What is a “virtual vacation”? Well, thanks to the company LovePlus+, single men in Japan (and from wherever) can take a romantic vacation to the town of Atami, formerly a popular destination for honeymooners….but they don’t necessarily have to have a real-life date.

As this article describes, The men are real. The girls are cartoon characters on a screen. The trips are actual, can be expensive and aim to re-create the virtual weekend outing featured in the game, a product of Konami Corp. played on Nintendo Co.’s DS videogame system.

This isn’t really anything new, as stories about people becoming enamored with video game girlfriends are frequent on the Internet. It makes sense for a popular vacation spot trying to take advantage of this phenomenon.

After choosing one of three female characters—goodie-goodie Manaka, sassy Rinko or big-sister type Nene—to be a steady girlfriend, the player taps a stylus on the DS touch-screen in order to walk hand-in-hand to school, exchange flirtatious text messages and even meet in the school courtyard for a little afternoon kiss. Using the device’s built-in microphone, the player can carry on sweet, albeit mundane, conversations.

This Wall Street Journal article describes how it all works pretty well, and it confuses me a bit. I know this sort of thing isn’t prevalent in the majority of society, but there’s still a strong enough number of people interested it to warrant its existence.

The article takes somewhat of that “Only in Japan!” attitude toward this, which is easy to do from an outsider’s perspective, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of men in Japanese society to whom this concept appeals. Therefore it’s extremely successful.

It seems to be a hit with the customers who are using the service and the city of Atami, so it looks like it may have become a good idea after all.

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