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In One Japan Beach Town, Virtual Girlfriends Take Place of Real Ones

At the famous Omiyanomatsu pine tree, in Japan's Atami, a man stands next to a black-and-white marker to have his picture taken with a virtual girlfriend from the game Love Plus Plus. The resulting image can be seen on the iPhone screen at right AFP

If you visited the Japanese hot springs resort of Atami recently and spotted a disproportionate number of men gazing longingly at their smartphones, it probably wasn't because they were playing Angry Birds. This summer, the beach town became a vacation hub for guys who like to treat their girlfriends to sun-and-fun holidays. Girlfriends, that is, who only exist on-screen.

And yes, there are such men, particularly those enthralled with Konami's Love Plus, a popular dating sim for Nintendo DS that also comes as an augmented-reality application for iPhones. Players of the game know that to keep their virtual gals happy, they'd best spend quality time with them, throw them birthday parties, take them on dates, and yes, shell out yen for beach getaways. After all, at $84, a return fare from Tokyo to Atami on the Shinkansen bullet train ain't cheap (fortunately virtual girlfriends travel free).

Love Plus +
Love Plus Plus players pick one of three, um, high school girls to woo with gifts, and yes, vacations. Komani Digital Entertainment

Sadly for romantics everywhere, Atami's summer of virtual love ends Tuesday. It was geared toward players of Love Plus Plus, a sequel to Love Plus released this year. The object is to form and nurture a relationship with one of three high school girls with rotating outfits, distinct musical tastes, and clearly permissive parents. (See a game trailer featuring stars Rinko Kobayakawa, Manaka Takane, and Nene Anegasaki below.)

You can read the full article on CNET

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