Q Why do the Japanese have omiai even when they are still quite young?

A According to a survey carried out by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1987, love marriages comprised 74% of all couples getting married as opposed to arranged marriages which comprised 24%. However, according to a 1992 survey, the figures were 78% and 15%.

One of the prevalent preconceived notions that non-Japanese have about the Japanese is that all Japanese have omiai (an arranged meeting with a prospective marriage partner),but as the figures indicate, the number of people who actually have omiai has greatly decreased. But this is not to say that young Japanese women are negative about omiai.

For an unmarried young woman, the ideal marriage partner is one who is endowed with the "three highs" of high education, high salary and high stature (height). But finding such a person among prospective candidates close at hand is difficult. Omiai serves as a means of finding a suitable partner, and this concept has not changed even today.

The custom of omiai began among the common people during the Edo period ( 1600-1868), but in the male-dominated society, the right to choose was entirely the man's prerogative. Now, both men and women have an equal say in choosing a prospective partner, but it is usually the woman who brings up the three highs as a prerequisite. The large number of love marriages taking place may reflect the true feelings of the modern woman in not placing high expectations on an omiai.