Publicity August 2015

Romancing Japan

Japan’s ignominious end is being triggered by a lack of romance. This retarded romantic environment is whittling away vital procreation efforts, which in turn is creating shortages of corporate fodder for the captains of industry.

The end of the world is nigh. Well that is what is being served up to us, following the Cabinet Office’s June release of statistics, which show nearly 40% of twenties and thirties singles, the prime marriage target group, do not want a romantic partner. Relationships are bothersome, according to 46.2% of those singles surveyed. Who knew?

Drivers for this end-of-epoch trend are long working hours for the young, insufficient leisure time, 70% of women quitting work to have babies and not returning to the workforce, and less face time—because we have screen time instead.

The surge in part-time workers means young guys not in the mainstream are the working poor. Given young women say they will only marry someone with income of over ¥5mn a year, that is a bit of a downer for a big chunk of the youth population.

In Japan, it is sometimes hard to connect the dots. Porno seems pretty big here, from the hard-core commute manga to the free graphic Internet video, there is a lot aimed at men. Watching thousands of young blokes enthusiastically waving light sticks at a big eyed, long-legged, micro mini-skirted, fulsomely endowed Hatsune Miku hologram in concert is at one level tremendously disconcerting, but it does show there is a need somewhere. Where is the baby boom?

The nakodo (go-between for marriage-seeking singles) system is not as dominant as it was many years ago. So how can the heavens coalesce and bring sweethearts together? Modern alternate services are attempting to link young people but it would appear to be difficult if the fundamental interest is not there.

Modesty and shyness are characteristics making it difficult for fostering romance. Part of the problem seems to be the inability to initiate a conversation with people we don’t know. At networking events in business it is rare to see Japanese business people walking up to strangers and striking up a conversation. They tend to talk to their colleagues and to the contacts of their contacts.

Being shy is not a Japanese monopoly. I was painfully shy when I was younger. In our communication training courses we often hear the same comments: I don’t know what to say to people I meet for the first time; I don’t know how to engage someone in conversation; or what do I say after hello? Engaging others is a skill and it can be learnt. I am an introvert who has learnt to become extroverted in public situations. Dale Carnegie pioneered training in communication and here are some principles we can all apply.

Principle number 7: “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves”. By asking questions, we can engage people we don’t know and through their answers discover points of commonality, agreement or likeability.

“What brought you here tonight?” is a simple starter to get things rolling. “How long have you been at your company?” “What do you do at your company” “Is Tokyo your home town?” The list is endless.

We can use Principle number 4 at the same time: “Become genuinely interested in other people”. The key word there is “genuinely”. That means not engaging in fake interactions.

Principle number 8: “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests”. Take the focus off us, inviting them to talk.

The art of conversation is being lost thanks to our sordid device fixation. The ubiquity of distractions thanks to apps and social media has isolated us all to an extent civilisation has not experienced before. Look at how separated we are becoming from each other, as we all brazenly whip out our screens at every chance.

Japanese singles and many business people could benefit from improving abilities to strike up conversations with new people. It is trainable after all.