Japan has a problem. Recently, a large portion of the country's population decided that marriage is some sort of scam meant to trick you out of your hard-earned money, and that they want absolutely nothing to do with it. Luckily, Japan apparently saw this coming, because for the last couple of years they've actually been working to update marriage for the modern age, looking for that idea that would make people want to go out there and just marry the crap out of someone.
There was only one problem with that plan: Their ideas turned out to be really, really weird. Now, you might be wondering where the hell I get off criticizing the customs of other countries, so let me explain: I'm not an expert on Japanese marriage or anything like that, but I did manage to pretend to be a responsible adult long enough to convince one poor Japanese woman to marry me, and I distinctively remember that, at the time, it didn't include stuff like ...
First, we have to talk a bit about arranged marriages. In the West, the words "arranged marriage" tend to conjure horrific images of parents swapping their kids with strangers for political or business gains like a bunch of terrified and crying baseball cards. But in Japan, "arranged marriage" is actually just a bad translation of the age-old custom of omiai, which today has become little more than a live-action eHarmony service. The modern omiai consists of a person engaging the services of a matchmaker who brings you binders full of women ...
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... or men, and lets you choose whomever you want, after which the two of you will be introduced and discuss the possibility of marriage. The really great thing about this service is that it often comes with the option of a background check. The process usually involves the matchmaker hiring private investigators to check out someone's family history (which can reach many generations back), their education, and their employment record, followed by talks with their neighbors to find out what kind of person they really are.
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"So, I hear that you're 'an asshole who plays his asshole music at 1 a.m.' Fascinating. Tell me more."
This used to be reserved primarily for wealthy people who actually had something to lose besides a collection of anime posters if their spouse-to-be turned out to be some kind of monster that pours the milk into the bowl before the cereal. But now, private investigations have become a pretty standard service for matchmakers, who won't dare to recommend you to another person until a private dick first establishes that your privates don't sport an erotic Hello Kitty/Pokemon tattoo.
Recently, though, the detective agencies decided to cut out the middleman and started telling people to buy girlfriend/boyfriend reports directly from them. At this very moment, there are posters for two detective agencies around my neighborhood, both of which specifically mention that they'll gladly spy on your future husband or wife. The most common "horror story" that's used to justify this is the (probably completely made-up) tale of a 30-year-old office worker whose fiancee lied about being a doctor. I always laugh at how this story is retold on TV or the agencies' websites, because they tend to make the fake-doctor guy sound like a time-traveling Hitler trying to trick Japanese women into marrying him for some clearly nefarious reasons.
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And obviously succeeding, with a face like that.
I must mention, though, that the overwhelming number of Japanese couples definitely don't engage the services of detective agencies, but that may change soon. Their prices have been dropping rapidly (last year, the average was $80 per hour; in June, I managed to find a place that would do it for $40). So don't be surprised if one day you come across a story on the Internet about a Japanese groom whose wedding vows specifically mention never getting drunk and urinating in a mailbox like an irresponsible jackass ever again.
The problem with marriage is that it technically requires the presence and cooperation of another human being, and where are you supposed to find those? The outside world? Where bears and spiders live?
"Yeah, why don't you tell me more about this whole dying alone thing."
Well, Japan has a solution for those of us who prefer to find a spouse from the comfort of our own home, with their patented konkatsu (marriage-hunting) share houses.
The basic principle behind share houses is simplicity itself. They are meant as apartment complexes usually rented out to single men and women looking for a relationship so that they can find each other more easily. The buildings are often designed with plenty of common areas to facilitate mingling between the residents, effectively turning any share house into a giant Fortress of Seduction where winks and meaningful looks have long replaced "good morning" as the standard greeting. Basically, imagine a multistory structure with the atmosphere of a winding-down frat party where young, horny people are just hanging around, looking for someone, anyone, to get totally clingy with for the next couple of decades.
Only without the used condoms and empties littering the halls so, yeah,
nothing like a real frat party now that I think about it.
One of the most famous konkatsu share houses in Japan is the Comfort Kamata, where, according to the TV reports, the building's 260 residents constantly troll the shared areas as if they were supermarket aisles stocked with potential fathers/mothers of their children. How does that work out for them? Well, some sources say men have a 20 percent higher chance of finding a wife in a share house than anywhere else, but I don't know how accurate that number is, seeing as men usually outnumber women 3 to 1 in such places. Also, I really doubt that the women being able to escape has been the one thing stopping these men from finding true love this entire time.
There's also the issue that not everyone living in the (relatively cheap) share houses actually is looking for a relationship, because it's not like they only rent to people who can prove their single status by disclosing their Internet-browsing history. On the other hand, you can always look at the konkatsu buildings as landlocked cruise ships that might get you laid/married, and which definitely won't sink or give you diarrhea powerful enough to make you airborne. Or in other words: kind of a great idea.