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A vacationer poses with his digital girlfriend from Konami's "Love Plus". He's at a special resort town that features barcodes around town that generate augmented reality images of virtual sweethearts. The town also sells Love Plus food, towels, and other souvenirs.  (Source: AFP)

The characters are from Konami's popular "Love Plus" game. At least one Japanese man even married his digital girlfriend from the game.  (Source: Kotaku)
Apparently getting a real world female is falling out of fashion these days

When it comes to girlfriends, perhaps people will soon need to add the clarification "in real life" (IRL).  Japan is blazing bravely into undiscovered territory, pioneering the world of digital relationships.

While the nation still hasn't perfected an android "lovebot", its video game companies have launched a deluge of romance simulators aimed at young men.  The most popular of these games is "Love Plus" which is produced by Konami.

Now a special resort experience has been created, offering fans of these digital romances a virtual getaway with their "sweetie".  The new getaways are staged at the resort town of Atami, within a quick bus ride southwest of Tokyo.

While the town's sun-drenched beaches are home to real females, many of the Japanese men arriving aboard tour buses aren't interested in those livebloods.  They scamper off to various locations about town that feature special 2D barcodes, compatible with the"augmented reality" (AR) software on their iPhones.

When they take a picture with the barcode, they get to feast their eyes on a generated image of them with their Love Plus sweetheart.  Shu Watanabe, 23, is in love with Rinko, an attractive girl who attends a local high school.  But Rinko only exists in the digital world.

"Look, it's like I'm in a snapshot with her," Watanabe elates showing off the iPhone image created using the augment reality software.

There are 13 locations in which Watanabe and others can get shots of their digital sweetheart.  They can also buy a variety of Love Plus-themed souvenirs, from good-luck charms to steamed buns and fish sausages -- and even special Love Plus towels.  They even have special hotel rooms with two futons, one of which has a barcode on it.  When the young men snap a picture, they see their virtual lover sprawled sensuously across the bed in a "flattering" summer kimono.

Konami spokesman Kunio Ishihara says that the game isn't just about one-liners and easy romance -- like real life romance, it takes 
work.  He states, "In conventional love games, you went up stages to make a virtual girl fall in love with you, so that she would accept you as a boyfriend or express her love for you.  But players of Love Plus are in a scenario where they are a high school boy who is already dating one of the virtual girls. The goal is to see how good you can be to her and to build a relationship."

Naoyuki Sakazaki is enamored with the game and was among the love tourists in Atami.  He describes, "With earlier love simulation games, we only scored girls, as bad as that sounds, and that was it.  Love Plus is fun because the relationship continues forever."

So far the hotel has received 200 guests, and over 2,000 Love Plus visitors have made the pilgrimage to the town this summer alone.  That's great news for the resort, which has seen business traffic decline by 40 percent since the 1970s.

At least one Japanese man has even married his digital sweetheart in a formal ceremony. 

Konami's Ishihara, though, stresses that the company has no plans to allow users to "go all the way" with their virtual hotties.  He states, "The virtual girls can kiss you as a way of communication, but nothing happens when she sleeps next to you at the hotel.  We have no intention of trying to sell a product with pornographic elements.  I think Love Plus fans would get offended if somebody tried to disrespect his girlfriend like that."

While the virtual romance craze sweeping Japan, South Korea, and even Taiwan may seem a bit strange, perhaps it's just another form of sexuality in a growingly permissive era.  Freed from the confines of acceptability and morality, Japanese men are finding themselves free to find their own version of happiness and romance.  And for some, that happens to be on a digital device.

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These guys...
By MrBlastman on 8/31/2010 10:18:50 AM , Rating: 5
Need their asses kicked. How hard is it to find a woman in real life? Not hard at all!

Besides, these virtual women, are they really _true_ simulations of women? I think not.

