Arranged Marriages Thrive in Japan 1. For most women, a marriage proposal is usually a reason to celebrate. But 29-year-old Masako Saito was not at all pleased when her boyfriend asked her to marry him. Saito lives with her sister in central Tokyo and enjoys a successful career as a fashion designer. Like more and more Japanese women of her generation, being single suits her lifestyle just fine. 2. Such attitudes are revolutionary in a culture where arranged marriages were once the norm and where women who don‟t marry by the age of 25 are sometimes called “Christmas cakes”—too stale for the market. Japan‟s “I May Never Get Married Syndrome” has prompted widespread debate on television talk shows, in newspapers and magazine columns and among older generations of Japanese shocked by the audacity of their daughters and granddaughters. Already there is a surplus of 2.5 million single men - some of them farmers who make annual pilgrimages to Tokyo, where they drive their tractors through the streets urging women to marry them. And statistics show that the average age of a women‟s first marriage is rising; today it‟s 25.8 (26.7 in Tokyo), compared with 24.7 in 1975. The trend suggests that more Japanese women are fed up with their traditional roles. “Women tend to express clear ideas about what they want from marriage, whereas men still want someone who would manage a family for them and be quiet and obedient,” says Setsuko Muramatsu, a marriage counselor in Tokyo. 3. Arranged marriages are still common in Japan. Approximately a quarter of all marriages are a result of some form of parental influence. Prospective parents-in-law make a thorough investigation of their child‟s potential partner beginning with the educational, financial and social background. In some cases private investigators are used, particularly when a family is preparing for the marriage of their first-born son. The P.I. will check whether there is history of recurring illness, serious indebtedness or foreign blood in the family of the future bride. The smallest inconsistency, such as one Korean grandparent, is sufficient to negate the whole arrangement. 4. Although there are formal matchmakers the honorable meeting, or omiai, is often brought about by an important person who knows one or both of the young people searching for a marriage partner. He can be a respected family friend, a teacher, or even the boss of either of the two parties. These days lots of young people do omiai, literally, meet and look. In today‟s prosperous Japan, the traditional omiai kekkon, or arranged marriage, is thriving. 5. A teacher of one of the schools in Tokyo was constantly consulted by a parent inquiring about his daughter‟s academic progress. Eventually he was told the real reason for the frequent visits. The parent was a very rich man who had begun his life as a son of a poor farmer. Almost illiterate he was a good worker who, by a combination of good business sense and luck, became a millionaire. Unhappily he had no son to inherit the business, but he did have two daughters. They were attractive, intelligent and well-educated. But in Japan‟s rigid social structure they had no social standing. The man asked the teacher if he knew a suitable groom, who, in exchange for a financial legacy, would raise his daughter‟s status in society. 6. The teacher knew a Tokyo university graduate who was just beginning his career as a government official. He didn‟t have a girl friend and was 27 yeas old, the standard age for marriage in Japan. An “honorable meeting" was arranged in a luxurious Tokyo hotel and the young couple exchanged their printed curriculum vitae whilst drinking afternoon tea. 7. A week later the young man visited the businessman‟s office. He wanted to get married and the girl, proved certain conditions were met, would make a suitable wife. He would need a monthly entertainment allowance enabling him to wine and dine his colleagues and politicians in the best restaurants in order to advance his career. His life would require a clothing allowance for his wife so that she would not have to wear the same dress twice when attending cocktail and dinner parties. Finally, there was to be a monthly allowance for his parents. The girl‟s father agreed to all three demands and arrangements were made for the marriage. Then disaster struck. 8. The bride‟s younger sister went to Korea for a holiday and returned two weeks later with a husband. Racial discrimination plays an important role in Japanese life. All foreigners are considered inferior, but the Koreans are the lowest of the low. Because her sister foolishly fell in love with, and married, a Korean, the arranged marriage did not take place. 9. Finding the right mate is getting tougher even for those eager to marry. Professional matchmaking services have sprung up to help; many companies lure customers by providing personal counseling as well as a complex computer system to bring singles together. It also organizes more than 250 events a year - including dinner parties, tennis games and even overseas trips - to help members to meet. Last year the company took 35 women to New York to meet Japanese businessmen stationed in the United States. 10.In the belief that a married employee is a more stable employee, some companies like Mitsubishi provide in-house marriage counseling and matchmaking services. But for a growing number of women such gestures may come to naught. “In the old days, I would have felt absolutely uncomfortable if I stayed single at my age,” says Kyoko Hirakawa, a 34-year-old businesswoman. “People would have talked about me behind my back. Now I work and make my own living.” Lead in: 1. What is the best way to find a husband or a wife? _________________________________________________________ 2. Should you let your family to select a mate for you or should you date many young people and try to „fall in love‟? ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ 3. What do you think of matchmaking? ___________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Read the following descriptions of courting practices from around the world and decide whether they are used in Israel or not. Young people usually meet at a community center or through relatives. A young man can meet a young woman at her home only in the presence of her family. Young couples, who socialize by dating, go out for an evening alone together. Many young couples meet on their own at school, in the army or at the workplace. Sexual intimacy before marriage is often part of the process of selecting a future husband or wife. 5. If a married couple is not compatible, should they stay married or get divorced? _______________________________________________________ 6. How important do you consider love as a reason for young people to get married? ________________________________________________________ Comprehension 1. Does the article begin with the general or specific? __________________________________________________________ 2. At what point does it change? ________________________________ 3. Many women in Japan don‟t marry young because_______________ __________________________________________________________ 4. What does the phrase “Christmas cakes” mean?__________________ 5. Paragraph 3: i. describes marriage in Japan. ii. tells us how to arrange a Japanese marriage. iii. infers most Japanese marry for love. iv. describes interfering Japanese parents. 6. The word “prospective” in paragraph means: i. reliable ii. possible iii. impressive iv. eventually 7. The marriage will not take place, according to the context of paragraph 3, if i. a detective has been used. b. somebody has been unwell. c. an ancestor isn‟t Japanese. d. the marriage is arranged. 8. The function of omiai is___________________________________ 9. The businessman really wanted his daughter‟s teacher to ( paragraph 5 ) i. give her extra lessons. ii. inherit his business. iii. help her to study. iv. find a husband for her. 10. Even though the businessman is a millionaire, his daughters are considered to be lower class because _____________________ _________________________________________________________ 11. What did the young men ask the businessman to do? a. He asked _____________________________________________ b. He asked _____________________________________________ iii. He asked _____________________________________________ 12. The marriage was canceled because __________________________ 13. Which word in paragraph 3 means “the usual way of doing things” _______________________________________________________ 14. Why does such a big company as Mitsubishi hire professional matchmakers and counselors? ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ 15. In your opinion: i. Most people could find more than one person in the world with whom they would be happily married. ii. You should not get married just because you feel something has been missing from your life. iii. The male partner should have more money than the female, because it is his duty to look after her. d. Men should iron their own shirts.
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