Gender and Kinship in Japanese Professional Matchmaking: Households versus Relationships

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Matchmaking in Japan has received a pop-cultural boost in the last decade as a way to promote marriage and childbearing in a society with a very low birth rate and aging population. On its face, professional matchmakers labor to create new kin ties, however, facilitating new heterosexual relationships also needs to be examined in light of potentially gendered expectations about what is attractive for women and men. How, in contemporary Japan, does gender matter to kinship, and kinship matter to gender? During the course of fieldwork conducted from 2009–2013, I found that Japanese matchmakers encouraged similar behavior between men and women, in ways that privileged feminine patterns of interaction, including explicitly verbalizing emotions, and prioritizing polite and deferential behavior. However, the ways clients are taught to search for compatible partners, are rooted in, and reinforce, gendered divisions of labor. Although men and women are supposed to relate to each other as basically similar individuals, matchmakers assume that a man’s contribution to a marriage is labor outside the home, while a woman’s contribution is biological reproduction. These ideas are reflected in matchmakers’ collective wisdom, passed on to new matchmakers in training seminars, about the ease of matching up wealthy men or the difficulties presented by women past their prime childbearing years. Professional matchmakers thus present a set of highly contradictory ideas about gender and kinship in Japan wherein gender is elided in the interpersonal aspects of relating, but given tremendous weight in more “structural” considerations for building a new household.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAssociation for Asian Studies - Annual Conference 2015 - Chicago, United States
Duration: Mar 26 2015Mar 29 2015


ConferenceAssociation for Asian Studies - Annual Conference 2015
CountryUnited States


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