Do they:

Make you do the dishes.
Nag you about taking out the trash and other chores?
All of a sudden want your attention after ignoring you all day when you decide you want to play a videogame?
Constantly keep tabs on you?
Have self-esteem issues?
Bleed once a month and get crazy-emotional?
Are they completely illogical?
... and more.

I doubt it.

This is fantasy bullcrap and well, I suppose, if it keeps them happy, then, whatever. The problem is, like the real thing, these devices demand tedious amounts of attention. The difference is, at least with the real thing you get some loving on the side occasionally. It might not be all the time, but, at least it will happen sometimes so it makes up for everything else (kind of). With these stupid programs--they don't really give you that, now, do they?

I dunno, I'm just bitter and rambling here. Maybe it is that time of the month for me... in a guy way? ;)

RE: These guys...
By volvox on 8/31/2010 10:38:14 AM , Rating: 5
How hard is it to find a woman in real life? Not hard at all!

I find these kind of games ridiculous as well, but I really think that the guys who play them don't stand a chance to find a woman in real life. So they give up and turn to these things instead.


Do they:

Make you do the dishes.
Nag you about taking out the trash and other chores?
All of a sudden want your attention after ignoring you all day when you decide you want to play a videogame?
Constantly keep tabs on you?
Have self-esteem issues?
Bleed once a month and get crazy-emotional?
Are they completely illogical?
... and more.

I doubt it.

Ironically, I think you just explained why there's a market for these games. :)

RE: These guys...
By MrBlastman on 8/31/2010 11:35:24 AM , Rating: 2
Ironically, I think you just explained why there's a market for these games. :)

Exactly, except these games don't pleasure you physically either.

There are tradeoffs in life.

RE: These guys...
By Omega215D on 8/31/2010 12:38:53 PM , Rating: 5
Well... not yet at least. Watch them make some kinda weird add-on for it...

RE: These guys...
By HrilL on 8/31/2010 7:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
the fleshlight add on?

RE: These guys...
By jhb116 on 9/1/2010 7:57:29 AM , Rating: 2
Or a Fembot ala Austin Powers??

RE: These guys...
By Kurz on 9/1/2010 10:56:29 AM , Rating: 2

Google it... I super computer with a crotch and boobs.

RE: These guys...
By Kurz on 9/1/2010 10:56:45 AM , Rating: 2

Google it... I super computer with crotch and boobs.

RE: These guys...
By FaceMaster on 9/1/2010 2:29:10 PM , Rating: 2
You mean a full-body electro-suit?!

RE: These guys...
By lennylim on 8/31/2010 1:17:56 PM , Rating: 3
Nothing says an actual live person would either so I wouldn't count that as a tradeoff :)

RE: These guys...
By Aenslead on 9/1/2010 10:21:26 AM , Rating: 2

No mater how many pain-killers you have at home, there's always a headache.

RE: These guys...
By AnnihilatorX on 8/31/2010 11:34:18 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know why you were rated down, my sacarsm meter went through the roof

RE: These guys...
By inighthawki on 8/31/2010 2:00:25 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe less because it was less because of the joke and more because it was "not worth reading"

RE: These guys...
By HalJordan on 8/31/2010 11:48:56 AM , Rating: 4
All of a sudden want your attention after ignoring you all day when you decide you want to play a videogame?

That is my wife.

I consider myself a super geek. My hobbies and interests are pretty much nerd clichés: science fiction, computers, dinosaurs, astronomy, comic books. Hell, I even lived in my parents basement for a while. Still I managed to meet a woman, get married, and father some children. I understand the need to escape from reality from time to time; video games are a great stress reliever. However, when the desire to take a vacation with your digital girlfriend pops into your head it is time to seek professional help.

