Men and women caught up in the relentless hunt for a spouse, take note: Your efforts may be rewarded with fatigue, anxiety and depression.
That is the opinion of medical experts commenting on "konkatsu," or marriage hunting, a phenomenon which has seen spouse-seeking singles trying to navigate an increasingly commercialized--and confusing--marriage market.
At a recent "konkatsu seminar" held at a Tokyo hotel, 15 women listened attentively to a lecture titled, "How to increase success rates at dating parties."
The audience diligently took notes as the lecturer, a woman well-versed in group dating parties, dispensed such straightforward tips as, "Be sexy, or you won't get past the first screening from your prospective partner."
"When talking with a partner, avoid giving the impression that you are in a rush to marry," she continued. "Show that you are not someone left on the shelf."
Putting expert insight into practice isn't always easy, however.
One 36-year-old woman said she has been attending matchmaking parties for the past six months without success, and the often conflicting advice she has received has only left her more confused.
She said she has been told that men these days are so "needy and vain" that women have to be "careful not to hurt their pride," she said.
Yet a column on the Internet about love said, "Since there are many 'soshoku danshi' (literally 'vegetarian men,' who are seen as gentle, sweet and delicate) these days, you are encouraged to talk aggressively and take the initiative."
"There's too much information. I don't know what advice I should follow," she said.
She isn't the only one with questions.
"Why is it so hard?" wrote Kei Takamura in her blog in 2006, when she started writing about her spouse-hunting activities.
Takamura, now 50, had dated and broken up with countless men she met at group dating and matchmaking parties and through marriage counseling offices.
Having received a flood of feedback on her blog, she compiled some of the episodes from her column into the book "Konkatsu Hiro Shokogun" (Marriage-hunting fatigue syndrome) in May.
Recognizing the health risks posed by konkatsu activities, a mental health clinic in Tokyo even started outpatient treatment for people with marriage-hunting fatigue syndrome in 2009.
According to Hiroyuki Ono, a doctor in charge of the treatment at Kawamoto Mental Clinic in Tokyo's Sumida Ward, most of his patients are women.
While both men and women are "ambitious" about getting married, female patients tend to develop anxiety, worrying about what their partners have said or done, he said.
In contrast, men seeking spouses can feel deflated by refusals from women and tend to develop depression, Ono said.
Ono advises: "Don't lose sight of why you want to marry and why you are aggressively hunting for a match."
Potential health risks aside, konkatsu has become a lucrative industry, according to Institution Bridal of Japan Inc.
From its humble beginnings as a group of matchmakers in 2006, IBJ now boasts a membership of about 800 companies, including personnel placement and marketing companies.
Women are more eager than men in seeking out future spouses, an IBJ official said, with women in their 30s the most active.
According to the Nanapi website, which runs articles related to love and marriage hunting, the most viewed article has been: "How to marry the right partner within a year."
Many female readers use the articles on the website to try to study men's feelings, words and e-mail messages, an official said.
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