The Personal Is Professional: Learning to Make Matches in Japan

Erika R. Alpert

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Contemporary Japanese matchmakers build their livelihoods and reputations not by knowing simply who might be appropriately matched with whom, but through their ability to teach their clients how to effectively present themselves when meeting potential spouses along with how to navigate the particularities of interacting on dates. Thus, knowledge about how to present oneself socially becomes a kind of professional currency. In this paper, I present data from my fieldwork with Japanese professional matchmakers, conducted between 2009–2013. I will discuss some of the techniques that the matchmakers I worked with use to establish their authority, based on training seminars wherein more experienced matchmakers taught newer colleagues the basics of the matchmaking trade. This includes teaching newer matchmakers that the many of the most common questions from clients deal with self-presentation and interaction: what to wear, how to invite someone out, how to invite someone out. Moreover, it also includes advice to matchmakers about how to develop an authoritative personality: decide on a character, emphasize the parts of their background and experience qualify them to help others marry. Matchmakers’ self-presentation as self-presentation experts serves to complicate the relationship between the “personal” and the “professional” self”. “Personal” attributes such as a chatty and gregarious persona, and personal history items such as a successful marriage, or a successful history using matchmaking oneself, can be turned into professional qualifications within the world of matchmaking, and in their turn, are leveraged in ways that are both personal and professional for their clients as well.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting - Denver, United States
Duration: Nov 18 2015Nov 22 2015
Conference number: 114


ConferenceAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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