are no age limits to participate.
Singles must first fill out a list of preferences and hobbies, including, for example, their favorite movies or books, and three times a year, the organization matches these people and allows them to send each other up to five letters before deciding if they want to meet in person or not.
Unlike most dating sites and apps that rely heavily on looks, “Koibumi” prohibits the use of photos, thus encouraging those who feel insecure about their appearance or are shy and with the hope that the participants base their decision on the personality and not only on the physical.
After the exchange of letters and once both parties decide to meet, young people meet in front of a post box, painted yellow to make it easily recognizable, and have their first date.
After it, the organizers of the project interview them individually to find out if they want to continue knowing the person or not, although according to Miyata, only on one occasion did a person say that they did not want to see the other again in a forceful way.
“Now that visual information dominates us and the birth rate is low, we wanted to create a project that is warm and gives people with an interest in falling in love the courage to go out and do it,” explains Miyata.
Historical lows of marriages and births
Japan registered a record low in births in 2021, with a total of 811,604, according to government data, which reflects the aging trend in the Asian country, also accentuated during the pandemic.
This figure represents the lowest documented so far since the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare began to count this data in 1899, and is also in line with the number of marriages.
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In 2021, 501,116 nuptials were registered in the archipelago, nearly 25,000 less than the previous year, reaching its lowest level after World War II and leading some prefectures to seek methods of “konkatsu” or activities to find a wife or husband.
The southern prefectures of Miyazaki and Kagoshima are pioneering projects to promote weddings, where single people are 49.1% and 49.9% between 30 and 34 years old, respectively, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of the Interior. In Tokyo, this figure would reach 58.8%.
In addition to “Koibumi”, the Miyazaki government has founded a marriage assistance centerwhere meetings and events are organized to find a partner and from which some 116 have already come outaccording to data from last January.
Kagoshima also founded a similar center in 2017, where encounters are facilitated and from which some 56 couples have come out.while other local governments are now exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence for this very purpose.