In Japan a marriage of romance isn't everything

By , The writer recently returned from a year-long visit to Japan.

In Japan, it is fine if you love your husband -- but it's a bonus not a must. The really crucial considerations for marriage are more in the category of a suitor's university background, looks, and whether he works for a company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

This isn't to say that a young Japanese woman would turn him down if he worked elsewhere -- but she is becoming a bit more choosy about her definition of the ideal husband.

Because of this -- despite the country's up-to-the-minute modern image as an economic superpower -- the ancient custom of arranged marriages still is holding its own against the supposedly more popular notion in the West of marrying someone of your own selection.

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An arranged marriage can ensure that the young woman's preferences and particular tastes are taken into account while someone else (a parent, a boss, a wedding service, a family friend) actually finds the individual and arranges the introduction.and they may offer her a wider scope of candidates than she might meet herself.

According to a recent survey, women are quite specific in their requirements for a future spouse. High on the list is coming home early. Also the company man's typical late nights out with office friends are not readily tolerated. And wives hope to slow the gradual decline of outings together.

But more local to Japanese customs are "hand me your pay check intact," and "don't meddle in my management of the household." If the man has his kingdom at work, the woman wants to make sure that she's guaranteed a small fief at home.

The challenge is of course, to find the man who fits the bill. To meet the need, wedding information services have sprung up everywhere. In the subways, one can read any number of ads of appropriate meeting places, engagement planning services, and, finally, wedding locations for a "June brido" (June bride) or an "ebiningu weddingu" (evening wedding).

And, just as with the choice of man, a woman goes all out for her wedding -- to the tune, says the IBS wedding service in Tokyo, of 3 million yen ($14,000) for a wedding of 60 guests, a reception, and a honeymoon.

Why have an arranged marriage, though, when you could meet the young man in school or at work?

Convenience is one factor. Said one woman, just married: "It was a great deal easier than trying to meet someone myself."

Another consideration is that, despite co-educational schools and increased socializing outside of school, there is little dating in Japan. Students get together with friends of their own sex outside of school, and it is still uncommon to see a couple that is not serious walking alone. So the introduction may be very important to one who has a limited acquaintance with young men her age.

This is where companies often can play an important role -- and not only for the man with high career hopes.Most young women work at least two years after college, and the ideal route is to be in a prestigious company where, one assumes, they can meet men with bright corporate futures.often, a company boss will assist in introducing young people, and, should the match be agreeable, he will act as a formal go-between for the families of the couple.

Men don't seem to have much of a voice in the proceedings. But that doesn't release them from financial duties. Many grooms present their intended with a gift of 500,000 yen ($2500), and the go-between receives around 100,000 yen ($ 500). The guests must also be considered -- each one goes home with a $30-$50 gift wrapped in a Japanese furoshiki (a kind of cloth).

But throughout all this the things men seem to wish for most from their spouses are quite traditional. Housework skills are highly valued, and so is a woman who rises early -- an important consideration on those cold winter mornings when the space heater only slowly takes the chill out of the room.

But times are changing, in Japan as elsewhere: Some men are requesting that their future wives don't require that they help with too many taxing chores and outings and that their wives please come home before midnight.

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