In Japan, you can pay private agents called ‘wakaresaseya’ to seduce your spouse or their partner.

In 2010, Takeshi Kuwabara was sentenced for the murder of his lover, Rie Isohata. What captured the world’s imagination was not the tragedy itself, but the fact that Kuwabara was a wakaresaseya – a professional hired by Isohata’s husband to break up their marriage.

The wakaresaseya agent Kuwabara, who was married with children himself, engineered a meeting with Isohata in a supermarket. He claimed to be a single IT worker, which his nerdy, bespectacled appearance may have helped with. The two began an affair, which eventually led to a genuine relationship. Meanwhile, a colleague of Kuwabara’s photographed them in a love hotel, and Isohata’s husband used these photographs as evidence for a divorce. (Such evidence is needed when a Japanese divorce is contested.)

Once Isohata learned of the deception, she angrily attempted to break off the relationship with Kuwabara. Unwilling to let her go, he strangled her with a piece of string. The following year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The wakaresaseya industry took a hit after the killing of Isohata. Along with fraud cases, the tragedy inspired some reform of the industry, including a requirement that private-detective agencies obtain licences. Yusuke Mochizuki, an agent of the “farewell shop” First Group, says that the effects included a clampdown on online advertising of wakaresaseya services, and more suspicion on the part of the public, which made it more challenging for wakaresaseya agents to carry out their work.

Yet a decade on from Rie Isohata’s murder, online ads are back and business appears to be flourishing again, despite the high costs and controversies involved.

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