RE: These guys...
By Mitchy on 8/31/2010 12:13:43 PM , Rating: 2
Do they: Make you do the dishes. Nag you about taking out the trash and other chores? All of a sudden want your attention after ignoring you all day when you decide you want to play a videogame? Constantly keep tabs on you? Have self-esteem issues? Bleed once a month and get crazy-emotional? Are they completely illogical? ... and more. I doubt it.

bwahahaha! I never post on this site but i read daily, but i had to sign up to say: QFT.

That made my day lol

RE: These guys...
By PaterPelligrino on 8/31/2010 12:25:23 PM , Rating: 5
The Japanese are a very shy people, and the men in particular are hopeless when it comes to screwing up the courage to approach women.

Google the term 'hikikomori'

I lived in Japan for almost 15 years. The women are horny as hell but never get laid. The guys would rather stay home and jerk off to porn. It's because the men find it easier to relate to porn, and anime chicks, that their porn industry is so advanced. This also explains why the Nips are in the vanguard of sexbot development. You get the impression that everybody's screwing all the time - far form it. Surveys of Asian countries asking about satisfaction with people's sex lives always put the Japanese at the bottom of the list. (They are to sexual satisfaction what Americans are to math.)

Recently, the latest trend in women's magazines are articles instructing the girls on how to get the guys into bed - I s**t you not.

As a result, Japan is sex heaven for even loser Western guys. We go over there and hit on everybody, and half the time you score. I met plenty of Western guys who couldn't get laid back in their own countries, go to Japan planning to stay for a year or two, and end up never leaving.

Do a web search on the term 'charisma man'

However, Japanese women are among the least attractive of all Asian women - the Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and Chinese all have a far higher percentage of knockout women.

RE: These guys...
By shin0bi272 on 8/31/2010 12:57:37 PM , Rating: 4
That reminds me I need to move to Japan...

RE: These guys...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/31/2010 5:43:21 PM , Rating: 3
However, Japanese women are among the least attractive of all Asian women

Wow...not cool man.

RE: These guys...
By priusone on 9/1/2010 1:10:18 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, it is up to personal preference, but thanks to the advent of the internet, it is easy to test the theory. Having lived in Japan for two years, I have to agree to the 'attractiveness' issue, although the majority of the women that I met were very kindhearted.

RE: These guys...
By PaterPelligrino on 9/1/2010 1:49:52 AM , Rating: 5
Not cool to state a fact? I've lived in Asian for about 25 years. (I'm now based in Taipei where truly sensational women are everywhere). The great majority of Japanese women are simply not very attractive, and that's a very common opinion among people who've spent any time in Asia. The average Japanese chick is short, has stubby legs (daikonashi) and a very plain face. I know this upsets the idealized idea many of you have of Japanese beauty from all the manga and anime and porn, but the presentation that a people give to themselves in the media is usually far from the reality on the ground. Looking at all the Hollywood films you'd think that American women are all beautiful and slim, when the reality is that 2/3 are seriously overweight and 1/3 obese. If you take a close look at the anime and manga women you'll see that they all have idealized Western bodies: long legs with shorter upper bodies, are slim and have huge eyes. This is exactly what most Japanese women aren't. Btw, upper-lower body length ratios vary between the races (tho I dislike the word race).

(Eyes are a big thing in Asia. 50% of Korean women - and Korea is THE country for cosmetic surgery in Asia, except for sex-change where the go-to guys are all Thai - have their eyes Westernized.)

Of course, there are beautiful Japanese women, but they are few and far between. But don't get me wrong, Japanese women are wonderful people, and once you get to know them, not the submissive creatures of stereotype. The men, however, are truly weird; and that some fall in love with anime characters is old news over here. The Japanese live very much inside their heads and all have rich imaginations. But the major factor behind this love for idealized anime characters, the work put into sexbots, and the prevalence of porn - which is a large export for Japan; most Asian guys grow up jerking off to Japanese AV girls - is because Japanese men have real trouble relating to women. This also explains the omnipresence of paid sex in Japan: a guy doesn't have to worry about embarrassment when he buys sex in a commercial transaction - the girl is the commodity and he the customer. I think that maybe except for the Muslim countries - and this is pure conjecture on my part because I know nothing about Muslim people - the conceptual/psychological gap between the sexes is greatest in Japan. Many Japanese guys look at women as if they're a different species.

