TOKYO - A 35-year-old man from Japan tied the knot with a doll in the likeness of virtual star Hatsune Miku.
Hatsune Miku, or simply Miku to her international fans, is the character model designed by artist KEI for the Vocaloid voice synthesizer program by Crypton.
Her singing voice was sampled from the voice of voice actress Saki Fujita. The software was released in Japan on Aug. 31, 2007. The fourth version of the software called “Hatsune Miku V4” was released on Aug. 31, 2016.
Miku herself has no intricately defined personality, but is rather defined by the songs fans and songwriters make for her.
Her appearance is just the same. While artworks tend to maintain her aquamarine hair, fan art sometimes takes liberties to redefine how Miku looks like.
As for the happy bridegroom, Akihiko Kondo found solace and inspiration in the countless songs made for the virtual diva. This led him to fall hard for the virtual singer and announced his intent to marry Miku through twitter posts made on Aug. 18.
Fast forward to the present, Kondo made his dream come true on Nov 4 with a full wedding ceremony complete with guests and a blushing bride in the form of a Miku doll wearing a white wedding dress.
The ceremony was a small and intimate affair with just 39 guests.
They included relatives, friends and Japanese Parliament member Taro Yamada and Assemblyman Ogino Otaku, who each shared snapshots of the event through tweets on the same day.
What led to the unusual union? Apparently, Kondo had trouble interacting with women due to a traumatizing experience at work.
Ten years ago, Kondo was on the receiving end of workplace bullying by female superiors. The experience scarred him to the point that he lost trust in women in general. He was also suspended from work as a result, reports Unilad.
During these unhappy moments of his life, he found the sweet voice of the virtual singer comforting, which led to him develop a romantic connection to the character. Over the years, Kondo accumulated a large collection of Miku merchandise including a hologram gadget called Gatebox, which projects an interactive Miku hologram.
Whatever reactions or criticisms Kondo will get for his decision, for the time being, it appeared the man couldn’t be happier at this point in his life.
MOTHER REFUSED TO ATTEND WEDDING
Kondo's mother, however, refused an invitation to her only son's wedding in Tokyo/
"For mother, it wasn't something to celebrate," said the soft-spoken Kondo.
In fact, none of Kondo's relatives attended his wedding to Miku - an animated 16-year-old with saucer eyes and lengthy aquamarine pigtails - but that didn't stop him from spending two million yen (S$24,328) on a formal ceremony at a Tokyo hall.
"I never cheated on her, I've always been in love with Miku-san," he said, using a honorific that is commonly employed in Japan, even by friends.
"I've been thinking about her every day," he told AFP a week after the wedding.
Since March, Kondo has been living with a moving, talking hologram of Miku that floats in a US$2,800 desktop device.
"I'm in love with the whole concept of Hatsune Miku but I got married to the Miku of my house," he said, looking at the blue image glowing in a capsule.
"DROP DEAD, CREEPY OTAKU!"
He considers himself an ordinary married man - his holographic wife wakes him up each morning and sends him off to his job as an administrator at a school.
In the evening, when he tells her by cellphone that he's coming home, she turns on the lights. Later, she tells him when it's time to go to bed.
He sleeps alongside the doll version of her that attended the wedding, complete with a wedding ring that fits around her left wrist.
Kondo's marriage might not have any legal standing, but that doesn't bother him. He even took his Miku doll to a jewellery shop to get the ring.
And Gatebox, the company that produces the hologram device featuring Miku, has issued a "marriage certificate", which certifies that a human and a virtual character have wed "beyond dimensions".
Kondo's not alone either: he says Gatebox has issued more than 3,700 certificates for "cross-dimension" marriages and some people have sent him supportive messages.
"There must be some people who can't come forward and say they want to hold a wedding. I want to give them a supportive push," he says.
Kondo's path to Miku came after difficult encounters with women as an anime-mad teenager.
"Girls would say 'Drop dead, creepy otaku!'," he recalled, using a Japanese term for geeks that can carry a negative connotation.
As he got older, he says a woman at a previous workplace bullied him into a nervous breakdown and he became determined never to marry.
In Japan, that wouldn't be entirely unusual nowadays. While in 1980, only one in 50 men had never married by the age of 50, that figure is now one in four.
But eventually Kondo realised he had been in love with Miku for more than a decade and decided to marry her.
A "SEXUAL MINORITY"
"Miku-san is the woman I love a lot and also the one who saved me," he said.
And while Kondo says he is happy to be friends with a "3D woman", he has no interest in romance with one, no matter how much his mother pushes for it.
Two-dimensional characters can't cheat, age or die, he points out.
"I'm not seeking these in real women. It's impossible."
Even in a country obsessed with anime, Kondo's wedding shocked many. But he wants to be recognised as a "sexual minority" who can't imagine dating a flesh-and-blood woman.
"It's simply not right, it's as if you were trying to talk a gay man into dating a woman, or a lesbian into a relationship with a man."
"Diversity in society has been long called for," he added.
"It won't necessarily make you happy to be bound to the 'template' of happiness in which a man and woman marry and bear children."
"I believe we must consider all kinds of love and all kinds of happiness."