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“I think the experience [of online dating] is almost too confrontational for the Japanese,” says Roland Kelts, a Japanese-American journalist, University of Tokyo professor, and author of Japanamerica.

“It’s a culture that still prizes indirectness and a greater level of subtlety.”But I’m more interested in sites designed explicitly to match couples.

Widening their eyes, they blushed, as if I’d said something dirty and controversial.

It’s a bit of a mystery: Japanese dating sites–known as deaikei–are numerous and thriving, with apps like Pairs, Match Alarm, Niku Kai, and Yahoo Omiai attracting growing numbers of fans.

So why is the subject so touchy in Japan, a technologically hip country (their ketai cellphones surfed the Web long before our smart phones) that otherwise seems comfortable discussing sex?

Given Japan’s dating and demographic crisis, why the squeamishness about meeting in cyberspace?

I decide to be up front with her about my intentions (journalistic, not romantic) and send a note explaining that I’m a writer from New York who’s interested in talking to her about her experiences.

On a recent trip there, I often asked people if they or their friends were involved with web dating, and time and again they shook their heads.

Another app, Furendo Tossu (or “Friend Toss,” from the word Japanese people use for a volleyball pass), is a site for meeting new people with common interests, ostensibly as friends.

It shows you your friends’ Facebook friends, and if there are any who you think you’d get along with, the three of you arrange an activity together–lunch or a drink, usually.

So I decide to try out Pairs, a dating application linked to Facebook that, along with Match Alarm, Niku Kai, and Yahoo Omiai, is one of the country’s most popular.

As with most Japanese dating apps, women can sign up for free, while men pay ¥2,380 (roughly ) per month.

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