CSR Staff Interview Interview staff profile Name: Nao Maeda Job/Post: IBJ Members Ginza Lounge Marriage Counselor What‘s Marriage Counselor？A marriage counselor supports single men and women who hope to get married. At IBJ Members, each member has a designated counselor who provides meticulous support, including planning activities such as finding an ideal partner, discussing marriage views, and setting goals for getting married, as well as coordinating matchmaking schedules and locations, guiding through dates, and assisting with proposals to lead members to successful marriages. Job of a Marriage CounselorUtsumi: Besides regular counseling, what other tasks do you handle?Maeda: As a designated counselor for clients who join IBJ Members, I conduct the first counseling session. During this session, I carefully inquire about the client's past romantic experiences, the type of person they wish to meet, and their timeline for marriage while confirming their single status, educational background, residency, and income with relevant documents. Afterward, I also create a counselor's PR from a counselor's perspective, which is typically around 500 to 800 words.Utsumi: That's quite a lot of writing! But having someone who knows you well as your counselor must bring a sense of reassurance and joy!Maeda: Indeed, many members read this counselor's PR, and it is highly valued when arranging matchmaking meetings. It allows us to convey members' personalities and attractive points from an outsider's perspective before the meeting, so we put considerable effort into its creation.IBJ's Marital Success Rate...Utsumi: On average, how long does it take for members to get married?Maeda: It varies from person to person, but generally, successful members take about 11 months in their matchmaking journey. However, recently, some individuals have gotten married as quickly as 3 to 4 months.Utsumi: 3 to 4 months?! That's impressive. What kind of members usually get married that fast?Maeda: To put it simply, for men, those in their 30s, college graduates, earning around 5 to 6 million yen annually, and having a sense of cleanliness. As for women, it could be regular employees with charming and honest personalities. Nothing extraordinary.Utsumi: Does a man's personality play a role in how easily he finds a match?Maeda: Yes, a man's personality is crucial. Being straightforward and considering the partner's feelings are important qualities. Besides that, both men and women who have a positive outlook and can learn from their experiences tend to find matches more easily.Utsumi: Can you tell me the reasons why men join a marriage agency?Maeda: Well, one common reason is the desire to have children. Some also join because they enjoy being single, but eventually, they start feeling lonely and seek a partner.Utsumi: How about women? What are their reasons for joining a marriage agency?Maeda: Many women feel pressured when they see people around them getting married and having children, leading to a sense of urgency. Parental pressure to get married is also common. Additionally, there has been a significant increase in women in their 20s joining during the COVID-19 pandemic.Utsumi: Why did the number of women in their 20s joining increase during COVID-19?"Maeda: I think the increase in stay-at-home time and the difficulty of meeting people easily during the pandemic made more individuals contemplate the importance of family and the future. There's a significant rise in people who want to get married quickly and settle down by having children.Challenges in Japan and the Relevance of IBJUtsumi: As a marriage counselor, what do you think are the factors contributing to the decline in the number of marriages in Japan?Maeda: Well, there's been a notable increase in women who want to work as regular employees long-term and continue to work even after marriage and childbirth. As a result, men are expected to meet higher standards, such as having a college degree, a higher income etc. In the past, men were seen as breadwinners, but now they are also expected to be involved in childcare and housework and to possess qualities like emotional support and qualities expected from men has grown significantly. Additionally, the widespread use of the internet has led to people living in online gaming and virtual communities, with less focus on romantic relationships. Both men and women have various lifestyle choices, and marriage is no longer seen as an obvious path.Utsumi: On the other hand, the number of successful marriages at IBJ seems to be increasing every year. Is there a specific reason for that?Maeda: Yes, before the pandemic, most of our members came from matchmaking parties. However, now we see a significant increase in individuals who have experienced dating apps joining our service. People who genuinely sought a partner but couldn't find success through dating apps are now turning to us for help.Utsumi: I see. So, what are the differences between dating apps and marriage agencies, and what are the strengths of a marriage agency like IBJ?Maeda: Dating apps may have many users who are not serious about marriage, so it is challenging to know how many are genuinely single and seeking a long-term commitment. In contrast, at a marriage agency, everyone is there to get married. The field is filled with individuals who are willing to pay a significant membership fee and provide necessary documents (proof of single status, educational background, residency, and income) because they are highly motivated to find a partner for marriage. This level of dedication is something that you'll probably only find at a marriage agency.Utsumi: In other words, everyone in a marriage agency is serious about finding a partner for marriage.Maeda: Exactly, I think those who have experienced dating apps can truly appreciate the value of a marriage agency.Utsumi: I see. Having a counselor makes a difference in how you approach marriage matching, right?Maeda: At IBJ Members, our approach to matchmaking is not just about relying on counselors. It's more like being a companion who walks alongside and supports our members. We see ourselves as providing reference materials for our members to seize their marriage. For example, when it comes to messaging on platforms like LINE, we encourage members to engage in communication rather than simply conveying information. We advise them to exchange simple messages like "Today was hot, wasn't it?" or "I went to XX place. How was your day?" – anything casual to get to know each other during the times they can't meet in person.Utsumi: I believe this image is crucial to convey, even to those unfamiliar with marriage agencies overseas.Maeda: Absolutely! It would be great to dispel the perception of leaving one's marriage to others. Japanese people are not very good at expressing their feelings in words, right? That's why our counselors become the members' strongest allies, bridging their feelings and working together to find solutions to current challenges, ultimately aiming for successful marriages. Some Japanese people believe they don't need to verbalize emotions, and that's where marriage counselors come in to offer essential assistance.I felt that the earnest dedication of the marriage counselors, who sincerely engage with each individual for their happiness, is the secret to creating many successful matches.Utsumi: Lastly, could you tell me about a member who left a lasting impression on you?Maeda: There was a 39-year-old man who, while having a moderate educational background and income, was very honest. As he had no prior dating experience, he struggled to approach relationships, which hindered him from finding a good match. However, after introducing him to a certain woman, he was attracted to her sincere qualities and eagerly listened to my advice. He took one step at a time, always showing consideration, regularly keeping in touch, and expressing gratitude during their courtship. Their relationship progressed smoothly, leading to a serious commitment and a proposal. When he decided to propose, he wanted it to be truly special, so he went all out and bought a high-quality, large diamond, and had a message plate engraved saying "I dedicate my life to you." She was deeply moved and, of course, accepted his proposal. When they came to the office after they decided to marry, the joyous expressions on their faces are still etched in my memory. While conditions and appearances may be important in marriage, what truly moves people's hearts is genuine care and proactive actions toward each other. This couple reminded me of that.Utsumi: What a lovely story. Your empathetic and attentive approach as their counselor led to such a wonderful outcome. Thank you very much for your time today!