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In Japan One-Third of Young People Have Never Been in a Relationship – Government Spends $30M Yearly on Matchmaking | Al Jazeera Investigates




101-East-Finding-Love-in-Japan-DSC03761Love makes the world go round, except – it seems – in Japan. Here, finding ‘the one’ has never been harder.

One third of Japan’s young people have never been in a relationship, while the number of people getting married and having children is in rapid decline. Now the government is coming to the rescue, pouring millions of dollars into matchmaking events designed to foster love, marriage and eventually babies, a new documentary by Al Jazeera’s 101 East has found.

In the documentary, Finding Love in Japan, Australian reporter Drew Ambrose travels to Tokyo and rural Japan, discovering a country desperate to boost the number of couples walking down the aisle.

“600,000 couples tied the knot in Japan last year but the government wants to double that figure by 2020,” says Ambrose. “To do it, they are spending US$30 million annually on projects that encourage matchmaking and marriage.”

Many rural towns across Japan are holding speed-dating events, but Ambrose says sometimes only a handful of people show up because many young Japanese are shy about seeking a partner.

That hasn’t stopped small country towns like Otari from throwing money at the marriage problem in the hope that romance will flourish and give their shrinking populations a much-needed boost.

“When young people organise matchmaking parties, we give government money to them,” says Hisashi Matsumoto, the mayor of Otari. “We pay for them to attend matchmaking parties in other cities. If we don’t, the population will drop dramatically and the town will die, so that’s why I have to do something to keep this community alive.”

What has officials even more worried is the rise of “herbivore” men – young men who are shunning marriage and have no interest in forming relationships at all.

“Herbivore men are blamed for rising rates of singledom in Japan because they live in a state of extended adolescence and avoid responsibilities like marriage,” Ambrose says.

Despite the authorities’ best efforts to play Cupid, some Japanese men have given up on finding real love completely. Instead, they buy life-size dolls which they take on outings and consider as real companions. Ambrose meets Hiroyuki Nomura, a man in his 50s, who lives with 17 dolls. “The dolls have a healing quality and make me smile when I come home from a busy day for work,” says Nomura. “I’m not interested in looking for a real partner.”

In this revealing documentary about the state of modern romance, 101 East asks if love can find a way in desperate and dateless Japan?

Finding Love in Japan premieres on Al Jazeera English at 22:30 GMT on 18 August, 2016 on 101 East, Al Jazeera’s award-winning weekly current affairs programme focusing on a diverse range of stories across Asia and the Pacific. It repeats on 19 August at 09:30 GMT, 20 August at 03:30 GMT, 21 August at 16:30 GMT, and 22 August at 05:30 GMT.

After it airs, the documentary will be available on YouTube and

For more information, follow 101 East on Twitter on @AJ101East and Facebook at 101East – Al Jazeera.


  1. AceOfSpades

    August 18, 2016 at 5:39 am

    In secondary school, they taught us Natural Selection in Agricultural Science. Some cats are introduced to a farm that is plagued by rats. Introduce some Yoruba boys to Japan and watch marriage increase when they start influencing the young guys there.

    But really with technology and everything, it’s meant to happen. I’m only surprised that they don’t use DM. With all the social platform, what will it cost to fall into DM anyhow if you are shy physically. Can you be shy on chat again??

    • Mz Titilitious

      August 18, 2016 at 8:20 am


    • De Duchess

      August 18, 2016 at 9:53 am

      I hope the world does not get empty in 2025. We are giving gay people their rights and Japanese people are too shy to fall in love. Yesterday, I was reading a painful article where Americans were calling children a pain in the a**

  2. jayboogie

    August 18, 2016 at 6:03 am

    This can never work in Nigeria . Awon Yoruba demon ti poju

  3. AceOfSpades

    August 18, 2016 at 6:30 am

    Wait o! Are they shy to DM also? Ordinary DM
    Just DM like 50 girls and wait for replies. There is no damn way 5 won’t reply and 2-3 will continue the convo. This Japanese people funny o!

    • Ranyinudo

      August 18, 2016 at 8:09 am

      AceOfDM! I hail u o!!!.one guy,50 girls?? Walking upto a girl on the road is far more easier and less stressful. Lol

    • Mama

      August 18, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Maybe funny to you but it’s part of their culture. They are not the aggressive go-getter types when it comes to relationships. Most aren’t even interested sef. Besides, they have social rules and ethics which definitely precludes this advise of 50 DMs you are giving.

  4. monday oghima

    August 18, 2016 at 8:43 am

    the young men are available here in Nigeria, so if the young men are not interested over there please we are, and available. thanks monday

  5. ElessarisElendil

    August 18, 2016 at 9:09 am

    While we laugh at them, remember that they are rich and scientifically capable of growing children or cloning, should they wish.

    Meanwhile we can’t even feed our citizens.

  6. keke driver

    August 18, 2016 at 9:20 am

    This is serious o, One-Third ke?

  7. BlueEyed

    August 18, 2016 at 9:39 am

    But how can they, when their youths are busy being innovative and well learned, our African youths are busy having unprotected sex and having unwanted pregnancies and abortion….and are very sex orinented in everything

    • Truth

      August 18, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      It’s very hypocrital! A lot of people act righteous and sanctimonious in the open but behind closed doors – it’s a very different story.
      Not just youth but also elders. How many married men are faithful and can stick to one woman?
      The society is pretty sex obsessed but is in denial about it!

  8. mrs chidukane

    August 18, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Who is laughing at them kwanu? Just that they don’t like blacks, I would have encouraged some people to go there and try their luck, lol.

    • Anon

      August 18, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Don’t be too sure of that. Are you confusing them with the Chinese? The Japanese are quite liberal. In America, there’s a generation of African-American-Japanese people. Pretty combo.

  9. nwa nna

    August 18, 2016 at 11:48 am

    The Japanese from my view come across as a being very rigid culturally, if their society was more open to interracial dating they wouldn’t be experiencing this.
    The Japanese are workaholics and don’t devote enough time to socializing, all work and no play. I’ve interacted with a couple of japs of the years and they can be quite socially awkward.

    • Teni

      August 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      What does interracial dating have to do with this? It’s not that there’s a shortage of people to date but a shortage of people willing to date. They are just not interested in dating anyone at all.

      Of course, this focused on men who had shunned love but it doesn’t say that women are desperately looking but can’t find a willing man. Perhaps Japanese women aren’t that interested either.

    • Mama

      August 18, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      Actually, the women are willing but the men are not interested. So increasingly, their women are more open to interracial dating/marriages but preferably with Europeans. You see how that is a problem for the local community?

    • Mama

      August 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      You can find some of these things on youtube. Check out “The Japanese Man Yuta” channel.

  10. jwezee

    August 18, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Ah all this one you people are talking you na no see say their government is giving money for people who are throwing dating events…. Lol as a business minded person that I to dey throw gbedu with a dating theam every day…as our economy is down, na to look els were…lol all in all that’s a country with a plan with her people in mind.

  11. Billy

    August 19, 2016 at 7:32 am

    It’s not their fault the world is so plagued with economic hardship and Japan is no different, besides most ‘enveloped’ countries will soon suffer the same problem… to much burden

  12. Fermosky

    August 19, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Please take me to Japan o! let me go and find love. This is a message to Nigerian ladies, answer us now before Buhari will force us to be marrying two wives o, there’s no money to organize match-making events…lol

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