Also, to bust another stereotype: in 15 years in Japan, I saw only one Geisha, in Kyoto. I think there are only a few hundred of them in the entire country.

I could write a book on Japan. Here's one incident that illustrates something about Japanese men. When I lived in Osaka, I had a cute, blond Australian friend who worked in a 'hostess club'. She wasn't a prostitute, her job was just to sit and drink with rich business guys and tell them how great they were. It satisfied their curiosity about Western women in a non-threatening situation - again because the guy is paying for the girl's company and the customer is king and all that. (Alcohol is hugely important in Japan as a social lubricant, in a way that Westerners unfamiliar with the place find very excessive.) Anyway, my friend would ride her bike home about 3AM every morning - bikes in big cities in Japan are very common because the subways shut down around midnight and the taxis are expensive. A couple of weeks after she started her job, she was on her way home when a drunk, middle-aged Japanese guy stopped her and offered her 30,000 yen for her underwear. She said she hesitated for a second, then jumped off the bike, slid off her panties, handed them to the guy and went on her way $300 richer. A week later the same thing happened. After that, she said she stopped wearing expensive underwear to work.

RE: These guys...
By GeorgeOu on 9/1/2010 9:16:50 AM , Rating: 2
If taller girls are your thing (mine too), then Koreans and Chinese girls (depending on region, especially northerners) are probably more likely to be your thing. But these are just generalizations and there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.

RE: These guys...
By PaterPelligrino on 9/1/2010 4:40:54 PM , Rating: 2
Just love those tall dongbei (Chinese for northeast) girls. The women from Sichuan are also quite striking, btw.

RE: These guys...
By Hieyeck on 9/1/2010 9:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
However, Japanese women are among the least attractive of all Asian women - the Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and Chinese all have a far higher percentage of knockout women.

Move to Toronto. You can eat out around the world, whatever your taste.

RE: These guys...
By Misty Dingos on 8/31/2010 4:20:38 PM , Rating: 2
I have only one thing to say or rather point out.

Japan... is a strange nation
By KIAman on 8/31/2010 2:05:54 PM , Rating: 2
So this statement is supposed to be shocking...

Shu Watanabe, 23, is in love with Rinko, an attractive girl who attends a local high school.

because of the following tag...

But Rinko only exists in the digital world.

OMG!!! It ain't shocking because it's digital, it's shocking because some 23yo is fantasizing about some 13-17yo high school girl!!!

This... is normal there? WTF?

By limitedaccess on 8/31/2010 3:39:07 PM , Rating: 3
This is a cross cultural issue somewhat. Japanese age of consent is a lot lower then America. So in fact even if were a real girl, it would be legal there.

RE: Japan... is a strange nation
By Chocobollz on 9/1/2010 6:16:00 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be naive. Nowadays, even at such age, most of 'em already know how to do a proper BJ, don't they? ;-)

RE: Japan... is a strange nation
By Kurz on 9/1/2010 10:57:40 AM , Rating: 2
Pssh I bet there is even a class on it.

By AnnihilatorX on 9/1/2010 6:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
What's wrong with 23 attracted to a 17 years old? 6 years of age different is quite acceptable. In fact, a significant proportion of Japanese women prefers men as old as 10 years older than their age.

RE: Japan... is a strange nation
By Kurz on 9/1/2010 10:55:14 AM , Rating: 2
Ummm... my parents have a 6 year difference...
And my dad was a divorcee.

As long as its legal... why should we even care about how old they are? Love is blind.

By roostitup on 8/31/2010 10:20:27 AM , Rating: 2
Are they that low on available females in Japan? Is this just a sad, sad lifestyle choice? Is this their version of population control? Please, I need some sort of explaination because I just don't get it!

