With the population concentrated in Tokyo, it would appear the best place to find a mate. But nearly one in five women and more than one in four men in the capital had remained unmarried by age 50 as of 2015, according to a report by Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. (AP/Koji Sasahara)
Kota Ueda, 39, is still single although he has long dreamed of getting married.
In short, he has been unlucky in love.
Ueda, who did not disclose his real name, is a researcher working for a major manufacturer's office in Tochigi Prefecture in the Kanto region. Most of his colleagues are men.
He also has no childhood friends there as he grew up in a different region. He drives about 20 minutes to work and does not go anywhere in particular afterwards.
It is not that Ueda has never dated. But his past serious relationships with two women ended because of distance.
He went out with the first woman for five years in his late 20s. But she lived in a town three hours away by car and her parents disapproved of their long-distance relationship.
Two years ago, Ueda dated another woman who was a year older and living in a neighboring prefecture. But she dumped him, saying that if they married she had no intention of moving away from her parents.
Ueda now travels to Tokyo once every one or two months to attend matchmaking events that he finds reliable, such as those organized by temple priests.
On one weekend in early April, Ueda rode a train for two hours to come to Tokyo for his second date with a woman he met at one of the events. They planned to see cherry blossoms. The problem of distance is always in the back of his mind.
"Many seem to think that Tochigi is a rural, inconvenient place, far away from Tokyo, despite both being in the same Kanto region. Living outside Tokyo can be a disadvantage when looking for a partner," he said.
With the population concentrated in Tokyo, it would appear the best place to find a mate. But nearly one in five women and more than one in four men in the capital had remained unmarried by age 50 as of 2015, according to a report by Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
The percentage of women and men who had never married by age 50 was 19.2 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively. By prefecture, Tokyo came top for women and third for men.
"Tokyo has many places where I can meet men," said Midori Maruyama, 34, a Tokyoite living with her parents. She has signed up for a temple matchmaking event and attends mixers with her friends several times a month.
Maruyama, who also did not give her real name, said at one recent mixer she hit it off with a man who was around her same age. He told her he wanted a girlfriend but was not interested in getting married until later in life.
She said men she is interested in are either already married or not willing to commit. Although she has lots of chances to meet men in Tokyo, she has not been able to find the right one for her.
Maruyama, who works for a midsize manufacturer, has been given responsibilities at her job where she has spent more than eight years. She considers it worthwhile continuing.
"Even if I fall in love with someone outside Tokyo, I can never think of leaving the city," she said.
Maruyama also hopes to stay close to her parents and care for them as they grow old. But she dreads the idea of never finding companionship.
"I shudder to think that I might be all alone in old age," she said. "I hope I find a man and we can support each other."