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In Japan, eves crave for younger men

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 18:03 IST

When 34-year-old Sayuri Shimizu broke the news to her parents that she planned to wed a man six years younger than herself, they weren't upset.

They were just happy she was finally getting married.

An increasing number of Japanese women are delaying or skipping marriage altogether. But for those who still want romance, younger men are an increasingly trendy option.

Tales of women pairing off with "toshishita" (younger) men are being told in a rash of recent books, articles in women's magazines and even a TV drama called Suppli - named after popular health supplement tablets.

The growing financial independence of Japanese women makes relationships with younger men a more feasible option these days in a land where wives traditionally relied on husbands for economic sustenance.

"Marriage used to be for a livelihood," said Kaori Haishi, 40, who has written two books on the topic and whose own husband, Yasushi, is 34. "Now it's for having a partner with whom you can walk through life together."

Marriages in which the bride is older than the groom accounted for almost one-third of all weddings in 2002, up from just under 18 percent in 1987, according to a survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

Women are waiting longer to marry - the average age for first marriages jumped to 29.8 in 2005 from 25.9 in 1992 while the percentage of unmarried women in their early thirties rose to 32 per cent last year from around 14 per cent in 1990.

The factors are complex, but in part the feminine aversion to marriage reflects a gap between women's rising status at work and the deep-rooted notion that they should be subservient in relationships with men, said social commentator Rika Kayama.

"As a result, women who are competent in work and who have high incomes find it difficult to find husbands and partners," she said.

Daisuke Inoue of Good Will Planning Ltd., a dating agency that organises parties for meeting potential partners, said about half the agency's female clients in their 30s sign up to meet younger men and the number looks set to rise.

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