At their speed dating events, singles meet at various locations all over Japan, and spend a limited amount of time trying to learn as much about them as they can, but the catch is that everyone has to wear a surgical mask, so the focus is less on physical appearance and more on personality and character.
“In order to achieve marriage, it is important to provide chances to know a partner’s personality and values in the early stages,” said Kei Matsumura, head of Tokyo dating service Def Anniversary.
Blessed with a warm tone and lithe, swinging sound, Watanabe's recordings have found him traversing such varied styles as straight-ahead jazz, fusion, and crossover pop.
Born in 1933 in Utsunomiya, Japan, he grew up in a musical family and initially played clarinet in high school, a choice purportedly inspired by seeing Bing Crosby play the instrument in 1941's Birth of the Blues.
“We chose surgical masks as an essential tool for that.” But the masks also have the added bonus of making shy singles more comfortable when interacting with the opposite sex.
Upon graduating high school, he relocated to Tokyo, where he gained his first professional experience playing with dance bands.
He also began appearing more regularly around the world, including a high-profile appearance at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival, and developed into a highly regarded, world-renowned jazz performer.
His albums during these years reflected his eclectic musical taste and found him moving from straight-ahead dates like 1976's I'm Old Fashioned to expansive Brazilian fusion sessions such as 1977's Autumn Blow, and even breezy crossover pop affairs like 1979's Morning Island.
That said, he never gave up his love of Brazilian music, as evidenced by his 1990 collaboration with singer/songwriter Toquinho, Made in Coracao.
More successful pop-influenced albums followed with 1991's Sweet Deal and 1994's Earth Step.