TOKYO (Reuters) - When newlywed Akihiko Kondo returns from work at a middle school in a Tokyo suburb, he is greeted by the love of his life, who lights up - literally - in welcome.
His wife, Hatsune Miku, is not flesh and blood but a computer-generated hologram.
Her ethereal existence did not stop Kondo, 35, from strengthening his commitment to her with a recent $18,000 wedding ceremony.
“I believe the shape of happiness and love is different for each person,” Kondo told Reuters Television.
“There definitely is a template for happiness, where a real man and woman get married, have a child and live all together. But I don’t believe such a template can necessarily make everyone happy,” the civil servant said.
Hatsune Miku was developed as computer-generated singing software with the persona of a big-eyed, 16-year-old pop star with long, aqua-coloured hair.
It is based on a voice-synthesizing programme by media firm Crypton Future Media, which declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
The hologram recognises Kondo’s face and voice with its embedded camera and microphone and can respond with simple phrases and songs.
Kondo, who was convinced at a young age that he would never find a partner or marry, said he discovered Hatsune Miku singing on the internet.
After deciding Hatsune Miku was “the one,” Kondo said he became devoted to his virtual girlfriend, who has thousands of fans worldwide.
Extreme devotion to celebrities is not uncommon in Japan, but Kondo’s wedding did raise some eyebrows. While 39 friends and relatives attended the Nov. 4 ceremony, his parents did not.
The ceremony included the customary exchange of wedding rings. His wife’s ring was placed on the finger of a stuffed doll shaped in her image.
Kondo received good wishes and congratulations from friends and fellow Hatsune Miku fans on Twitter. He was also accused of being a “creepy otaku,” or a geek.
He was among 3,700 Japanese who signed up for marriage registration forms offered by tech developer Gatebox in 2017, enabling them to “wed” their favourite virtual characters, although the ceremonies have no legal standing.
Nevertheless, Kondo hoped his wedding would inspire others to find marital happiness, in whatever form it might take.
“People messaged me, saying they were encouraged,” he said. “I think it was nice to have this wedding for that reason.”
Writing by Olivier Fabre; Editing by Elaine Lies and Darren Schuettler