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Online Survey (April 30, 2003)

Nearly 90% of single Japanese men and women in their twenties and thirties hope to marry someday, with motivations including love, the wish to create a home, and the desire to have children. The most important criteria by which these people judge prospective marriage partners are character, shared values, and compatibility. They see the ideal couple as equal partners who talk a lot and can discuss anything. However, one in three singles does not wish to have a wedding ceremony, while nearly 70% want only one or two children, and 15% do not want any children at all. With people tending to marry later nowadays and a growing number of people choosing not to marry at all, the number of children is on the decrease. These significant social currents prompted Trends in Japan to survey Japanese people on their attitudes about marriage. The survey, conducted by e-mail in mid-March, solicited the opinions of men and women in their twenties and thirties, traditionally the peak age range for marriage. From the findings, a clear picture of marital attitudes emerged.

Nine in 10 Singles Hope to Marry
The survey polled 300 single people (150 men and 150 women) in their twenties and thirties, some living in the Tokyo metropolitan area and some elsewhere. There were a total of 194 respondents in their twenties and 106 in their thirties.

The respondents were first asked about their marriage intentions. In response to this question, 81% said they would like to marry via the legal formality of entering their names in the family register, while 6% expressed a wish to enter into a de facto marriage but not enter their names in the family register. Responses to this question revealed an extremely strong inclination to marry; just 13% said they did not want to marry. The reasons these people gave for rejecting marriage included, "I want to be free"; "I don't want to be tied down"; and "being alone is comfortable."

Pollees were also asked what kinds of things make them feel like getting married. To this multiple-response question, the most frequently chosen answer, selected by 70% of respondents, was "being in love with my partner"; this was followed by "the urge to create a home" (56%), "the urge to have and raise children" (52%), "feeling ready to live a stable life" (46%), and "fear of being alone in old age" (37%). The survey findings suggest that the key factors defining the urge to marry are love, children, stability, and old age. [See graph 1]

In another multiple-response question, the survey subjects were asked how they would like to meet their future spouse. The most commonly chosen answer was "in a natural fashion, at school or at work" (87%), followed by "through an introduction by a mutual friend" (50%), "at a meeting arranged by a matchmaker" (20%), and "on a group date" (18%).

The survey asked respondents to list the top five attributes they seek in a marriage partner. The five most frequently listed criteria were "character" (cited by 69% of respondents), "shared values" (55%), "compatibility" (46%), "kindness and consideration," (45%), and "my affection for him/her" (40%). Other qualities included "income and wealth" (cited by 35% of respondents), "his/her affection for me" and "honesty/faithfulness" (both cited by 34%), and "attractiveness to the opposite sex" and "appearance" (18% each). Women appear to have become less concerned than they once were about a man's height, education, and income - the "big three" benchmarks against which women have traditionally judged prospective husbands. Only 2% of respondents to this survey cited academic background as a key criterion in selecting a marriage partner.

Asked to choose their ideal wedding venue, 23% of respondents said "at a church"; this was followed by "overseas" (16%), "at a hotel or Japanese-style inn" (8%), and "at a chain wedding hall" (6%). Some 30% of respondents said they do not want to have a wedding ceremony at all.

The survey also asked pollees how many children they want. The most popular answer was "two," chosen by a majority of 57%. Another 15% of respondents chose "three," and 12% chose "one," while the responses "four" and "five or more" each garnered just 1% of the vote. Those who said they do not want children at all accounted for some 15% of the total.

Asked what they see as the advantages and disadvantages of marriage, respondents gave a wide variety of opinions. Some of the more commonly cited advantages included "the husband and wife can support and help each other"; "being able to lead an emotionally stable, secure life"; and "being able to work hard for home and family." The most commonly cited disadvantage was "having less free time and less time for oneself."

Urban Dwellers More Individualistic
Trends in Japan also investigated differences in the attitudes of Tokyo residents and people living outside the capital. Asked to cite the kinds of things that make them feel like getting married, the top three responses among both Tokyo residents and those outside the capital alike were "when I'm in love with my partner," "when I feel the urge to create a home," and "when I feel the urge to have and raise children." However, each of these responses was more prevalent, to the tune of 5 to 11 percentage points, among Tokyo residents than among people living elsewhere. Other responses more prevalent among Tokyoites were "when I feel I've achieved economic independence" and "when I come home to the cold, dark room where I live alone." These responses convey the pragmatism and sense of isolation of big-city dwellers.

Meanwhile, responses more prevalent among people living outside Tokyo were "when I feel looked down upon by society for being single," "when I feel ready to separate from my parents," and "when my parents and the people around me start to pester me about getting married." The findings reveal that while the Tokyoites' attitudes toward marriage are strongly tinged with individualism, those of people living elsewhere are more imbued with concern about relationships with parents and the surrounding community.

Among both sets of respondents, "character" topped the list of desired attributes for a marriage partner. However, that attribute scored higher among people living outside of Tokyo. "Income and wealth" was also more prevalent among non-Tokyo residents. Meanwhile, both "my affection for him/her" and "his/her affection for me" were chosen more often by respondents living in the capital than by their provincial counterparts.

As for the attributes of the ideal couple, respondents in the metropolitan area said that number one was being "equal partners" and number two was being able to "talk a lot and discuss anything." Province dwellers cited the same top two, but in reverse order. Other areas of conspicuous difference between residents of the metropolis and people living elsewhere were "both members of the couple work outside the home" (which scored 8 percentage points higher among Tokyoites), "the husband works outside the home while the wife is a homemaker" (11 points higher among people living outside the Tokyo area), and "the couple always address each other by their first names" (8 points higher among respondents outside of Tokyo). [See graph 2]

Differences Between the Attitudes of Men and Women
The survey also highlighted some differences in attitudes between the sexes. When respondents were asked about the situations or factors that make them feel like getting married, the top response for both men and women was being in love with their partner. The second to fifth most popular responses were also the same for both men and women: wanting to have children; desiring stability; not wanting to be alone in old age; and longing for married life. However, the percentages for each of these four responses were much higher (by margins of 14 to 32 points) among women. Meanwhile, more men than women cited a feeling of having achieved economic independence as a motivating factor.

Among both male and female respondents, the top choice of how they would like to meet their future mate was "at school or work," followed by "through a mutual friend," with women favoring the first choice by a greater margin than men. And women preferred a group date to a meeting arranged by a matchmaker, while the opposite was true for men.

Men and women also differed in their profiles of the ideal mate. While both sexes gave character top priority, men rated the second and third most important attributes as being "kindness and consideration" and "compatibility," while women's second and third choices were "shared values" and "income and wealth." Men were strongly concerned about their partners' "appearance" and "attractiveness to the opposite sex," while women placed greater importance on "occupation" and "a responsible attitude toward work." [See graph 3]

Views of the ideal couple differed as well. Most important to men were, first, that the couple be equal partners; second, that they talk a lot and be able to discuss anything; and third, that the man share in the housework. Women put conversation first and equal partnership second. And the number-three response among women was "the couple go on dates from time to time even after the children are born."

Male and female respondents also expressed different ideas about how many children they want. While two was by far the most commonly chosen number among both sexes, 21% of men said they wanted three or more children while only 12% of women shared this sentiment. And while 11% of the men did not want children at all, 19% of the women felt this way.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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