Tired of swiping and tired of Tinder? Old-fashioned love letters may be the answer, says a Japanese city whose unusual matchmaking program was a surprise hit.
Singles in Miyazaki, southern Japan, are encouraged to put pen to paper in a low-tech search for their soulmate, part of a community effort to boost the low birth rate.
The charm of the handwritten correspondence has attracted so many young residents that the organizers have decided to extend the program to people living further afield.
Compared to online dating, “it takes longer and inspires you to imagine the person you’re communicating with,” said Rie Miyata, head of a local consulting firm hired to run the program.
“It’s less about how good your writing is,” she told AFP, “and more about that you write each and every character sincerely and carefully, thinking deeply about the person you’re writing to.”
“That’s what makes letters so powerful,” she said.
Since 2020, when the project began, 450 people have signed up – more than double officials’ initial estimates – with around 70 percent in their 20s and 30s.
Applicants are screened by Miyata’s team and matched with potential suitors based on information they submit about themselves, such as their favorite movies, books and sports.
But unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, withholding identifying details like full name, job, and address — and, of course, no profile pictures showing.
“Appearance is often a deciding factor” in dating, “but in letters you’re judged on your personality,” Miyata said.
The letters are sent to the organizers, who quickly read them to ensure the note contains no profanity or slurs before forwarding it to the eager recipient.
To date, 32 couples have arranged face-to-face meetings, with romance blossoming in 17 couples who have started a relationship.
One participant, a 25-year-old resident of Miyazaki, said the idea brought back fond memories.
“When I was a kid, I used to write letters to the girl I had a crush on,” the man, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP.
“I like how old-fashioned letters are. That’s what drew me to the program.”
Despite the city’s original approach, it’s not uncommon for local governments to fund matchmaking programs in Japan, which has the world’s oldest population and one of the lowest fertility rates.
In 2021, the number of babies born hit a new record low of 811,604, and women are now expected to have an average of 1.3 children in their lifetime, well below the rate needed to sustain a population.
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