Despite Japan’s growing obsession with digital communications, singles in Nagano Prefecture have gone head over heels for a decidedly old-fashioned correspondence program in Chino that links strangers seeking marriage partners through shared, handwritten diaries.

The Chino Municipal Government launched the so-called Yui Nikki (Bond Diary) program last year to match residents with nonresidents. As of June, five couples had become romantically involved through the program, which is part of other matchmaking measures devised by the city.

Chino is now looking for other municipalities to join the initiative in hopes of turning it into a nationwide project.

The Yui Nikki project is the latest iteration of an old Japanese tradition known as kōkan nikki, literally meaning “exchange journal.” Under the project, singles 20 and over apply and the city matches them up. Each pair consists of a Chino resident and someone from outside the city, with matches based on age, hobbies, interests and other factors.

Ten pairs are made, with each swapping a diary 10 times to see if they can develop a romantic bond through their entries. If one develops strong feelings for the other, the two can arrange to meet at Mishakaike pond, a popular tourist spot in Chino.

The diary is sent back and forth by mail through the municipal government rather than directly by the participants. Thus their names, photos and other details are not disclosed.

The diary includes sections in which participants write down their favorite colors and songs, as well as a chart listing life events and other things to help them get a glimpse of each other’s lives.

A total of 68 men and 169 women applied for last year’s program, with 55 of the men and 162 of the women from municipalities outside Chino.

In 2018, eight of 10 selected pairs met at Mishakaike and five became couples.

“I felt happy when I found the diary in my mailbox after coming home from work,” one participant said.

Another said: “I felt the warmth of my diary partner.”

“It would be best if the couples born out of the project eventually opt to settle down in our city,” an official from the Chino Municipal Government said.

This year’s program began this month.

While Chino has already finished accepting applications, the city has decided to launch a separate nationwide version of the project in conjunction with other cities and towns after receiving inquiries about the initiative from beyond Nagano.

In October, municipalities taking part in the nationwide version will solicit participants and pair them up, picking out their own locations for any meetings that may develop.

“We’d like to make the program into a movement by expanding it throughout the country,” the Chino official said.

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