Monday, June 11, 2007


There are several lines in the J. Geils Band song "Love Stinks" which go like this:

"You love her,
But she loves him,
And he loves somebody else"

One of my students recently tried her hand at matchmaking only to find it ending in the above result. My student has a friend who is one of those people who is "Japanese but not Japanese" for whom she wanted to help find a compatible mate. For those who are unfamiliar with the "Japanese but not Japanese", there are those in Japan who were born here and have lived here their entire lives but are the off-spring of parents, grandparents, or great grandparents (or even further back for all I know) who were not born here. Such people carry the passport of their parents' home country despite having no experience with living there or even being able to speak their ancestor's home country's language. The Japanese do not offer up Japanese nationality lightly.

In this case, the lonely-hearted woman is the child of parents from Taiwan who are permanent residents in Japan. While she is culturally Japanese, she is relatively worldly and grew up with her parents' cultural mores in addition to those of the Japanese. My student felt that the most compatible man for her friend was someone in a similar situation. While she personally did not know a suitable male, she had a male friend who works for an international company who was in a position to introduce a "Japanese but not Japanese" fellow from his company to her.

My student introduced her Japanese male friend to her female friend in order to put him in a position to introduce his coworker. Unfortunately, the "Japanese but not Japanese" female friend grew enamored of the Japanese male friend and had no interest whatsoever in the coworker who was supposedly the more compatible match. My student's male friend wasn't interested in her though.

This situation illustrates both a common way in which Japanese people handle matchmaking and the way in which many of them consider their mates. When the topic of finding a spouse comes up, every single student I've spoken to has said that compatibility is more important than "love" because love is not a lasting basis for a marriage. Therefore, they tend to match up friends (and themselves) based on more tangible traits (i.e., job, education, income) or character traits (i.e., patience, gentleness, level-headedness) rather than act on their passions.

My student told me that this experience and the embarrassing situation it put all involved in has taught her that she has to handle future matchmaking in a different fashion. That's not to say that she won't match her friends based on the same compatibility criteria but rather that she will not use an opposite sex intermediary when introducing one friend to the friend of a friend.


CMUwriter said...

"Love stinks, yeah yeah."

Roy said...

The key to successful matchmaking is to not make it obvious to anyone. Only the matchmaker should know the plan. The situation you describe is never going to succeed because whenever anyone is set up to be introduced to "someone" their mind automatically imagines an ideal mate that is hard for anyone to live up to. The result is always disappointment. People feel that finding a mate should be somewhat accidental, like fate, rather than planned.

When I was teaching English I was surrounded by thousands of young people in a very casual setting. I absolutely loved playing matchmaker and I would experiment in my classes to see how people reacted. Sometimes when I saw two people who would be a match I would get them to do stuff like role play "asking out on a date", "propose marriage" etc. Sometimes I'd pay some "extra attention" to the girl to make her seem more attractive to the guy and make him jealous. It was very manipulative but with good intentions of course. In the end I brought a lot of people together and some of those students even got married. Made me feel all warm and tingly inside.