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Some Japanese men have real feelings for pillow girlfriends

By Dennis Clemente

Can a stuffed pillowcase replace a real human being?

This guy Nisan seems to think so.

In her weirdly, irony-free and non-judgmental article published in The New York Times Magazine last July 26, Lisa Katayawa, associate editor of Planet Magazine, threaded (and probably dreaded, too) the subject that seems so fantastic a story. Katayawa also maintains, a site devoted to the hottest Japanese items.

The fantastic story is about a Japanese man who, at 37, with balding gray hair, keeps a girlfriend that may be shocking for many people — a 2-D depiction of a character, Nemu, from an X-rated version of a PC video game called Da Capo. Nisan says he had a real girlfriend, but she dumped him. The article does not explain why he was dumped. So now he has a different girlfriend and points to her 2-D, 10-, maybe 12-year-old inamorata: “I have real feelings for her.”

As much as I admire Japanese pop culture, it can stray too far, wielding tremendous influence on the easily impressionable. And as much as we all want the best for people (if this will make them happy), I think we all have to draw the line somewhere, right? But who am I to judge?!

In the piece, Katayawa then walks us through the thriving subculture that men (like Nisan) and women indulge in real relationships with imaginary characters…as a subset of the otaku culture. In modern Japanese slang, otaku refers to an overly obsessed fan of any one particular theme, topic, or hobby.

Click here to read the NYTimes piece and then back to my piece:

Then I recall seeing a hugely popular movie that propagates the otaku subculture. It’s called “Train Man: Densha Otoko.” The story is about a geek who wins the heart of a beautiful woman after saving her from a drunk man on a train. (It is also a manga, a novel and TV series, practically a multimedia art now.) Not knowing how to go about dating a beautiful woman, our guy relies on his Internet pals to take him from first base to home run.

It’s a hilarious movie, but highly unlikely to be a cross-over hit to a more conventional American mass audience. For instance, the last few minutes of the movie was excruciating to watch. What the Japanese plays straight, Hollywood does as a comedy.