Matchmaking and the Value of Marriage in Neoliberal Japan

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This paper explores the work of professional matchmakers in Japan. Professional matchmakers make interpersonal mediation their job. As part of introducing eligible single men and women to each other, they give advice to their clients on self-presentation and communication, mediate clients’ desires directly in communications with other matchmakers, and help them negotiate complicated interactions such as breakups or marriage proposals. However, because these matchmakers perform their mediating services for money, they are also neoliberal subjects whose self-interest sometimes aligns with the clients whose desires they voice, and sometimes pulls them in competing directions. Matchmakers presume that it is in clients’ best interests to marry. For contemporary Japanese matchmakers, marriage can provide both personal satisfaction and social insurance against the calamities of so long life. However, clients’ marriages also cement matchmakers’ professional reputations as successful businesspeople, which helps them recruit future clients.

In this paper, I look at data derived from past and ongoing fieldwork with professional matchmakers in the Osaka Metropolitan area of Japan. Specifically, I focus on a training session conducted in June 2017, where matchmakers roleplayed as clients for their peers to give them “advice.” The “clients” who were uncertain about their partners were advised to take their time, to consult with their partners, and to wait on consultation with their partner’s matchmakers, but almost never to end their relationships. Although it may not serve the clients well, the presumption that marriage is valuable in and of itself definitely serves the matchmaker’s professional and financial interests.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventSociety for Linguistic Anthropology - University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
Duration: Mar 8 2018Mar 10 2018
Conference number: 1


ConferenceSociety for Linguistic Anthropology
CountryUnited States
Internet address


  • matchmaking
  • Japan
  • neoliberalism
  • marriage


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