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Don’t swipe, write: Japanese city encourages dates to send love letters | Japan

Japan’s stalled campaign to boost birth rates has followed an analogous path, with authorities in one southwestern city encouraging potential suitors to put pen to paper and wait patiently for an answer, rather than simply swipe right.

The city of Miyazaki says hundreds of men and women have engaged in old-fashioned letter writing since the matchmaking program launched two years ago. While there were no wedding bells, the program has spawned 32 face-to-face meetings and brought 17 couples together.

So far, about 450 people have signed up — more than double the city’s original estimate — about 70% of whom are in their 20s or 30s.

“It takes longer [than online dating]and inspires you to imagine the person you are communicating with,” Rie Miyata, head of a local consultancy hired to implement the program, told Agence France-Presse.

β€œIt’s less about how good your penmanship is and more about writing each letter sincerely and carefully, thinking deeply about the person you’re writing to. That is what makes letters so powerful.”

Applicants are selected and paired based on information such as their tastes in books and films. To encourage participants to base their decision on the personality of the other correspondent, profile photos are prohibited.

The Japanese city launched the Miyazaki Koibumi letter campaign in 2020 Photo: miyazakikoibumi/Twitter

According to the Mainichi Shimbun, people who have been paired can send and receive up to five letters without revealing their name or address. If they wish to meet, the consulting company will provide them with the contact details. After that, they are left to their own devices, the newspaper said.

The letter scheme is one of several attempts to encourage Japan’s singletons to meet, and perhaps get married and start families, as the country struggles with a low birth rate and shrinking population.

The government has started funding artificial intelligence matchmaking programs and in 2018 single men from the mountain village of Otari created a calendar showing them at work hoping to find love and companionship.

A postman rides a motorcycle past a small rice field to deliver mail and packages in Hayakawa.
A postman rides a motorcycle past a small rice field to deliver mail and packages in Hayakawa. Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

The number of babies born in Japan fell to a record low of 811,604 last year – a statistic Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called “shocking” on Tuesday. Japanese women are now expected to have an average of 1.3 children, well below the rate needed to keep the population at current levels.

As in other developed economies, more and more people are choosing to marry later or not at all. A recent government poll found that one in four single people in their 30s said they didn’t feel like tying the knot, and many said they fear married life would be too expensive and interfere with their freedom.

But a 25-year-old man who takes part in the Miyazaki matchmaking program said the idea brought back fond memories of his school days. “As a kid, I used to write letters to the girl I had a crush on,” he said. β€œI like how old-fashioned letters are. That made me want to get involved.”

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