Japanese Resort Caters to Men with Virtual Girlfriends

File this one under “only in Japan”: A beach town near Tokyo has begun catering to a specific segment of young men, ones who play the game Love Plus and have a strong desire to take their virtual “girlfriends” from this game on a romantic holiday in the real world.

Love Plus is a typical dating sim game in which the protagonist, a high school boy, finds himself in a relationship with a young woman. He must work to maintain the relationship. Players can become deeply involved and engaged (no pun intended) with their virtual girlfriends, to the point that one young man even married his in a Tokyo ceremony last year.

The most recent version of the game, which came out June 24, also includes a “field trip,” created in partnership with the seaside town Atami. In 13 locations around the town, players can find 2D barcodes to scan and call up images of the young women in the game. The girls wear different clothing from their typical in-game looks. One hotel has gone as far as putting a barcode in its rooms, allowing players to see their “girlfriends” in a more private setting wearing summer kimonos.

What does this say about the desperation of men in Japan? Of course many people would not go for this type of relationship, but a rare few would and do. I think the desire is driven by the fear of real-life rejection, the desire for control, the lack of social skills, and a growth in the attitudes of women who seek to be self-sufficient and free of relationships.

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