RE: Wow...
By Bloodknight on 8/31/2010 11:02:17 AM , Rating: 2

I need some sort of explaination because I just don't get it!

Hummmm take it more like it's a fantasy becoming true...

Some people find anime girl way more attractive than real woman, and that is for multiple aspect.

Watch some japanese anime, you'll see some girl that are so "cute" and into their relation that honestly, I doubt it's something you will found in the last generation of girl...

Anyhow just my 5 cents... I can understand them... but I wouldn't be able to do as they do, as they're living in a false reality.

RE: Wow...
By AnnihilatorX on 8/31/2010 11:58:18 AM , Rating: 4
I think it goes both ways

Japanese men have unrealistic expectations of female and so do women in Japan have unrealistic expectations of man.

NSFW website Sankaku Complex has many interestign statistics and coverage on the Love Plus 'problem'

The latest data on that most fraught of Japanese economic institutions, marriage, indicates a woman’s preferred salary for their husband is in the region of at least ¥6,000,000 annually, even though actual husbands generally earned as little as half that.

Japanese women were asked how much of their husband’s money he should be allowed as “pocket money” for covering expenses such as food, entertainment, hobbies and similar, and nearly half felt he should only be allowed a mere ¥1,000 a day. Japanese wives have traditionally controlled the finances of the household, and it seems even in the era of “gender equality” the expectation is that this arrangement continues. Household expenses and saving (relatively high in Japan) are in these cases determined by the wife, with husbands relegated to the status of yoked oxen.

53% of Japanese women surveyed reveal once again they have no confidence that they could win their boyfriend back from the non-existent clutches of a 2D girl.

When asked whether they thought they could win against a 2D game character their boyfriend was besotted with, 53% thought they had “no chance” whist 47% had confidence they could defeat the pixelised challenger.

Placed in such a situation, 20% “wouldn’t really mind,” 45% “would like him to stop” and 28% would just like him not to do it in front of them. Only 7% would respond by dumping the offending male.

The threat from Nene appears great indeed, to these women at least.

Defeated women report their feelings of inadequacy:

“There’s no way I can beat that level of cuteness.”
“Their personalities are nice and they have no flaws. Complete perfection.”
“They’re made to be the ideal girlfriend after all.”
“Because he has a manual any man can enjoy a game as much as he likes.”

Some women are irrationally optimistic all the same:

“A game can only play out as it is programmed to.”
“The girl in a game can’t offer the human warmth a real woman can.”
“The unpredictability of reality is a charm unto itself.”
“There’s no way a mere game could win against a real woman like me!”

Several Japanese ladies in their thirties were interviewed about their thoughts on the matter:
“If my boyfriend fell for a 2D girl it would be absolutely gross.”
“If he went with 2D I’d really feel there’s a problem with me, as a real woman.”
“I’d be totally shocked. I think I’d think the problem was with me and I was lacking something. It’s just like a man with a girlfriend pursuing a fake romance with a hostess or going with a prostitute, isn’t it?”
“If he is going to fall for someone else, at least make it an idol. You just can’t compete against a 2D character.”

A man whose marriage all but ended, thanks in part to hit virtual schoolgirl sim Love Plus, has explained the devastating effect Nene had on his relationship with his wife. He describes how his marriage collapsed under the weight of Nene’s charms: I did write that I divorced, but we haven’t actually filed the papers, rather I just returned to my family home. I’m a 29-year-old systems engineer, with no children and a 28-year-old wife. It seems exaggerated to say Love Plus is to blame, but still it went like this:
* I kept coming home late every night.
* My wife became enraged.
* I said “Rather than you I think I’d much rather be welcomed home kindly by Nene-san (Game character of Love Plus)!”
* Marriage ends. After I said it, I thought “I’ve done it now,” but my wife was already looking at me like I was dirt, with a “this guy’s no good” look in her eyes.

