A hard bargain

In a 2ch thread reacting to news of a high-end speed-dating bar catering to older “marriage hunting” women and men (this year’s manufactured social phenomenon), commenters have excoriated a 39-year-old single female flight attendant (an apparent lookalike of former Takarazuka Revue actress Yuki Amami) for her quote, “I am no longer in a position to be choosy. My conditions are that [my future husband] does not smoke, can communicate, and makes at least 10 million yen per year.”

Such high standards reminded me of a recent episode of NPR’s This American Life, in which the hosts discussed just how limited dating options can be once you start getting choosy. I suggest you give it a listen, but suffice to say the prospects for Boston-area chemistry grad students were whittled down to the dozens, if I recall correctly.

So what about this woman’s scenario? Does she stand a chance? Let’s try whittling down the population of Tokyo until we find out how many men would pass muster:

  • Population of Tokyo: 12.79 million people (also see Stat Bureau)
  • Number male: 6.354 million (49.6%)
  • In Amami’s age bracket (25-49): 2.536 million (more generous than 2ch would allow for – see below)
  • College grads: 1,038,492 (assuming college grads are more likely to have communication skills than non-grads. The number was reached by estimating from the facts that 45.5% of high school students moved on to four-year universities in 2006, of which around 90% eventually get their degree (OECD Fact Sheet PDF))
  •  Salary of at least 10 million yen: 103,849 (10%: Though 7.5% of men in the private sector earned at least 10 million yen per year as of 2006 nationwide, I will be generous and say 10% given the age and education group’s above-average earnings and the probably higher wages of the Tokyo area) (PDF page 18)
  • Single: 51,924 (about half?)
  • Non-smokers: 31,414  (39.5% of Japanese men smoke)
  • Attractive to her: 6,282 (1 in 5? This assumes that even if she can’t be choosy, she will still remain superficial enough to avoid lazy eyes, missing teeth, limps, moth ball smell, etc.).

Then what if you divide by between 3 and 5 for other possible dealbreakers, such as religion, politics, sense of humor, blood type, and all that? Not exactly raining men! And this exercise doesn’t even address the issue of her age, which was the biggest bone of contention among the 2-channel posters (specifically, many found the entire premise farcical – a woman entering middle age is delusional enough to think well-off men would consider her marriage material, to the point that 10 million a year becomes the bare minimum, and she thinks they will show up at a speed-dating bar in Roppongi). 

While this is a rough guess and the general bias toward richer and more educated people in Tokyo would no doubt push the number somewhat higher (and she is lucky to be in Tokyo and not comparatively tiny Boston), it is still kind of sobering to see how closely this woman’s search for love (or at least stability) in Tokyo resembles the quest to find the missing Dragonballs.

22 thoughts on “A hard bargain”

  1. Should also add that many of the men who survive that elimination process are going to know that they are a “catch”, have a good time with the flight attendant for a few weeks, and move on to the next.

  2. Yes well that is exactly the kind of speculation that I was trying to avoid. I’ll leave it to you commenters on that front.

  3. Yes, you run the numbers, leave the baseless speculation and irresponsible conjecture to us.

    In any case, I have a feeling that she will find out soon that handsome, eligible, well-to-do guys doing speed dating in Roppongi are evil.

  4. Reminds me of the Drake Equation to find alien civilizations. I would also be rather surpised if half of those over 10,000,000 a year were single. And I’d hate to think what her conditions were when she was younger – perhaps Prince William going rapidly bald put him out of the running and made her refocus her sights.

  5. Yeah, me-thinks that the 10,000,000 a year earners would be skewed toward the 35-49 range, only about 22% of whom are unmarried. Of course, she’ll probably end up meeting a married guy on the prowl doing speed dating.

  6. This is starting to sound like the plot of a keitai novel. The poor woman will find herself drugged and sold into slavery.

    I would also add that a private sector survey (Internet survey of 1,040 university grads, Aug 2008) has indeed found that men with higher salaries are more likely to be married than the average man. In fact, 80% of women wanted their future husbands to already be earning at least 7 million yen (despite a national average of 5.08 million for men in their 30s and 6.43 million for men in their 40s). A plurality of women said they would settle for at least 5 million yen.

    Their less obvious finding was that men who attended an upper-second-tier university (the “MARCH” group of Meiji, Aoyama, Rikkyo, Chuo, and Hosei) or better but have lower salaries (5 million yen or less) actually have EVEN MORE problems getting married than their less elite counterparts. I guess people must conclude that you have to be a collossal loser to waste a good education like that.


  7. Fun post, although the number of 6,282 is far too high… how many people in the age bracket of 25-49 would want to marry a 39 yo? Seems pretty damn unlikely that anyone in their 20s or 30s making 10mil a year would settle for a 39yo stewardess.

  8. Yes I admit the age factor is a drawback… I wanted a 20-year window, but the government stats have weird age ranges from 25-35, and I do actually think there is a chance for her to find someone in their mid-30s. If you divide by 3 for each factor after “attractive” it actually boils down to 78. If you eliminate 20 and 30 year olds it will be down to decimals, which I guess means she will have to learn to find pieces of men that she likes and then learn to accept the parts she doesn’t like.

