Japan’s latest buzzword, “Marriage sans dating,” sheds some light on new Japanese romantic customs.
Crazily enough, about 60% of Japanese women and 76% of Japanese men in their 20s report having no romantic partner, yet about 80% of unmarried Japanese say they’re looking towards marriage as a major life goal.
These seemingly incongruous numbers raise an obvious question: How does one expect to get married without first finding a romantic partner and fostering a relationship that will eventually lead to tying the knot? The Japanese answer? Apparently, “Screw all that dating stuff. I’ll just marry whoever’s convenient.”
A handful of celebrity marriages have apparently helped spark the new trend of “kousai zero nichikon” (roughly translated, “marrying without dating”). Famously, actress Maki Horikita married co-star Koji Yamamoto in 2015 after just a month and change of dating, sparking some Twitter users to share stories of their own shotgun marriages.
▼ Maki Horikita infamously married a co-worker after just weeks of dating
According to a Matome Naver compilation of news stories related to the phenomenon, many Japanese are choosing to marry friends and acquaintances to save on time and financial commitments that come with dating. Others appear to believe that marrying someone you aren’t dating isn’t just an acceptable last resort, it’s actually better that way, eliminating the emotional exchanges of dating and allowing people to cut straight to the point. A column in the Joshi Spa! magazine even described hunting for a marriage partner in the traditional way as akin to committing suicide.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no empirical evidence that kousai zero nichikon is taking Japan by storm and it’s most likely a niche movement among the fringes of romantically frustrated Japanese. Still, there’s a precedent here with Japan’s now mostly defunct omiai arranged marriage culture – which saw Japanese parents suggesting partners for their adult children. While many Japanese date and marry in the name of love, quite a few view marriage pragmatically, as a means to an end or an unavoidable obligation.
This all isn’t to say that love isn’t a factor for Japanese couples. Joshi Spa! notes that the rate of arranged marriage divorces is actually dwarfed by the divorce rate of traditional modern marriages, implying, possibly, that love can blossom from even the most unorthodox of couplings.