And there is the problem of changing Japanese society moral values. Japanese women were expected to behave as obedient, hard working, devoted wives, not unlike America's Good Wives' Guide in the 1950s:
Now that it has changed, but not in the hearts of expectations from average Japanese man


RE: Wow...
By Brockway on 8/31/2010 6:18:48 PM , Rating: 2
I call this phenomenon the schoolgirl arms race. As women after WWII started to go to school and advance in life, Japanese guys would get intimidated by them. Their solution is to try to date younger and younger girls, but doing so increases the rate that the girls "mature" and intimidating them. So they keep going for younger and younger until we end up where we are here, where these guys can only relate to digital/make believe girls.

Incidently, Japan has an awesome male to female ratio. They love foreign guys because alot of the guys their are stuck in this rut. Look forward to my book on the subject! :P

RE: Wow...
By someguy123 on 9/1/2010 12:51:47 AM , Rating: 2
Their society just overemphasizes over-achievement and peer relationships and it's seeped into their love life. It's just not realistic to require a person to meet a set arbitrary standards you and your peers have devised before you decide they are worth your time.

Bags of sand.
By Brockway on 8/31/2010 6:03:00 PM , Rating: 2
... Where do you put the penis?

RE: Bags of sand.
By derricker on 9/6/2010 2:43:58 AM , Rating: 2
imagine, having to pass thru that stage again ...

I live in Japan
By drunkenmastermind on 8/31/2010 7:26:40 PM , Rating: 2
and just because a few freaks are doing doesn't make it a popular trend.

RE: I live in Japan
By piroroadkill on 9/1/2010 5:30:58 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it's important to remember this and keep perspective.

why doesn't this surpises me?
By superPC on 8/31/2010 10:20:09 AM , Rating: 2
what surprises me is that why the Japanese is still looking for the cause of dwindling number of their each generation. with virtual "partner" low marriage and birth is a certaintee.

I'm waiting on next week's story
By MrTeal on 8/31/2010 11:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
Shu Watanabe, 23, is in love with Rinko, an attractive girl who attends a local high school. But Rinko only exists in the digital world.

Just wait until the cops start knocking down his door for soliciting and corrupting a minor.

What a bunch of pu$$ies
By XSpeedracerX on 8/31/2010 11:49:22 AM , Rating: 2
Getting a real woman is like carving a photorealistic sculpture out of cold steel: You're daft if you think you'll get there on the first shot and real success requires many, many, many, many failures.

Oh, the girl of your dreams turned you down? Tough shit. Don't worry, there are 3,249,999,999 left on planet earth so there's no shortage. Keep trying, keep going, keep pushing and keep failing, because they can't all say no and the law of averages is in your favor. Absolutely no bloody excuse for settling for these retarded simulations when they aren't even close to capable of giving you what you really want anyway. Absolutely no bloody excuse for just giving up after a failure, since this game is about failure and how you handle it. Put your balls back in your pants where they belong, get back up on that freaking horse and get back in the race!

Tentacle Monster
By Mitch101 on 8/31/2010 12:02:23 PM , Rating: 2
Finally love can be found for a tentacle pleasure mutant.

2 things
By Kutcher on 8/31/2010 12:32:39 PM , Rating: 2
1. Is this strictly a male phenomenon or are there rl females with digital boyfriends?

2. I'm certain there are hacks or mods that allow for some sort of pornographic experience and I can only imagine the type of third-party physical attachments you can buy for your gameboy to allow for "digital penetration" or something retarded like that. (when it comes to porn, if you can imagine it, it already exists)

By Cullinaire on 8/31/2010 12:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
It looks like Japan had better start relaxing her immigration requirements else her race will face extinction soon.
Ironic, isn't it?

By Chocobollz on 9/1/2010 5:57:23 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, sure it does. Until you have the complete savegame that is! ;-)

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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