  9. I just realized the Bloomberg article talks about the bar in question:
    Business is booming at Green, a marriage-hunting bar in Tokyo’s nightlife district of Roppongi. Men pay 11,340 yen ($115) per visit to have waiters set them up with women, who get in free. The bar is booked solid on weekends, and membership is up 26 percent this year, according to owner Yuta Honda.

    Though the idea of “konkatsu” seems pretty fabricated, I guess there is a chicken/egg dilemma at work — women might really be on the prowl for husbands, so once Dentsu’s market researchers figured this out they rushed to name it and package it into a marketing strategy.

  10. “Reminds me of the Drake Equation to find alien civilizations.”
    Didn’t the episode of This American Life make that same comparison? Anyway, almost every episode of that show is worth listening to, and oddly their series of shows on the financial crisis has been hands down the best layman’s explanation in any media so far.

    “I guess means she will have to learn to find pieces of men that she likes and then learn to accept the parts she doesn’t like.”
    That was basically the plot of “Bride of Frankenstein”, as well as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from one of the early seasons. I would love to see it adapted to this particular context though, as a shojo horror manga. Oh wait, you mean she needs to accept a WHOLE man as he is, not find the pieces of men she likes and then assemble an ideal man from scraps. Your sentence was way more interesting when I misread it.

  11. Curzon may have spotted the fatal error in Adamu’s freakonomics. Case and point: I work with a man who is single and fits all three of this Takarazuka doppelganger’s conditions. To boot, he is interested in getting married. However, he wouldn’t touch a 39 year old. He may not even touch a 29 year old. So the whittling needs to address at some stage the number of men who wouldn’t swim with Amami.

    Now whether you do that whittling before or after the “single” division is irrelevant, though it does make an implicit comment on how steadfast the institution of marriage is for high-earning Tokyo men…

    And “konkatsu” is not fabricated, although it may seem that way from looking around in Tokyo. Especially if you’re foreign, and especially if you’re married. The term itself is very Asahi Shimbun (Cf. ‘makeinu’) and now that magazine are throwing it around, talking about it has become somewhat banal.

  12. “Didn’t the episode of This American Life make that same comparison?”

    Possibly, but I have never heard of that show. Is it radio? I never ever listen to the radio, still less American radio (not being in America or American). So in this case it is just a happy coincidence and not plagiarism….

    “Case and point” – Isn’t this “case in point”? That’s how I’ve always known it, though I can see how the former can make sense as well.

  13. Jade: Click the link above – you can listen to the show I mention and subscribe to the podcast to get new shows.

    Peter: I agree that the idea and behavior of kokatsu may not be fabricated – I have definitely met women who seem to see the hunt for a husband as an interview process and treated it accordingly. What does seem manufactured is the coordinated effort to basically create a market for konkatsu-branded services and merchandise…

    And please remember that this is just a rough guess that I hoped would give me the chance to look up a bunch of relevant statistics… tailor your own guesses to what you think might be more accurate! It might be interesting to see how much choice the single men in this town have.

  14. “It might be interesting to see how much choice the single men in this town have.”

    For most men? The categories would be percentage breathing, percentage under 30, percentage reasonably slim, percentage with all/most limbs.

    Far better chance than the air hostess.

  15. “Possibly, but I have never heard of that show. Is it radio?”
    It’s what prompted Adam’s entire post, I believe… It’s actually one of the best radio shows out there, I highly recommend the podcast.

  16. I actually kinda skipped over the intro until the actual Fun With Figures(TM) part – the usual “don’t know it, skip over it” thing you get as a non-American in an English-language internet largely dominated by Americans, to the extent where the name totally failed to register. I would listen to the podcast except I have a major major glitch with listening to people talk on the radio – it’s far far slower than reading. Seems so inefficient….

  17. That’s why I listen to podcasts while I’m walking, biking, or riding the train/bus in a place where I feel like looking out the window. That way it feels MORE efficient than reading, because there’s no way I could actually read instead in that situation.

  18. Jade – it helps that This American Life is actually a pretty entertaining radio show – funny, well-paced, with decent music. It won’t feel like you are just listening to a BBC guy reading from the teleprompter.

  19. Could be good for long train trips, I guess. I’ve only ever tried to listen to podcasts while at the computer, which drove me mad in about three seconds.

  20. Resuscitating this thread a bit, check out this story:

    The Infini school offers various classes for wannabe brides and grooms at a time when many people in Japan are either shunning the institution of marriage or are finding it very difficult to hook up with a partner.

    The school charges an annual fee of 200,000 yen ($2,217) for unlimited access to its classes.

    And some students, such as 32-year-old Mei Oda, seem to think it’s an investment worth making.

    “I’m looking for a man who makes more than 10 million yen (110,000 dollars) a year, doesn’t ask me to live with his parents and takes good care of me,” said Oda, a contract office worker.

    Experts say that with Japan’s economy plunged deep into recession, many women are taking a renewed interest in marriage and the economic stability it could provide, and are actively seeking a partner through “konkatsu” or spouse-hunting activities.

    Hasn’t anyone ever heard of “managing expectations?”

  21. “The school, which is open to men and women, teaches students how to talk, walk and present themselves elegantly in a bid to capture the hearts and minds of prospective partners and their parents, who are often a major obstacle to successful unions.”

    As my mother used to say, you cannot put chrome on caca.

    Spend the same money on a gym membership, and stop making ridiculous demands concerning your future husband’s salary. Ugh.

Comments are closed.