Composed of the kanji
for "see" and "meet", a miai
is a formal first meeting between prospective partners in a Japanese arranged marriage
. These are extremely
common in Japan
even today; about 20% of all marriages still begin with a miai, and it's a common theme in dorama
that unattached men and especially women
approaching 30 are pressured by their parents to go to a miai. Strange as it may seem, the institution of miai was created when the idea that love
should play a role when determining marriage partners first became widely accepted during the Meiji
era. In earlier times, such matters were decided by the family heads or parents, and the future bride and groom had little influence on the decision.
A miai is arranged by a matchmaker, typically an older women who does this semi-professionally. Interested candidates submit and are given short profiles (age, education, hobbies, a photograph) of potential partners. For those who show interest in each other at first glance, the actual miai is arranged, which is usually held at a restaurant or hotel and attended by both candidates' parents as well as the matchmaker. Everyone does small talk and finds out about each other and the two candidates eye each other more or less anxiously. That's all for now (at a traditional miai, anyway).
If either of the two is not interested in pursuing the process further, they should tell the matchmaker as soon as possible, and no hard feelings will come of it (the rejection should of course be worded politely anyway). Otherwise, a first one on one meeting is arranged, and the prospective couple begins a regular relationship. If they discover any hidden flaws, it can still be broken off without major loss of face, therefore this phase should traditionally last at least half a year. If no problems arise, and both parties agree, preparations for the actual marriage can begin.