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(Artwork by Ariana Maralit)

Tired of swiping? Old-fashioned love letters may be the answer, says one Japanese city whose unusual matchmaking scheme has been a surprising success.

Singles in southern Japan’s Miyazaki are being encouraged to put pen to paper in a low-tech search for their soulmate, part of municipal efforts to boost the low birth rate.

The charm of handwritten correspondence has attracted so many young residents that organizers have decided to expand the program to people living farther afield.


Compared to online dating, “it takes longer, and inspires you to imagine the person you’re in communication with,” says Rie Miyata, head of a local consulting firm commissioned to run the scheme.

“It’s less about how good your penmanship is,” she tells AFP, “and more the fact that you write every single character sincerely and with care, thinking deeply about the person you’re writing to.” That’s what makes letters so powerful.”  

Since 2020, when the project began, 450 people have signed up— more than double authorities’ initial estimates—with around 70 percent in their 20s and 30s.


Applicants are screened by Miyata’s team and paired with potential suitors based on information they submit about themselves like their favorite films, books and sports.

But unlike dating apps, the only thing revealed about each new pen pal is their age, with identifying details like their full name, job and address withheld—and, of course, no profile pics on display.

Despite the city’s original approach, it’s not unusual for local governments to fund matchmaking programs in Japan, which has the world’s oldest population and one of the lowest fertility rates.

In 2021, the number of babies born hit a new record low of 811,604, and women are now expected to have an average of 1.3 children in their lifetime, far below the rate needed to maintain a population. (AFP)

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