Parental speed dating in Fukuoka

Posted on February 22, 2007 | evankirby

We caught a strange segment on the local TV news recently about a new trend in dating: parents attending group "dating" sessions for their unmarried kids. Basically, parents who are worried that their (adult) child won't be able to find a partner can attend meetings of other similar parents. Each parent brings a profile of their child, with photographs. Parents then talk to other parents to try to find someone who might be a good match. It goes without saying, but the children themselves are, of course, not present...

Parental dating
A father is bowing to the parents of another child. As the subtitles show, he is saying 年齢はいっしょ (nenrei ha issho, or "They're the same age (therefore, possibly a match)").

交渉成立!身上書と写真を交換 (koushou seiritsu! Shinjousho to shashin o koukan. ("Negotiations complete! Parents exchange profiles and photographs.")

Why is this important? Well, take a look at the next graph:

Population graph

This is a graph of Japan's population. As we learned previously, 億 (oku) means one hundred million. So, the population of Japan in 2005 was 127,800,000. And by 2055, that is expected to drop by almost 40 million, or 30%, to 89,983,000! So, looks like Japan needs all the babies it can get... As this insanely useful site mentions, the average age of women at first marriage in Japan is almost 27, and for men, 30. But more importantly, the total fertility rate is only 1.3 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world. While the Japanese welfare minister Yanagisawa's recent remarks on women were badly thought out and spoken, we understand his alarm about the problem itself.

No tattoos in the onsen in Japan!

Posted on February 21, 2007 | evankirby

No tattoos

Many onsen (public baths) in Japan have very strict rules about tattoos: nobody with a tattoo is allowed in. The picture above is from the onsen we often take students to, close to the school. The text above the evocative picture says 入れ墨禁止 (irezumi kinshi, or tattoos forbidden).

Tattoos forbidden in onsen
This picture was the only English text visible in the entrance of an onsen!

The original reason for this ban was to keep out ヤクザ (yakuza), or members of other 暴力団体 (violence groups). However, this obviously doesn't apply to most foreigners. While onsen employees obviously don't perform full-body checks before letting people in, there is still a chance that you would be asked to leave if another patron complained about your tattoo. In one case, a young, red-haired English girl we know was thrown out of an onsen because of a small tattoo on her lower back, despite her obviously not being a member of a violence group. If you have tattoos and you're coming to Japan, you may have to apply a band-aid before you go for a bath...