I gotta thank ANN for this one: Last year they reported on some crazy-ass K-ON! matchmaking event that went down in Tokyo held by the all too appropriately named dating service “I’m Single.” Me being the kind of dude who often complains to his friends about lacking companionship–often times after a few drinks–I was egged on by one of them to participate in something like this. So, I ended up checking out the I’m Single site. A quick glance reveals that all of their events are aimed at otaku trying to meet people. While intriguing, I didn’t take it very seriously, and instead chose to just view it from afar. There was no way to really know if it was good or not. Given it’s a Japanese service, and my Japanese search engine voodoo is zilch, I had no way of finding reviews to tell me whether or not this stuff was really The Real Deal. But after some soul searching in February, I decided to hang up my shame and participate in one of their weekly otaku-matchmaking parties.
Cut to last weekend. I’m hanging out in Kabuki-cho, wearing the nicest coat I own, and pacing up and down the blocks around the Romantei restaurant–the establishment kind enough to host this event. I see flyers hanging outside the restaurant’s exterior letting attendees know that what they’re looking for is in fact right here. And now everyone else passing by knows, too.
I get there a bit early. The fifteen minutes until reception opens up feels like what I imagine waiting for the chair or lethal injection feels like. Also, really, Kabuki-cho? One of Tokyo’s slimier neighborhoods? Just what the fuck kind of event is this?
The clock strikes 12:45. Time to go in. At around this time a group of guys and gals move towards the entrance of the restaurant right on schedule. I’m the only foreigner, natch.
I go in, pay my 6000 yen, hang up my coat, and get a drink. I find an empty table, and scope out potential partners. Honestly? A good lot of them are quite pretty. In front of me is a questionnaire, and my introduction sheet, or “Guild Card.” There is also a badge with a number on it. This is now my number. Seventeen.
Weird covers of anime theme songs and BGM play in the background, with someone who is most likely Kobayashi Yuu breaking in with a voice-over explaining to the participants what they’re supposed to do every now and again.
Basically, your “Guild Card” is what you’re supposed to use in place of hours of conversation meant to get to know someone. You’re not obliged to fill out everything. Hell, you can leave that shit blank. But this is basically what’s going to sell you, so it’s good to think about what you put down. The top half of the sheet is basic personal information: Name, age, occupation, dating history, marriage history, the works. The bottom half is about your favorite things: Food, manga, movies, anime, whatever. A column to the right poses three questions, giving you the options to answer in either words or pictures. The questions are: “If you become a couple, what’s a good a date spot?”, “What are your hobbies or specialties?” and “What do you want the most right now?” Things that popped up on my sheet? Tonkatsu, Capsule, Yotsubato and K-ON!
From here on the process is a lot like speed-dating, or so I’m told. First up is “Introduction Time.” Dudes circle around to each table engaging in conversation with one of the lovely ladies for three minutes. Once your three minutes are up, a bell rings, and you move on to the next gal–but not before taking fifteen seconds to scribble down your impressions of the girl you just talked to on your “Impressions Check Sheet.” And really, it is just fifteen seconds.
After you’ve talked to everyone and get a general feel for what kind of person they are–you fill out one, two, or three of your “Approach Sheets.” You write your number and the number of the girl you’re interested in, checking off one of three boxes: “I would like to talk some more”, “Would you like to join me for tea?” and “Let’s start off as friends.” There’s also a space for a personal message.
The staff then collects everyone’s Approach Sheets, and distributes them to where they’re supposed to go. Lucky me: Out of the three girls I liked, two of them want to talk to me some more.
Next is “Free Time.” This is basically three slots of time–once again around three minutes long–giving you a second chance to talk to one of the ladies you’re interested in. I miss one of my three chances, as there are two more guys than girls, and end up talking to the other guy forced to wait. He’s a portly gentlemen in his mid-30s, hype about Dexter’s Lab, Ben-10 and The Simpsons. However, during the other two slots, I’m able to talk with the two girls interested in seeing me again.
Once Free Time is done, everyone fills out their final evaluation card, where they rate their top three people. The staff then collects these slips, and the couples for the day are announced, presumably decided through mutual first place picks on the evaluation card.
And that’s it! The couples leave together first. Then they kick the guys out.
But wait! I didn’t get any contact information or anything! I thought that was happening at the end! Did I miss my chance? Will my 6000 yen go to waste?
So, like a creep, I hang out in front of the restaurant, waiting for one of my two potential matches to come strolling out. One of them does, and we agree to exchange numbers. Turns out she was unclear on when to get numbers and stuff too, and is quite happy to exchange information. We then go out to lunch. And karaoke.
And we’ve agreed to meet again.
So hey, not so bad, all things considered!
All in all, it’s a pretty good system. It’s hard enough to meet people in a city like Tokyo, let alone find someone single and interested in dating. Something like this cuts through the crap and does a decent job of introducing you to people in your same boat, as well as in your same general field of interest. After that, it’s basically up to you not to screw up. Honestly, I thought I did myself, but she ended up texting me back, so I guess I did something right.