Single once again, Seiji goes looking for love in a can.

A while back, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa got divorced. For some people, an unhappy marriage coming to its end is a liberating moment, one that leads to joy be giving them the freedom to finally be their true self. And maybe there’s some of that to Seiji’s emotional state as a divorcee, but frankly, these days the guy is just feeling lonely.

▼ Seiji

Getting back into the dating game after being out of it for a few years hasn’t been easy for Seiji. Recently, he’s begun to feel like maybe he’s looking for love in all the wrong places, but where’s the right place?

Maybe inside a vending machine.

In the midst of his lonely lamentations, Seiji remembered hearing tales of a vending machine in Tokyo’s Kamata neighborhood that sells chances at love. Hopping on the train, he began to think about what kind of woman would be his ideal romantic partner. He’d like someone with a healthy amount of life experience, and someone who’s lived on their own for a while. Someone who’s easy to talk to, and above all, someone who’ll be understanding and accepting of who he is, and isn’t always comparing their relationship to what other people do or what kind of married lifestyle brags are getting likes on social media.

These were the sort of romance ruminations running through Seiji’s head as he stepped out the east exit of Kamata Station. Next to the station is a traffic rotary, and stretching east from the middle of it is a narrow street.

As Seiji entered it, it felt like someone had flipped a switch. The area around the rotary was filled with hustle and bustle, but this street, lined with pubs and bars, was quiet and almost deserted in the daytime.

About a block and a half from the rotary, on the right-hand side of the street, is where you’ll find the vending machine selling shots at love.

From out on the street, it’s actually a little hard to spot, since the vending machines on either side of the entrance to the space just sell ordinary drinks. Tucked in the back, though, is this pink vending machine, operated by a company called Matching Advisor Press.

The top row is stocked with cans and bottles of coffee, tea, and soda. The second and third rows, though? Each of those pink cans corresponds to a single woman who, just like Seiji, is looking for love.

They’re all identically priced at 1,000 yen (US$7.40) and list the woman’s age. For example. the cans in the photo below, from left to right, are a 27-year-old woman (女性 27歳), a 32-year-old woman (女性 32歳), and a 35-year-old woman (女性 35歳).

And don’t worry, there are no tiny single ladies trapped inside the can. Matching Advisor Press is an omiai coordinator. The word omiai sometimes gets translated as “arranged marriage,” but it’s really more of a matchmaking service for single people who are both looking for a serious relationship and hoping to get married in the not too distant future.

When you purchase one of the cans, what you’re actually doing is paying the consultation fee for an interview with Matching Advisor Press, where they’ll show you a photo of the person who corresponds to the can and give you more information about them. Matching Advisor Press’ office is, conveniently, located on the second floor of the building, right above the vending machines.

▼ There are also cans from men looking for love, which are the white ones, in another vending machine in the space.

After your interview, if you and the can’s person are both interested in each other, Matching Advisor Press will set up a face-to-face meeting for you (omiai sessions ordinarily involve drinks and light fare at a fancy restaurant or some sort of other classy venue) for an additional 15,000 yen. On the other hand, if after the interview you decide you’d rather not take things any further with that particular person, Matching Advisor Press will refund the 1,000 yen you used to purchase the can.

Scanning through the cans, Seiji saw that the majority were from people in their 30s and 40s, but there were also ones from singles in their 20s and 50s. Considering his preference for someone with a good deal of life experience, he figured he’d try his luck with a can from a 35-year-old woman. When he went to hit the button, though, he saw a red light shining in it, indicating that the can had already been purchased.

OK, Seiji thought, it wasn’t like he was only interested in dating someone exactly 35 years old. He had no problem with someone a little older or younger. But the next can he wanted to buy had a red already-sold light on its button too, and so did the one after that. As a matter of fact…

…every single one was sold! Not just the women, either – the men’s cans were entirely sold out too.

This apparently isn’t a rare occurrence, either. There’s a pre-recorded message playing in the vending machine space, and it says the cans regularly sell out.

Though this was Seiji’s first trip to Matching Advisor Press’ vending machines, they’ve actually been in operation for a while. In a happy change from the rising prices of the current inflationary economy, though, the cans, and associated matchmaking service, have gotten much more affordable.

For one thing, the cans used to cost 3,000 yen, three times as much as they do now. The bigger change, though, is that previously Matching Advisor Press’ service contracts included a stipulation that if you and the person you were introduced to eventually did get married, you’d pay a 300,000-yen “successful marriage award payment” to them. That’s not an uncommon stipulation in the omiai sector of the matchmaking industry, but Matching Advisor Press’ vending machines now say that they levy no successful marriage award payment fees whatsoever, so it sounds like your potential expenses top out at 16,000 yen (US$119), which seems pretty reasonable if it turns out you meet the love of your life thanks to the can.

Seiji, trying to look on the bright side, was happy that apparently so many other people are making use of the cans as they search for their spouse. He just hopes that there’s still someone out there somewhere for him.

Vending machine information
Address: Tokyo-to, Ota-ku, Kamata, 5-19-6

Photos ©SoraNews24
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