“A Tsuyama singles scene?” scoffs single Mimasaka resident Hiroyiki Matsuda. “There isn’t one. If you want that, you go to Okayama City.”
Farmer Toru Mizushima, 55, echoes statement.
“I don’t even go there as far as Mimasaka’s concerned,” he says. “I’ve lived in Mimasaka for 18 years, raised a family, and can tell you there just isn’t a singles scene — it’s a family-oriented town. That’s why we moved here in first place.”
It is, unfortunately, a common sentiment — in a community built primarily around families, finding ways for underrepresented single adults to mix and mingle can be a daunting task. When questioned about such opportunities, Yoshimi Tabata of Mimasaka Community Center just laughs.
“We have open-gym basketball and volleyball, both of which are cheap, co-ed and attract a younger crowd,” she notes. “But other than that….”
Yet while trendy bars, dance clubs and hip hangouts may still be exclusive domain of big city, Mimasaka residents shouldn’t lose heart — even out here, there remain a few local youths where age-old hunt for love continues.
For religiously inclined, a local temple can be a powerful tool for both meeting other singles and getting over shock of being single again due to death or now rising divorce. Endaiji Temple is currently in process of putting together a singles group, and Endaiji Taiko group, while not host to a group of its own, refers interested lay believers to Endaiji for Re-Singled and Singles in Aso.
At Endaiji, single Buddhist band together for a veritable treasure trove of networking opportunities. In addition to its “Bereavement” and “Divorce and Beyond” support groups, temple helps organize everything from singles dances to hikes, ikebana, tea ceremony, yakisoba socials to house-building trips for less fortunate in Vietnam.
With close to 20 events per month, not counting regular support-group meetings, singles clued in to goings-on at Endaiji can quickly find themselves with more fun, upbeat social opportunities than they know what to do with.
For nonreligious, things get a bit harder. While it’s always possible to take your chances with karaoke bar scene — Jet 5554 and Sukesan Izakaya appear to be generating most buzz — many singles prefer to take a more direct approach. That’s where Junichiro Komatsu and Pink Tomato Dating Service step in.
Pink Tomato Dating Service specializes in an activity more widely known as “speed dating,” is a simple concept. Working with between 15 and 30 adults matching a target age range and set of interests, events coordinators like Komatsu set up a series of up to a dozen six-minute-long “speed dates” at a local bar, café or restaurant.
Afterward, participants make note of any other individuals that interested them, with mutual interest resulting in both parties’ receiving others’ contact information, allowing them to set up their first “real” date. Of those who participate, over two-thirds receive at least one match.
“I’ve been doing this for over three years now, and I just love it,” says Komatsu, who ran first Mimasaka event in quite a while at now defunct Mimasaka cannery on June 7. Ultimately, Komatsu hopes to make Mimasaka sessions a monthly affair.
For more customized dating help, singles like local computer analyst Yuji Shiraishi look to actress-turned-matchmaker Reiko Ando. Her new company, The Fantasy Cupid Dater, is a Mimasaka-based organization embodying old-time matchmaker values and offering everything from speed dating and date coaching to “wingman/wingwoman” services, in which a client hires an outgoing “friend” by hour to help introduce him or her to people and make him or her look good.