Online matchmaker prays for love at Japan shrine | world | Hindustan Times
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Online matchmaker prays for love at Japan shrine

world Updated: Dec 06, 2007 23:46 IST
Online

It isn't quite a match made in heaven, but a US-based online dating company turned to ritual prayers and a Shinto priest to help boost its business in Japan.

It is common for busy singles and their relatives to visit shrines to pray for luck in finding love in a country where hectic lifestyles make it difficult to meet potential partners.

Match.com CEO Thomas Enraght-Moony and other company officials followed suit on Thursday, visiting the Shiba Dai-Jingu shrine in central Tokyo to take part in a private ceremony that included the offering of a sacred sakaki tree branch.

In Japan, singles have warmed to online dating although it is still not as popular as in the United States and Britain. Match.com, part of Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp., launched in Japan in 2004 and now has 840,000 members.

"For Match to be successful, one of the things that's important is that I learn about the countries where we operate," Enraght-Moony said after the ceremony, held in an inner chamber with gold-trimmed beams and offerings of apples and rice wine.

After the ceremony, he signed a huge wood prayer tablet in Japanese asking for Match.com's 15 million worldwide members to find love, covering it with red heart stickers.

More two-thirds of Japanese in 1935 had arranged marriages, in which couples were introduced by family members or colleagues and tie the knot after just a few dates, a government-affiliated thinktank says.

But those "omiai" marriages, in which factors such as a man's income and a woman's upbringing were as equally important as their personal chemistry, are now outdated and nearly 90 percent of Japanese find their marriage partners on their own.

Today's singles are generally delaying marriage as both men and women opt for carefree lifestyles, a trend blamed for Japan's rock-bottom birth rate.

Match.com has also found that many Japanese don't believe in divine powers or even technology to decide their romantic fate.

With members worried that their dates are faking credentials such as their job, salary and university degree, the service now gives members the option to fax or e-mail copies of paychecks and diplomas to prove the authenticity of their personal data.