It wasn't so long ago that the Japanese ideal was to be married by age 25, typically to someone handpicked by parents. At its core, matrimony was an economic arrangement with all the romantic overtones of a mortgage contract.

With any luck, your appointed spouse would wash regularly, not be entirely imbecile . . . and might even have a hint of personality. Couples really blessed would perhaps have an interest or two in common. As for good looks and romance, that was more than most young people approaching matrimony would dare hope for.

Today, of course, the shackles of Japan's traditional marriage customs have been largely cast off as notions of romantic love have swept in on a tide of Western influence. Even the accepted cut-off age for women to marry has extended from 25 to beyond 30. The way it is now, anybody who wants the perfect mix of beauty, breeding and brains can search as long as they want.