Hundreds of single men and women in countless cities across the country are hopping from bar to bar every weekend in search of soul mates, or just to get to know the opposite sex, at parties known as "machikon."

A sign of just how popular the phenomenon has become with adults here was evident in the long line formed by hundreds of people mostly in their 20s and 30s in Tokyo's Shimotakaido district on a cold, rainy Saturday late last month.

"I hope I can meet someone to my liking," said Tatsuya Masuoka, a 23-year-old company employee from the city of Saitama, who stood in the line with a male colleague he brought along to join the roughly 400 other singles gathered there.