Prosthetic Sociality: Taking Your Virtual Girlfriend to Atami

by Shiori Nabeshima

In chapter four of Precarious Japan, Anna Alison uses the term “prosthetic sociality” to express recent Japanese circumstances. Many people are tired of having intimacy with others, so they tend to seek intimacy from robots or digital games. She says “robots to render the human touch and intersubjective sensitivity of person-to-person relationship” therefore “the robot needs its own heart”.

Although there are people who are absorbed in digital games, they seem to depend on the intimacy from games not because they want to feel necessity. They think that they can replace the relationship between humans with games. Besides, the digital intimacy is easier and more controllable than human relationships.

View of Atami

View of Atami (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The TV program ‘Bankisha’ introduced the recent trend of games and young Japanese Otaku. Now, the games which can make girlfriends in smart phones or DS have become famous. Love Plus is one of the games in which the user can choose a heroin as girlfriend and can date the girlfriend in the city of Atami. Therefore many Otaku who play Love Plus visit Atami with their digital girlfriend. All of them who were on screen seemed to enjoy dating their girlfriend. Allison mentions that the prosthetic sociality makes people more likely to be alone. Although they seem to give up having an intimacy with people, they seem to not feel alone.

I personally think that they prefer having a girlfriend in a game to having real girlfriend because they had some kind of trouble with relationships with people in the past. In the real communication, we need to think and care about others but we don’t need to care about digital girlfriend or characters because they don’t complain to us and we can control them. That is why many Japanese feel “the kind of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying.” So if the prosthetic presence gives their own heart and becomes no different as human, it doesn’t make sense to them. By my sense of value, although I can’t accept that human intimacy and digital intimacy are same, they just

Perhaps this trend that people give up having intimacy with humans and replacing it with prosthetic presence is more dangerous and complicated than what she thinks, because the person who wants to feel necessity perhaps can change their mind with human relationship. But the person who is already satisfied with digital relationship won’t try to have intimacy with humans.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

バンキシャ カンシキ「アニメで町おこし」