• Rise of Japan's middle-aged virgins Rising childcare costs and economic instability combined with a decline in the number of young women have contributed to a falling fertility rate (dropping to a figure of 1.4 babies over the lifetime of the average woman, well below the "rate of replacement".) As a result, the government and private companies are investing in initiatives such as matchmaking parties to encourage younger generations to marry and have babies.
All strands of society are being targeted – even, it seems, nuns and monks, who according to Japanese Buddhist tradition, do not take celibacy vows but are encouraged to marry to ensure the survival of hereditary family temples.
Through my 15 years of experience as an International Matchmaker and CEO of MJL, I have learned the truly successful techniques for creating many happy international couples.
Each couple exchanged forms listing personal information, including hobbies, jobs, blood types and alcohol consumption, and talked for three minutes, before swapping partners.
A candle-making session followed, plus informal chatting over green tea, sweets and heart-shaped cookies, before participants cast their votes for their favourite dates – resulting in three matched couples.
Participants then filed into another room, with traditional tatami mat flooring, calligraphic artworks and sliding paper screens that gave way to green temple garden views.
Here, the women – three nuns and two unordained daughters of temple-owning families –knelt on cushions opposite their male prospective dates.