Face saver: Sur­gi­cal mask sworn at Ja­pan speed dat­ing ses­sions

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Looks aren’t ev­ery­thing. At least, that’s what one Ja­panese dat­ing ser­vice is try­ing to prove - by re­quir­ing par­tic­i­pants in speed dat­ing ses­sions to wear white sur­gi­cal masks. “In or­der to achieve mar­riage, it is im­por­tant to pro­vide chances to know a part­ner’s per­son­al­ity and val­ues in the early stages,” said Kei Mat­sumura, head of Tokyo dat­ing ser­vice Def An­niver­sary. “We chose sur­gi­cal masks as an es­sen­tial tool for that.”

White sur­gi­cal masks cov­er­ing most of the face are com­mon sights in Ja­pan, where peo­ple don them to avoid catch­ing dis­eases, keep out pollen and, some­times, just to keep their faces warm. Some women also opt for a mask on days when they haven’t worn makeup. “Since I wasn’t judged by my ap­pear­ance, I think I was able to be more out­go­ing with women,” said 28-year-old Ya­sumasu Kishi at a week­end speed dat­ing event for 19 men and 18 women.

Dat­ing ser­vices are boom­ing in Ja­pan as young peo­ple shy from ty­ing the knot. The mar­riage rate has plunged by 50 per­cent over the last 40 years, from 10.1 per thou­sand in 1975 to 5.1 per thou­sand in 2014, ac­cord­ing to a Health Min­istry sur­vey. Young peo­ple brought up in the digital era find face-to-face en­coun­ters daunt­ing in ul­tra-po­lite Ja­pan, while long work hours add still another hur­dle. These make konkatsu - ac­tive “mar­riage seek­ing ac­tiv­ity” - of­ten the only op­tion.

“I think I was able to find out more about their in­ner selves and not just judge them by their looks,” said Chi­haru Tsuka­hara, a 28-yearold of­fice worker. “In this event, per­son­al­ity mat­ters. I quite liked that,” she added as she pre­pared to leave with Kishi and two friends for another date. This time, masks were op­tional.

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