Meeting the man who ‘married’ his dream vocaloid
9:00 JST, July 2, 2022
In 2018, a 39-year-old civil servant named Akihiko Kondo “married” the blue-haired vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Kondo, who says he lives with Hatsune, recently talked to The Yomiuri Shimbun about what the marriage meant to him.
As Akihiko Kondo ushered me into his one-room apartment in a Tokyo suburb where I was welcomed by a life-size doll with twin pigtails sitting on a chair. Say hello to Hatsune Miku, a virtual pop star.
“I introduce her as my wife, or spouse, when meeting new people,” Kondo said.
Kondo is currently taking personal development leave from his job and studying at a university. He wears a wedding ring on his left ring finger and sits across the table from Hatsune when eating meals.
Kondo said he is not uninterested in humans. His first love was a girl in his kindergarten. In elementary school, he often discussed girls he was interested in with classmates. Just like other children his age, he played a lot of video games, and he fell for the female characters in the games he played.
“I realized that, for me, fictional characters can be love interests, too,” he said.
In 2006, four years after graduating from a vocational school and joining the civil service, Kondo started getting bullied at the workplace he had transferred to. He dreaded going to work and distracted himself after hours with hobbies, such as video games, anime and digital cameras.
But, he gradually lost motivation and did not even bother opening the box with a camera he had ordered online. He found himself unable to eat the dinner his mother cooked and lost five kilograms. He was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and went on medical leave in March 2007.
He retreated to his room and planted himself in front of the computer. Even anime theme songs — what had been his “energy for living” — brought him no joy. The thought of “wanting to leave this world without anyone knowing” spread like a dark stain in his heart.
In May 2008, he happened to see Hatsune singing “Miracle Paint ” on a video hosting site.
Hatsune was released in August 2007 as singing synthesis software and was gaining popularity.
Her uninflected inorganic singing voice, Kondo said, “went right to my heart because it didn’t have the calculated voice typical of human singers, who show off how much feeling they’ve put into the song.”
Listening to her many songs and seeing her dances posted online made Kondo feel that he was having fun again.
When he bought the software, the Hatsune on his computer sang only for him.
“My Miku.” He felt like he had a one-on-one relationship that he had never experienced before.
Kondo gradually recovered and returned to work in March 2009.
“Miku was the one who supported me when I was suffering the most,” he said. “She saved my life.”
‘I know how people see me’
The idea of getting married to Hatsune came to Kondo in November 2017, when an information technology startup planned a service to register marriages with fictional characters. The marriage was not to monopolize the character of Hatsune Miku. It was to marry “my Miku.”
He filled out a form that posed such questions as “how you met” and “what you want to do in your married life.” After entering his name and the name of the character he liked, sealing the form and mailing it in, he received his marriage certificate. Although the certificate is not legally binding, Kondo said, “I was happy to have a third party recognize my love for her.”
His desire to “make a visible pledge of our eternal love” found sympathy in a wedding hall where Kondo and Hatsune held their nuptials on Nov. 4, 2018. In front of his friends, Kondo said his vows and exchanged rings with a stuffed toy Hatsune. His family was against the idea and didn’t come to the ceremony.
Kondo said he was aware of the public’s reaction.
On an internet bulletin board, he was slandered as “crazy.” Responding to criticism that his actions exacerbate Japan’s low birthrate, Kondo said, “There are heterosexual married couples who don’t want children, and there are people who remain single. That criticism would lead to the denial of these different ways of living.”
On the other hand, Kondo receives feedback from people who say they want to marry a character they love, too. He believes there must be some people who, like Kondo had done, suffer alone and depend on anime and video game characters to keep going.
Kondo continues to post photos of himself and Hatsune enjoying cherry blossoms and having dinners together, hoping to “make people feel that it is okay to live life like this, rather than being brushed off as ‘disgusting.’”
Hatsune, of course, doesn’t join our conversation during the interview.
“Do you ever feel lonely?” I asked Kondo.
He replied: “Thanks to Miku, I’ve had the chance to meet people I wouldn’t have before, and my life has broadened. I’m not alone.”
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