WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03). Recently she’s been watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.
When I was in Japan back in March, a topic that was on everyone’s minds (or at least those of my single friends) was 婚活 (konkatsu), the idea of pursuing a marriage partner in the same way you would look for a job. The flip side of the coin is the companion term 離活 (rikatsu), referring to rikon katsudou or similar efforts regarding divorce. In keeping with the times, new dramas this spring season revolve around these themes. In the interest of anthropological research as well as satisfying my Japanese drama addiction, I checked out 「婚カツ！」 and 「コンカツ・リカツ」 .
The former stars SMAP member Masahiro Nakai as Kuniki Amamiya, a 34-year old who finds a job in the local government office’s Decreasing Birth Rate Countermeasures Section with the condition that he must be married. As a single guy, he lies during the interview and says he is engaged. Thereby the plot is created where he (as well as some of his similarly duplicious colleagues) have to find a wife ASAP! They go about this by attending 出会いパーティー (deai party) and お見合いパーティー (omiai party aka omipa-), speed dating type of events where after a two minute conversation the men rotate their seats. The most commonly asked questions right off the bat were regarding salary and savings, causing Amamiya to bemoan his prospects. He is depicted as a 草食男子 (soushoku danshi), a “herbivorous man” who is cooperative, family-oriented and kind but not very aggressive when it comes to romance.
「コンカツ・リカツ」 looks at a broader ranger of characters, but focuses on mother Sachiko Matsuda (Keiko Matsuzaka, whose character is zany in the same way she was in her maternal role in the drama Mother and Lover) and 39-year old daughter Nanami (Sachiko Sakurai, pictured on left). Of course the issue is marrying off her daughter, though Nanami herself is not particularly interested in finding a mate. The fact that she has 3 months before she turns 40 looms like an expiration date, and the voiceover beginning the show reveals the statistic that 1 out of every 4 Japanese are alone for their whole lives. Nanami is rubbed the wrong way by former classmate Rikako (Misa Shimizu, pictured on right) who seems to have it all with a wonderful husband and young son. However, when Rikako’s marriage collapses she moves in with Nanami and her mother and is forced to begin 離活…
The interesting thing about 「コンカツ・リカツ」 is that it provides a glossary in the form of subtitle-like definitions for its viewers when unfamiliar terms come up along the course of the show. For example, Nanami is a “parasite single,” someone unmarried and living at home sponging off their parents well past when they should. She is also “ohitorisama,” someone who is enjoying life on their own and not focused on konkatsu. Her ignorance is played upon for laughs, like when her friends take her to an omiai bar . She asks why this location, and when 婚活 is the explanation given she questions, “Tonkatsu?” I imagine that this drama will reveal her transformation from ignorant bliss to hardcore 婚活 fan and possibly even conclude with wedding bells, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see.
Here is some other terminology from the show that I enjoyed learning:
- 狩り場 (kariba) : “hunting ground,” used to describe the omiai bar the characters visit
- 勝ち組主婦 (kachigumi shufu): literally “victorious housewives” but with a connotation of smugness. Women who have “won” because they are married, likely with children.
- 受身王子 (ukemi oji): “passive prince,” a guy who waits for a girl to make the first move
- セレブ婚 (celeb kon) : “celebrity marriage,” a marriage to someone who is prominent/rich
- バリキャリ (bari kyari): comes from “baribari career,” a hard-working career woman (as depicted in the character Ruiko, Nanami’s other classmate and a magazine associate editor).