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Teaching the Art of Courtship : Japanese School Helps Bachelors Get ‘Girl of Dreams’

The Baltimore Sun

“My mother suggested that I come here,” said Junya Iyori, giving a shy glance at the interviewer.

“Whenever I tried to speak with girls, I’d choke on words. I also had bad sense of fashion,” said the 34-year-old bachelor, who works for a shipping company and has tried at least three times to find a bride through omiai, or the Japanese arranged marriage.

Iyori is one of 50 bachelors who gets help from Marriage Man Academy, a finishing school for men that opened recently in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city, west of Tokyo.

Strictly for Men

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Unlike the typical Japanese finishing schools, where women are taught how to become good housewives, the academy teaches men how to communicate with women and assume a realistic relationship with them.

On the wall behind Iyori’s seat in the class room is a poster with five principles of the “bridegroom school”:

*Do not cringe to a woman.

*Do not underestimate a woman.

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*Try to understand a woman.

*Be open to a woman.

*Have confidence in yourself.

Based on those principles, the academy’s 22-step, six-month course gives bachelors like Iyori lessons such as how to make a good first impression, how to have a good sense of humor, how to understand women’s feelings and what to do during the first meeting in an arranged marriage.

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Daily seminars and counseling programs also allow a man who cannot afford to wait six months to learn some quick techniques to capture the heart of the “girl of his dreams.”

“The first thing we teach our students is how to introduce themselves,” said Satoshi Noguchi, founder and instructor of the Academy. “But it takes at least four weeks for them to speak out loud enough for us to hear.”

In most of the lessons, students practice Noguchi’s technique with female instructors. In the sense of humor class, they are told to give a popular stand-up comedy routine in front of the instructors. Unless they can make the audience laugh, the outlook for them may be very gloomy, said Noguchi.

The Academy also gives students professional advice on hair styling and how to dress well. Though they are mostly salaried workers in their late 20s to early 30s, many still live with their parents, who often are just as desperate about their son’s single status.

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“We get calls from parents asking us what exactly we teach to their sons,” Noguchi said.

In Japan, boys are urged to study efficiently, get into an important university and be hired by a respectable company. Studying hard often consumes so much time and attention that it is impossible for boys to go out with girls. When it becomes necessary for them to have relationships with women, they are completely at a loss.

Why are bachelors like Iyori so anxious to find a bride?

Men hold a strong desire to get married because otherwise they feel incomplete. They also need someone who will cook, clean and raise children, skills they were not taught.

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In some companies, a man who remains single--thereby failing to show off the most basic ability the society demands--could forfeit his chances to be promoted.

Negative Odds

In addition, the odds are against single men in Japan. According to the 1985 national census, the number of single men between the ages of 25 to 34 was 3.6 million--more than double the number of single women in the same age group.

“Men basically haven’t realized the changes in women,” said Keiko Higuchi, professor of women’s studies at Tokyo Kasei University. “They’re still looking for a wife who will do everything for them.”

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Higuchi will offer a lecture course titled “Hanamuko Gakko,” or “school for bridegrooms,” at a marriage-counseling center in Tokyo. In her lectures, she will teach her male students the women’s view of the changes in society and the female role.

“In the old days women would have married such men because they had to have financial support,” said Noguchi of Marriage Man Academy. “But now that many of them are financially independent, they have a wider choice of enjoyable things to do other than getting married.”

According to the 1988 Labor Ministry’s white paper on working women, there were 16 million women who held either full-time or part-time jobs in 1987. The number accounted for nearly 40% of the nation’s total work force in the same year.

Picky, Picky

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Such financial independence in women has made it inevitable for them to become choosier about the men they choose if they do marry.

A recent survey by the Altman Institute, a research branch of the match-making Altman Co., showed that 75% of the women surveyed said the men they would marry must earn more than $25,000 a year, a substantial income for a young Japanese man. About 91% said the man has to be a university graduate working as an engineer; 69% preferred public servants; 54% sought office workers. About 76% also said that the groom ought to be four to five years older than the bride.

“Women ask for too much,” complained Iyori, the student at Marriage Man Academy. “They won’t accept you unless you qualify all their conditions, and their idea of a man’s salary is too high.”

Though Higuchi agrees that single women tend to be a bit greedy, she said that men have much more to learn than women.

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In the future, the basic form of a couple will be one where the wife and husband both maintain their independence, said Higuchi.

To survive such relationships, “Men must learn more about the changes in women as well as in society,” she said Higuchi. “In the old days there were stage settings that helped men take power over women. But we are now at an age when men must face women with their true ability.”


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