Couple hugs underneath an umbrella at a crossroad

TOKYO — Tokyo City Hall’s “Tokyo Futari Story” initiative is a new approach to create couples, or “futari”, in a country where increasingly it is common to be “hitori”, or alone.

One part of this initiative is an online site offering tips and general information for potential couples, while a dating app is also under development, with an expected launch date later this year and can be accessed through phone or web, as stated by a city official on Thursday.

Details are still being finalized. City Hall declined to comment on Japanese media reports that the app could require users to verify their identity with official documents such as a driver’s license, tax records with proof of income, and a signed document stating their intent to marry.

According to data released by the health ministry on Wednesday, marriage rates in Japan have been declining alongside the nation’s birth rate, which has hit an all-time low. In 2023, there were 474,717 marriages, down from 504,930 in 2022, while births totaled 727,277, down from 770,759.

Reports have also indicated the app may ask users for their height, job, and education, but the official denied any official decisions had been made.

At the national level, the government has been working to address a serious labor shortage by offering financial incentives to families with children and supporting childcare facilities. Immigration policies have also been eased in recent years to attract more foreign workers.

During the “baby boom” era of the 1970s, Japan had an annual birth rate of over 2 million. Like many young adults around the world today, fewer Japanese are interested in marriage or having children in the traditional sense.

Concerns have been raised over Japanese workplace norms, which often lead to extremely long hours and limited opportunities to meet people outside of work. The cost of raising children is also a concern.

Tokyo City Hall is also supporting events where singles can meet, couples can receive marriage counseling, and stories of first encounters can be transformed into manga comics or songs.