Here's a unique trip report for JF.
It's about a Konkatsu I attended last November while visiting Japan. Enjoy!
So I was having coffee with a pair of friends at a Starbucks in Ebisu when my friend started talking about her 婚活. Although I heard about konkatsu's on TV, I never met someone who actually attended one so it really piqued my interest.
That's when my friend suggested that I attend one. I laughed it off at first but by the time I finished my Venti, I had already agreed to sign up for a konkatsu the following weekend.
I wasn't necessarily looking for a wife and I didn't expect anything to come out of it but I'm a real sucker at experiencing new things. Besides, at the very least, I figured I could write about my event on JF.
The next day, while meeting a friend in Ikebukuro, I dropped by 青山 and picked up a suit. I've always found it hard to find a suit which fit me (perfectly) in Canada so I was shocked to find one in Japan which felt custom fitted. That's when I realized although I'm Japanese Canadian, my body is actually 100% Japanese.
But, I digress. The konkatsu I attended was held in the Ginza area and was surprisingly formal. The large meeting room was made for business and nothing else. No windows, no fancy paintings or decorations. Just small white tables with a small white chair at each end with a paper and pencil neatly aligned on the table edge.
The atmosphere was just as sterile. Men and women dressed in black suits sat down at one end of the table as though they were attending an interview. With a quick smile of acknowledgement, they started scribbling onto the paper like a bunch of high school students writing a university entrance exam.
Leaving my individuality at the door, I promptly entered and sat down at the closest table when I looked down and felt a sense of panic! This piece of paper was a form which I had to fill out!
I can honestly say that the last time I had to write in Japanese was almost 20 years ago when I was attending weekend school. Although I was able to read everything on the form, my brain drew a blank when it came to writing anything beyond my name. Thankfully, after a few deep breaths, I was calm enough to draw some crude looking kanji characters padded mostly by hiragana.
Shortly afterwards, the hostess of the event came in and explained the system to us. Within a period of five minutes, we'd hand each other our completed form, exchange 自己紹介's and ask/answer any questions we had about each other. After which time the men would shift over one seat and repeat the process once again.
There was a total of 12 men & women at this event and it immediately became apparent to me that composing & practising my 自己紹介 during the elevator ride up was a bad idea. Unfortunately for the first few women, they had to bear the brunt of my warm-up as they painfully listened to my speech and read my form. Unfortunately for me, they happened to be the most attractive women in the room.
Earlier that week, when I asked my 婚活 friend about the quality of women who attended the events, she gave it some thought and replied, “私が男だったら。。。あまり嬉しくないかも。” I laughed out loud upon hearing that but to her credit, she was fairly accurate. The women who attended this event were average to below average in terms of looks and judging by the form, I was surprised at how they could make a living on such a low salary.
That's not to say that the men were any better. While I'm sure that they were well educated and had a decent income (which were the requirements for all the men in attendance), I'd have to say that if I was a female, I wouldn't have been happy at all with all but one guy being below average.
It was painfully apparent that some of these men lacked any social skills at all. Like the man to my left who barely said a word to any of women or the one to my right who never looked at the women but spoke into the table.
As I continued along from girl to girl like an assembly worker at a car factory, I came to a sudden realization.
I was doing this all wrong! The women who attended this konkatsu were mostly first timers and/or were feeling uncomfortable and awkward to begin with.
So, I decided to change my approach completely. Instead of approaching this with the formality of a job interview, I decided to do the opposite. After all, what did I have to lose? I wasn't a serious participant but a foreigner looking for a new experience.
I immediately loosened up my tie and started joking with the girls. I'd ridicule my own form, ridicule the other men, accuse them of being a 桜, etc.
This immediately put them to ease and when combined with the fact that I wasn't Japanese, it definitely left an impression on them. Perhaps not a positive one but in this stale monotone environment, anything was a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, I started this technique on the latter half of the women who for some reason were noticeably "less desirable" than the first half.
After the initial meets were complete, we were all given the opportunity to list the top 3 people who they wanted to meet again. If the numbers between the sexes were to match, the organizers would declare this as a "coupling" and make a futile attempt to get the "losers" to clap and applaud the "winners".
Although I was selected by 4 of the girls from the latter half of the women, I chose the first 3 girls who didn't want anything to do with me. So, I ended up going home empty handed.
In the end, there was just 1 match and the remaining men were asked to vacate the building immediately.
The elevator ride down was perhaps the longest 30 seconds of my life. During that eternity, I actually FELT the meaning of the expression - cutting the air with a knife. Several men were fighting off tears while the look of sorrow and defeat was apparent on all of them. Just as I was about to suggest that we all go for a beer, a fascinating thought went through my head.
The Apprentice! In that reality show, the loser is always shown at the end riding an elevator down! Just like us! The irony was too much for me to bear that I suddenly burst in laughter.
Much to the shock and dismay of the 10 other men as they rushed out of the elevator and dispersed themselves into the streets of the Ginza.