Real resort attracts men honeymooning with virtual girlfriends

Is this truly “only in Japan” or does Western media love stories about “weird” Japanese men? Funny how these weird men are always cast as dysfunctional straights.

So here’s the latest story in the Wall Street Journal: a resort town suffering from the collapse of rural Japan and the terrible economy promotes itself as a destination for LovePlus+ dating gamers. This story produces the sensationalist title, “Only in Japan, Real Men Go to a Hotel with their Virtual Girlfriends,” the sad subtitle, “Dating Game Simulation a Last Resort for Holiday Town and Its Lonely Guests,” and the innuendo rich description of a town seeking to “attract single men– and their hand-held devices.”

The game is at once demanding of its users’ time, and also regressive. Men in their 20s and 30s enact a high school romance. The summer fun at the seaside resort ends in late August when the virtual girlfriends must go back to school.

I’ve reported other geek love stories, like the dakimakura or huggable pillow girlfriends. It seems foreigners enjoy hearing about how dysfunctional Japanese men can be. Perhaps I also get an added chuckle out of the spectacle of improbable hetero desire. But I also agree with the many critics of this news genre that this is hardly representative of Japanese masculinity.

No smoking on Nakano sidewalks

No smoking on Nakano sidewalks

Nakano’s municipal government prohibits smoking on the sidewalk in its commercial district (as does Shinjuku and other parts of Tokyo). At first, I found this odd, given that smoking is freely permitted in restaurants, coffee shops and bars. This ban has nothing to do with public health or the dangers of second-hand smoke. Rather, it is about litter. Near the train station, there are several designated outdoor smoking areas with large ashtrays. This focus on keeping public areas clean extends to another only-in-Japan phenomenon, the personal, portable ashtray, which many smokers carry with them so that they do not leave their butts on the ground. This concern with public space and others is a sharp contrast to the dozens of butts that always decorate my front sidewalk and garden in San Francisco; most, without a doubt, find their way into storm drains and the bay. In Japan you rarely see any public trash cans or public litter; the expectation is that you must take your trash with you and properly dispose of it yourself.

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