Matchmaking gets divine touch at Japanese shrine

Wed Jul 8, 2009 12:28am EDT
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By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Rie Suzuki has exhausted most earthly means to find Mr. Right, so now she, and dozens of singles in Japan where marriage has recently gone out of fashion, are turning to the gods for help.

Forty-year-old Suzuki was one of 14 women and 14 men gathered on a recent Saturday at Imado shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan's indigenous Shinto gods of marriage. Participants had varied backgrounds, but one common goal -- to find a partner.

"We said it's up to the gods now. If we go on as we have, we probably won't ever meet anyone," said Suzuki, who was attending the event that combines prayer with speed-dating.

With Japan's economy plunged deep into recession, many women are taking a renewed interest in marriage and the economic stability it could provide, and are actively seeking a partner through "konkatsu" or spouse-hunting activities, experts say.

Such activities range from surfing dating websites to participating in a grass-mowing event for singles, and Imado shrine's two-hour, 6,000 yen ($63) event is also on some marriage-hunters' list.

"This is a shrine known for marriage and many men and women seeking a good match come here," said Tomoe Ichino, a 32-year-old priest at the shrine who with her sister Kana runs the matchmaking event for which over 1,000 people have registered.

"I would see a woman buying a good luck charm, then a man doing the same thing 10 minutes later. Then I started to think that maybe they could have ended up together if they had met. So we're trying to coordinate a time when they can meet."

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN?   Continued...