Post-3/11, women seek matrimonial bonds

by Sawako Obara

Kyodo

In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, some people scrambled to stock up on emergency supplies. Others flocked to buy energy-saving devices as power outages loomed.

Amid the heightened sense of insecurity, a growing number of women also had their minds set on finding something else — a marriage partner.

This eagerness to get married, they say, comes after many are reassessing their lifestyles and rediscovering the importance of family in these trying times.

Since the twin disasters, which also triggered the nation’s worst nuclear crisis, matchmaking agencies have reported a surge in female membership and the number of marriages arranged. Retailers are also noting brisk sales of engagement rings and wedding bands.

A 38-year-old divorced mother in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, who goes by the pseudonym Yoko, registered with a marriage agency on March 15, just four days after the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami.

“Since the earthquake, I worry, especially at night,” said Yoko, who lives with her 9-year-old daughter after divorcing more than six years ago.

Having a man in the house, she said, would make it feel safer should another temblor or aftershock strike. “The desire to have a family — just an ordinary one will do — grew stronger,” she said.

Yoko, who is now dating a man she met via the agency, said if she remarries, she plans to stay at home to spend as much time as possible with her daughter.

In Tokyo, 30-year-old Ai, also a pseudonym, felt the urge to find someone to tie the knot with as well.

“We never know what fate has in store for us,” she said. “When I thought about that, I came to realize that what’s been left undone was getting married and having children.”

Ai, who is currently not dating anyone, said many women around her feel the same way.

“I want to let my parents meet their grandchild. I do have worries about raising a kid, but I feel I want a family.”

Among major matchmaking services, Nozze marriage information center has seen a 13 percent rise in its female membership since the March disaster. O-net Inc., another service, saw an increase of almost 20 percent in the number of marriages between its users in March and April compared with the same period last year.

“The disaster probably helped give many couples that one last push to take the dive,” an O-net official said.

At the Shinjuku branch of major department store Takashimaya, sales of engagement and wedding rings jumped roughly 30 percent in April from a year ago. Many customers were couples in their 20s.

“People are feeling a stronger urge to confirm ‘kizuna’ (bonds) with their loved ones,” a Takashimaya salesclerk said.

The boost came as overall department store sales took a beating, with customers reluctant to buy unnecessary items as the disaster zone suffered.

In an online survey conducted in April by digitalBoutique Inc., 76 percent of 300 mothers polled nationwide said their way of living, lifestyle and mind-set have changed since March.

The biggest shift took place in their eating habits and power-saving efforts, but many respondents also said they felt significant changes in their attitude toward life itself and relationships with family and friends.

A 34-year-old woman from Aichi Prefecture said in the poll she no longer puts off tackling things that are on her mind.

“Even if I get into a quarrel with my husband, I now try to make up with him quickly as I come to think ‘What if all of a sudden we’ll never get to see each other again,’ ” she said.

Similarly, a 33-year-old woman from Miyagi, one of the three Tohoku prefectures hardest hit by the disaster, said she now chats with neighbors whom she had rarely approached.

“(The disaster) gave many people a renewed sense of the importance of things we often took for granted, such as being with family and bonding with others in the community,” said lifestyle columnist Izumi Momose.

Amid rolling blackouts and radioactive contamination of tap water due to the quake-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, “People realized that things that had been seen as private matters, such as housework and child-rearing, are in fact closely linked to (what is happening in) society,” Momose said.