Japanese sign up for DNA matchmaking as country faces demographic crisis


Japanese sign up for DNA matchmaking as country faces demographic crisis
  
By Danielle Demetriou, Tokyo 22 JUNE 2019 • 1:57PM

The scene resembles a typical blind speed-dating event: 13 women and 13 men, seated on either side of a bamboo screen in an upmarket Tokyo restaurant, are chatting in pairs on a strictly timed three-minute rotation.

But the doctor hovering on the fringes and the scientific documents held in the participant’s hands, however, offer a hint that this is no ordinary dating event: for everyone attending has undergone a DNA test in a bid to find their best romantic match.

Welcome to the world of DNA matchmaking. Forget hobbies, professions, ages or nose sizes: one critical new criteria for finding the perfect partner was recently added to Japan’s fast-paced dating world, with the launch of a new service that promises to find love based on genetic compatibility.

Created by the dating company Nozze., which operates 21 branches across Japan, DNA Matching works with scientists at a Tokyo laboratory in order to decode the science of attraction and find the perfect match for its clients.

The company staged its first “DNA Party” at a restaurant in Ginza earlier this month – attended by 26 guests and resulting in four new couples – with more events planned across the country, including a special DNA Cruise in the autumn.

Its launch is timely: Japan is grappling with something of an epidemic of singles who are unable to find a partner, an issue intrinsically linked to the nation’s famously low marriage and birth rates and doing little to help balance the rapidly aging demographics of Japanese society.

Earlier this week, new government figures revealed that almost half of Japanese singles who wished to marry were unable to find a suitable partner, with more than 60 per cent admitting they were not doing anything to change the situation.

One of the main reasons for failing to settle down was cited as a lack of opportunities to meet an appropriate partner – a situation most likely made worse by the nation’s culture of long working hours. Other reasons ranged from lack of financial resources to an inability to connect with people, according to the report.

And so it is perhaps little surprise that a raft of dating events and matchmaking innovations have cropped up in Japan in recent years, from speed dating in temples for single nuns to local government-funded matchmaking events in depopulated areas of rural Japan.

DNA Matching is clearly one of the more futuristic innovators of Japan’s dating industry. Its concept is simple: based on the survivalist scientific theory that people with the most diverse DNA are the most attracted to one another, participants are required to simply provide a saliva swab.

This is then analysed by scientists, with a particular focus on HLA, a gene complex with more than 16,000 variations which are commonly associated with immune system regulation and are also believed play a key role in attraction levels between humans.

The company is then able to match up potential couples based on how similar or different their HLA genes are – with 100 per cent compatibility issued to couples who have a zero HLA match, while the compatibility figure shrinks when there are higher rates of HLA similarities.

Satoru Fujimura, public relations manager of Nozze., told the Telegraph: “We believe 50 per cent of a person’s attraction to another person is due to DNA. And the other 50 per cent is environment.”

He added: “Our DNA Matching service reverses common perceptions of matchmaking. Traditionally, people choose partners based on “conditions” such as age, appearance, annual income. But at DNA Matching, we believe that people with the most different types of DNA (HLA) make the best couples.”

It’s also attracting growing attention in Japan: while the company refuses to reveal precise figures, it confirmed that “hundreds” of people had joined the service since its official launch in January – resulting in a DNA test waiting list of several months.

Most people who have signed up so far are as varied as they are clearly convinced that biology can help where romance has previously failed: while ages range from 20s to 60s, the majority of customers are in their 30s or 40s, with slightly more men than women. The service costs 30,000 yen (£220) to join, plus 50,000 yen (£368) for the DNA test and a further monthly matching fee of 15,000 yen (£110).

Among those who found success at the recent DNA party in Tokyo was 42-year-old office worker Kosuke Kubo (not his real name), who has long struggled to find a partner.

“I’ve never been married, but I have been looking for a partner for five years now,” he told the Telegraph. “If possible, I’d like to have children but I think my age and annual income make that difficult.

“I work in the medical field and when I was searching the internet, I saw this new DNA matching service. I thought this could be an entirely new and different way to look for someone.”

The results for Kubo – so far at least – appear to be positive: describing a “DNA match” he made at the party, whom he is now dating, he added: “From the very start, I felt that we’d met before somewhere. It may have been the peace of mind from knowing that our DNA was a match. But our opinions and values are very similar, and I believe I’ve met someone I can truly enjoy spending time with.”

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