A Kanagawa woman who started a crowdfunding project last year to bankroll her search for a husband is on course to reap the ultimate dividend.
After meeting 11 suitors in the space of a month through the formal Japanese matchmaking tradition of omiai, 27-year-old Tomoko Takebe has found a man who intends to walk her down the aisle.
“I was scared to actually go through with the project, but doing it has allowed me to meet a really great person,” said Takebe, whose project, titled “Is it OK if I like you? 26-year-old, 178-cm single woman is serious about omiai,” raised over ¥500,000 through the crowdfunding platform Campfire.
“It was a really difficult first step, but I realized that you have to take up the challenge,” she said. “I did that and it has made me really happy.”
Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for ventures by asking a large number of people to contribute varying amounts, and has been used to fund everything from movies to clean water projects in developing countries.
Takebe met with The Japan Times in May last year to explain her project, which invited backers to pay money to either meet her for an omiai date or join a group of well-wishers supporting her quest for matrimony.
Omiai, a tradition that began among the samurai class in 16th century Japan, involves men and women being formally introduced with a view to marriage. Personal details, including education and professional background, income and family history, are exchanged along with a photograph before meeting.
Takebe, who worked in public relations and as a freelance writer at the time of her project, attracted 72 backers in total and met her crowdfunding target figure of ¥260,000 within the first 10 days. She spent the money on paying for dates and hiring a photographer to make formal introduction cards.
From June 25 to July 28 last year, Takebe met 11 suitors, who included salarymen, a manga artist and a divorcee company president, and ranged in age from their mid-20s to 50s.
“It was a lot of hard work,” she said.
“I thought that if I left too much time between meeting each person, then they would all begin to seem the same. So I did it all in one month and it wore me out.
“I never had any bad experiences. When you meet someone for the first time it can be exhausting, but it was always enjoyable.”
Takebe’s fifth suitor, a 31-year-old, piqued her romantic interest. But before going back to ask him if he would like to be her boyfriend with a view to marriage, she made sure she met the remaining six and completed her project.
“At first I thought he was very serious, to the extent that I was surprised that such a serious person would want to be involved in something like this,” she said.
“He was the only one who I was really interested in, so I thought I would ask him if he wanted to take it further, and if he said ‘no’ then that would be the end of it.
“I wrote to all the others to tell them I was sorry but I had found a boyfriend. I got replies telling me that they were happy that they could tell people that although they didn’t end up marrying me, they had an omiai date with me and they were involved in the whole thing. The feeling that I got was that they supported me and wanted me to do well.”
Takebe and her boyfriend have been together since August, and although he has yet to propose, she insists that they have both been clear from the outset that they intend to marry.
But while Takebe’s innovative use of crowdfunding and promotion on social media have helped her achieve her goal, her boyfriend, who declined to join her for an interview and prefers not to be named, is not so keen on the media attention.
“Personally, when I think about my future and everyday life, I’d like to give as little of myself away on social media as possible,” he told The Japan Times by email.
“I got involved in her project because I was charmed by what she was doing. I like her positive attitude and energy, but if you give too much away it can come back to haunt you in the future.
“So if anything comes up, like getting requests for interviews, we talk it over. We always try to find a compromise and find something that we’re both comfortable with.”
And Takebe’s actions have gained her more than just a boyfriend over the past year. The attention surrounding her project caught the eye of Campfire’s president, who offered her a job in the crowdfunding platform’s PR department.
Her success has also allowed her to overcome her insecurity over her 178-cm height, which she says was one of the main reasons for starting the project.
“Of the people who I met for omiai dates, one was 160 cm and he had a complex about being short so he liked taller women,” she said. “Another was 182 cm, so he was even taller than me.
“My boyfriend is the same height as me, so when we talk our eyes are on the same level. Previously, when I was on a date I couldn’t wear high heels. But now I’m accepted for who I am and I feel positive about my height.”