Chen Ling, Chinese owner of a start-up business in Japan, never imagined that she would appear on her home country’s most popular dating show.
But Chen, 27, was selected as the first Chinese contestant living in Japan to appear on the Chinese cultural phenomenon “If You Are the One,” after the show launched an application website in Japan last October for lonely hearts here in search of love.
It is the first time the show, filmed in China’s old capital Nanjing and aired on Jiangsu Satellite TV, has come to Japan, although it is already popular in many other countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Australia and South Korea.
Chen discovered the application details on the new website, which is run by Japan Culture Media Co., a Tokyo-based Chinese media company. Any single adult who lives in Japan and can speak Mandarin is eligible to register, free of charge.
“As my parents urged me to find a boyfriend and I am so busy with my work, which allows little time or chance to date guys, I decided to have a try,” she said.
Chen was picked by Japan Culture Media and passed the audition, enabling her to fly to Nanjing to record the studio portion of the show aired in January and broaden her chance of finding a partner.
Sun Ran, vice president of Japan Culture Media, said, “Through the website, we want to help single adults in Japan find love and provide a platform for exchanges between Japan and China.”
The former reporter from the state-run Xinhua News Agency said after launching the website that she saw a huge need among Chinese singles in Japan for opportunities to meet people of the opposite sex.
According to Japan’s Justice Ministry, there are 654,777 Chinese who are mid- and long-term residents of Japan, accounting for 30 percent of all foreign residents.
With an influx of Chinese visitors, China and its culture is gradually becoming a feature of many Japanese lives, although relations between the Asian neighbors are often tense due to territorial issues and views on wartime history.
“If You Are the One,” Sun believes, does not just help single Chinese in Japan but also enables Japanese viewers to better understand China and its people, offering insights into what the country’s post-80s or 90s generations are chasing after.
The show sees male contestants attempt to win the heart of one of 24 single women. Using VTR, male guests provide a self-introduction, with details of their jobs, hobbies, and views on love. They also play testimonials from family and friends.
After that, the women ask questions, often personal and painfully direct, and sometimes they may even debate with the male contestants on moral values and social issues. The women judge whether the man is worthy of a date on the basis of his answers. They signal their decision by leaving on or switching off a light in front of them. If any lights remain on at the end of the round, the male candidate can make his choice.
So far, non-Chinese contestants have remained a small group as all participants must be fluent in Mandarin, but Japan Culture Media are finding Japanese who can speak Chinese and are interested in the show, and want to send more of them to appear on the show.
“If more Japanese could appear on the show, Chinese viewers would learn about real Japanese life and the prejudice generated by TV dramas would be broken,” Sun said, adding that so far at least two Japanese living in China have appeared on the show.
The program aims to present a Japanese special with all the contestants living in Japan in the near future, according to Sun.
She added that the company not only introduces guests to appear on the show, but also organizes events such as tours, conversation salons and parties to give interested applicants opportunities to meet people even if they do not get the chance to be on the show.
“After all, not so many applicants can be filmed for the program, so these singles will still have chances to find love through these events,” Sun said.
Tian Feng, 33, a Chinese research associate with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. who has lived in Japan for two years, has taken part in two such events — one a bus tour to Nagano Prefecture and the other a dating party in Tokyo.
Tian, a PhD holder from Shanxi province, has met many single women at similar events but has not yet found a suitable partner. But he said, “I think people should have a positive attitude in pursuing love, so I don’t reject these kinds of dating events.”
Koichi Otaki, a Japanese employee of beauty-related company Kireido based in Yokohama, also joined an event at a park in Gunma Prefecture. He said although he joined the event partly as his work demands it, he felt happy that he could talk with so many Chinese women.
Otaki, who is studying Chinese, said he has seen “If You Are the One” through the Internet. “I know the show’s flow and somewhat understand what they said. It’s interesting!”
“If people know the Chinese language, they can enjoy the show,” the 30-year-old said. “Nationality is not a problem.” He added if he has a chance he wants to appear on the show.