Matchmaking event in Japan requires participants to wear masks

Japanese masked matchmaking. Screenshot: YouTube

While matchmaking apps like Tinder have jumped in popularity in recent years, Japan is one place which still holds face-to-face matchmaking sessions for interested parties.

Such matchmaking sessions are more commonly known as “gokon” which is a portmanteau form of “godo” (meaning joint or combination) and “konpa” (meaning company or party). These sessions are usually informal, where men and women meet over food and drinks. But would you meet someone whose face is obscured? How important are looks, anyway?

A Japanese company specialised in planning and executing matchmaking sessions, DEF Anniversary, has been hosting a party called “Masked Matchmaking”. All participants are required to wear a surgical mask – not the stylish masks used in a masquerade. This is to allow people to focus less on the physical appearance of their partners, and more on their character, values and other traits not immediately visible. Held more than 70 times since 2010, the masked sessions have accumulated more than 5,000 participants.

Looks are of secondary concern – if at all

But, you might wonder, wouldn’t wearing a mask and partially covering one’s face, on the contrary, spike people’s curiosity and expectations of the person’s looks? Kei Matsumura, a representative from DEF Anniversary, said, “It cannot be 100-per-cent, but it seems that many people participated with the hopes of seeing the partner’s inner beauty.”

Furthermore, the participants are mostly matchmaking beginners in their twenties and thirties. Matsumura added, “Actually, rather than letting your looks and name decide your success, quite a number of participants have highlighted that they can attend such a party with a light heart when they have a mask on.”

According to an expert in psychology, people feel more relaxed and open when they hide a part of their body – just like how people are more open to sharing their thoughts and feelings through a computer or a mobile phone, where the other party cannot see you physically. Thus, you could say that these masked matchmaking events are ideal for beginners who are easily nervous.

A session usually begins with an introduction from the emcee. Then, there will be one-to-one conversations with the opposite sex and a four- to five-people group talk. The session is pretty much like the usual matchmaking – except the participants are required to wear a mask.

Since appearance now takes a backseat, it is through topics like: “Between career and romance, if you were to succeed in one and fail in the other for the rest of your life, which would you choose?” and “Would you prefer to live in a house or an apartment?” that one is able to know the character of their partner.

After an allocated time for participants to talk freely to anyone, the session ends with a matching using an application specially made for this masked matchmaking. Depending on the session, a second party – which involves drinking – may be held. In this case, masks are not required.

Does masked matchmaking work?

The match rate of the masked matchmaking is uncommonly high at 70 per cent. Matsumura commented, “Our company also organises wedding events. We have helped many couples who met at our masked matchmaking with their wedding. It seems that there are many who have developed their relationships and moved onto the next milestone of their lives.”

DEF Anniversary is looking at increasing the areas and the number of employees to expand such matchmaking session. One session has been held at Tokyo on 24 September. It will also be held at Kyoto on 30 September, Aichi and Gifu on 9 October, and slowly rolled out to all parts of Japan.

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