Omiai – the shortest way to getting married within 1 year
That is, in a nutshell, what marriage-matchmaking or “Omiai” means to the Japanese. It is also the primary service we at Destini IS provide to our registered members.
Since the whole concept of Omiai is rather foreign in Singapore, I often find myself breaking a lot of misconceptions on what Japanese matchmaking actually entails, to both our registered members and to random people I encounter in social situations.
Hence I would like to address a fundamental question in this very first blogpost, and also briefly explain the modern Japanese Omiai system:
How is Omiai different from dating ‘naturally’ or via a dating site/app?
Both parties are definitely looking to marry💍
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is one point I cannot stress enough. Many people often come to us simply for the chance to meet Japanese ladies, without fully appreciating what it means to match with a Japanese lady looking to marry through Omiai.
It means that she fully expects to marry within six months to a year from your first meeting, should she choose you as her long-term partner.
Of course, we fully respect that marriage isn’t for everyone (to request a blogpost on Japan’s social pressures to marry or the origins of the Omiai system, do comment below~). Just understand that, those engaged in Omiai are actively looking for matches with a high level of commitment, and they fully expect to do so within a certain timeframe.
“Objective” conditions are being openly considered, by both sides 🔍
In the traditional Omiai process of many years back, a go-between (aka “nakōdo”) will assist a concerned parent in shortlisting potential partners with the appropriate background or “iegara”, a collection of conditions including but not limited to: education level, income, occupation, physical attractiveness, social standing, hobbies, family lineage, etc.
Today’s Omiai is not so different. Members register with a marriage counselling agency (the corporatised incarnation of the traditional nakōdo), create a detailed profile with information verified by the agency, and meet those whose profiles are compatible with theirs in an Omiai.
In short, Omiai implies that the two people meeting are not acting purely on romantic attraction, free of the bonds of earthly realities like socioeconomic background as per the Hollywood ideal. Instead, they are aware that both are fully informed of each other’s circumstances as a whole, personal and otherwise, and have agreed to meet because of all that is being considered.
First impressions are literally everything 👀
The word “Omiai” literally means “looking at each other”. This encapsulates the purpose of the Omiai meeting – it is an important initial meeting where both parties meet to assess each other’s suitability as a future life partner, based on how well you converse, how you behave and look, and the information on your profile.
In fact, the word “initial” might be misleading, since the post-Omiai decision to proceed to serious courtship or not only has two choices: enter courtship or never see each other again. In dating, you might get to redeem yourself at a second date, but there is no such thing as a second Omiai.
Higher stakes, higher expectations 🤵
Hence, to secure the best chances of making sure the first impression is not the last, the Omiai is a very formalised affair. Men wear suits in all seasons and take special care to be well-groomed. Ladies likewise spend an appropriate amount of effort on dressing and styling. Both genders are careful to adhere to a certain code of conduct and avoid making faux pas.
Some of these expectations might seem stuffy or over-the-top. However, when you consider that this is an all-or-nothing 1-hour meeting with your lifetime happiness on the line, it makes sense to have a common standard that both parties can quickly measure the other by.
How much care and effort you show in your appearance and behaviour is literally being taken as a measure of how reliable you might be as a future life partner.
Game of numbers 🧮
In Japan, “konkatsu” or “kekkon katsudō” is the term used for people actively trying to get married, be it through Omiai or otherwise. A similar and more well-known term might be “shūkatsu” or “shūshoku katsudō“, which refers to young Japanese people, often university juniors, searching for their first jobs.
The comparison is telling, as the act of securing a marriage is treated as absolutely seriously as getting your first job.
(Which is not too much of a stretch when you consider that marriages are expected to last longer than jobs, and probably have a much larger influence on the day-to-day and general satisfaction with life in general…)
Un-sexy as it sounds, the Omiai system is set up to be extraordinarily efficient. The main aim is to allow you to meet as many people as possible within the shortest amount of time, to maximise your chances of meeting the most suitable partner for you. Just like how you would interview at as many places as possible when searching for your dream job.
And there you have it, 5 key differences between Omiai and dating.
Omiai is definitely not for everyone, but personally I think it has its advantages. No waiting indefinitely for a fateful meeting with The One, no breaking up after 5 years and feeling like you wasted your youth, no staying up all night worrying about whether he/she is the “marrying type” or not.
Lastly, Omiai doesn’t equate to loveless marriages. In fact, committing to long-term partnership can be a great foundation to build trust and further develop mutual feelings. To quote Kumiko Mashima, author of Being an Expert at Omiai (1994), “The biggest difference between “renai kekkon” [love marriages] and “omiai kekkon” [marriages resulting from omiai] is that we fall in love after our marriage instead of before.” (quote adapted for readability)
Thank you for reading, and do comment below on questions / topics related to Omiai that you would like to read about next!
About the writer
Sen is the sole Singaporean staff employed at Destini IS. In between answering enquiries, arranging Omiai-related events and programmes, and advising registered members, she offers the perspective of a 25-year-old married Singaporean Chinese female on issues related to Japanese x Singaporean international matchmaking / Omiai through blogposts.