For a fee, wingmen help befuddled men pop the big question

by Mariko Fujimoto

Kyodo News

KOBE — Naoya Sakamoto wanted to marry his girlfriend but didn’t know how to propose.

The 30-year-old visited Hotel Setre in Kobe in early May to ask for professional advice.

The hotel was ready to offer him a “dramatic proposal plan” that includes a staff of five who would act as his wingmen behind the scenes.

Such businesses have cropped up in other cities, including Umeda Sky Building Bridal Salon in Osaka. Hotel Nikko Tokyo will soon launch a “future anniversary” plan for couples to tie the knot.

Sakamoto sought Setre’s advice on how to make a lasting impression with his girlfriend. He was told he should get down on a knee and hand her a bouquet of red roses. A female staffer supported the advice given by her male colleague, saying, “I myself yearn for such a marriage proposal.”

Fees for the hotel’s service, which can include dinner and an overnight stay, start at ¥200,000.

At the end of May, Sakamoto waited for 26-year-old Madoka Miyake at a chapel from which the big Akashi Strait Bridge was visible. He had roses in his hand as his five-member backup team kept watch from a hidden vantage point to see how the orchestrated proposal proceeded.

“Will you marry me?” Sakamoto asked. Moved to tears, Miyake said yes.

“I was a bit embarrassed,” Sakamoto said later. “But with the assistance of the hotel, I was able to get into a special atmosphere. The assistance was reassuring.”

They wed in September.

But what if his girlfriend had shot him down? His wingmen would have gotten drunk with him until the next morning.

Staff at the Umeda Sky Building Bridal Salon say they get a lot of men coming in at a complete loss over how they should pop the question. The employees arm them with “strategic” plans. Consultations cost ¥50,000 or more.