Twin disasters prompt more women to seek marriage

SURVIVORS MARRY — Groom Takanobu Onodera, 39, and his bride Maki, 31, who survived the March 11 tsunami together, were married on May 4. Kyodo file photo

TOKYO — In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, many Japanese people scrambled to stock up on emergency supplies, while others flocked to buy energy-saving devices amid fears of power outages as the twin disasters crippled power plants.

Amid the increased sense of insecurity, a growing number of Japanese women set their minds on finding a marriage partner.

Many women say they have become more eager to get married after reassessing their lifestyles and rediscovering the importance of family in these trying times.

Since the twin disasters, which also triggered the nation’s worst nuclear crisis, matchmaking agencies have reported a rise in female membership and the number of marriages arranged, while retailers are noting brisk sales of engagement rings and wedding bands.

A 38-year-old divorced mother in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, referred to by the pseudonym Yoko, registered with a marriage agency on March 15, just four days after the 9.0-magnitude quake and ensuing tsunami devastated northeastern Japan.

“Since the earthquake, I become worried especially at night,” said Yoko, who lives with her 9-year-old daughter after having separated from her ex-husband more than six years ago.

Having a man in the house would make it feel safer should another temblor or aftershock strike.

“The desire to have a family — just an ordinary one will do — grew stronger,” she said.

She is currently dating a man introduced by the agency and if she remarries, she plans to stay at home as much as possible to spend more time with her daughter.

In Tokyo, 30-year-old Ai, also a pseudonym, felt the urge to find someone to tie the knot with.

“We never know what fate has in store for us. When I thought about that, I came to realize that what’s been left undone was getting married and having children,” she said.

Ai, who is currently not seeing anyone, said many women around her feel the same way. “I want to let my parents meet their grandchild. I do have worries about raising a kid, but I feel I want a family.”

Among major matchmaking services, Nozze marriage information center has seen its female membership grow by 13 percent since the March disaster, while O-net Inc. saw an increase of almost 20 percent in the number of marriages between its users in March and April compared with the same period last year.

“The disaster probably helped give many couples that one last push to take the dive,” an official at O-net said.

At the Shinjuku branch of major department store Takashimaya in Tokyo, sales of engagement and wedding rings jumped about 30 percent in April from a year ago, at a time when overall store sales took a blow from the widespread mood of restraint. Many customers were couples in their 20s.

“People are feeling a stronger urge to confirm kizuna (bonds) with their loved ones,” a Takashimaya sales clerk said.

In an online survey conducted in April by digitalBoutique Inc., around four-fifths, or 76 percent, of 300 mothers polled nationwide said their way of living, lifestyle and mindset have changed since the March catastrophe.

The biggest change took place in their eating habits and power-saving efforts, but many respondents also said they felt significant changes in their attitude to life itself and their relationships with family, relatives and friends.

A 34-year-old woman from Aichi Prefecture in central Japan said in the survey that she no longer puts off tackling things that are on her mind.

“Even if I get into a quarrel with my husband, I now try to make up with him quickly as I come to think ‘What if all of a sudden we’ll never get to see each other again’,” she said.

Similarly, a 33-year-old woman from Miyagi Prefecture, one of the three northeastern prefectures hardest hit by the catastrophe, said she now greets and chats with neighbors whom she had seldom approached.

“(The disaster) gave many people a renewed sense of the importance of things we had often taken for granted, such as being with family and bonding with others in the community,” said lifestyle columnist Izumi Momose.

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