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Another app, Furendo Tossu (or “Friend Toss,” from the word Japanese people use for a volleyball pass), is a site for meeting new people with common interests, ostensibly as friends.It shows you your friends’ Facebook friends, and if there are any who you think you’d get along with, the three of you arrange an activity together–lunch or a drink, usually.I decide to be up front with her about my intentions (journalistic, not romantic) and send a note explaining that I’m a writer from New York who’s interested in talking to her about her experiences.Soon my inbox bleeps with a message–not from her, but from the site, whose strict rules I have unwittingly violated.Onuki was 15 when he had his first experience with online dating, getting together with a girl who he’d met on a gaming site. “We met at a coffee shop, and right away she started talking about sex. “She actually messaged me first,” says the software engineer, who’s now 23 and working at a web startup in Tokyo [names of daters in this piece have been changed to protect their privacy].
Founded by Haruka Ito, a 28-year-old Keio University graduate, blogger, and author, the site is inspired by gokon, the Japanese tradition of group blind dates, where men and women who don’t know each other meet to socialize in hopes of eventually pairing off.
“I think the experience [of online dating] is almost too confrontational for the Japanese,” says Roland Kelts, a Japanese-American journalist, University of Tokyo professor, and author of Japanamerica.
“It’s a culture that still prizes indirectness and a greater level of subtlety.”But I’m more interested in sites designed explicitly to match couples.
So why is the subject so touchy in Japan, a technologically hip country (their ketai cellphones surfed the Web long before our smart phones) that otherwise seems comfortable discussing sex?
Given Japan’s dating and demographic crisis, why the squeamishness about meeting in cyberspace?