Keisuke Jinushi was tired of seeing social-networking snapshots of his friends with their girlfriends, at weddings or with their newborn children. He was single and felt like time was slipping away for him while everyone else was happily moving on with life. He wanted what they had, and to flaunt it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So, he decided to do something about it: He created an imaginary girlfriend.
The girlfriend gave him attention. She went on dates with him. She even fed him food. And to prove it, Jinushi went to unusual lengths to take selfies with her, which he posted on social-networkng services to show his friends. Everything was fake, but he succeeded in creating a whole new life for himself.
In his book “Moso Kanojo (Imaginary Girlfriend),” published last October by Tetsujinsya, Jinushi, 29, illustrates this dream world full of love, excitement and success on the top half of each page, while on the bottom half, he reveals the sad and lonely reality. The selfies occupy the top columns, while below a wider shot reveals, in detail, how he staged them.
“I wanted people to think that I have a very fulfilling life and I wanted them to become envious,” he says, recalling how the project started. “I wanted to go to a reunion and boast about my life — although, actually, I never get invited to attend in the first place.”
For this recent interview, Jinushi arrives fully prepared. From a plastic bag, he pulls out his “selfie kit”: a bottle of blood-red nail polish, liquid foundation, cosmetic powder, nail-polish remover, cleanser and a scrunchy. Then, with the ease of a makeup artist, he starts applying the foundation and nail polish to his right hand.
With just a little bit of makeup and color, Jinushi’s hand becomes feminine and elegant.
“I came up with the idea of using foundation and nail polish from the start —they make my hand look fair,” Jinushi says, as he dusts powder over his right hand to prevent an oily sheen. “But it isn’t easy trying to do all of this with your left hand.”
Once everything is set, he breaks off a piece of a doughnut and picks it up with his carefully-made-up right hand, holding it up close to his face. With his left hand, he points his smart phone toward himself and poses: a dreamy expression and a wide, open-mouthed smile. There it is — a happy boyfriend being fed a doughnut by his “girlfriend.”
“The key to a good photograph is to smile but you need to feign a bit of self-consciousness because your “girlfriend” is taking the photo,” Jinushi explains. “When I take these photographs, I really become ‘the boyfriend’ — in a way it is like acting.”
In his fantasy world, Jinushi is a top employee at an advertisement firm. He has a pet dog and loves to read Russian literature written by authors such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nikolai Gogol. He fell in love with a woman who he randomly met while walking his dog, and he proposed to her on a private beach in Hawaii. They are now married and blessed with a daughter.
He is a “not-very-busy” freelance writer and photographer, who is petrified of dogs of all sizes and who couldn’t get through more than 10 pages of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” Still single, he says he stays at home a lot and doesn’t have many friends.
Jinushi’s alter-ego’s adventure began a few years ago while on a business trip to Fukui Prefecture. It was the dead of winter and he was cold and lonely, when he saw a statue of a woman. He took a selfie with the statue and noticed that the photo looked like he was with a girlfriend. From then on, he called himself a “lonely-dating master,” carefully staging and uploading selfies that made him look like he was the happiest man in the world, enjoying life with what appeared to be a loving girlfriend.
His imagination took his online followers on journeys. A beach in Ota Ward became Hawaii — a pina colada-like drink in one hand and a colorful lei around his neck. A wall inside a local station became that of a posh venue for his wedding. Even a cold, local river appeared as a private onsen hot-spring resort — all it needed was a wooden bucket, towel and glasses “fogged” over with white paper. To be seen waking up in a skyscraper apartment, he dressed in his pajamas and took a mug with him on a trip to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building observation deck.
Although he never admits on Instagram or Facebook that the idyllic life is imaginary, he has always been honest about it elsewhere — even writing an amusing regular column about the reality for the online publication Daily Portal Z.
It all sounds like the strange activities of a very lonely, unhappy dreamer, but in person, Jinushi seems perfectly happy composing his fantasy world and thinking up with more ideas on how his alter-ego’s “life” develops.
His family, on the other hand, were not so thrilled. Jinushi asked his father to wear a suit and show up at his local station, where he was greeted by Jinushi wearing a tuxedo. Confused, his father kept asking him what the photo was for, and Jinushi could only reply, “It’s for a wedding.” His grandmother actually wept when she read his book and his younger brother, to this day, refuses to buy the book.
Jinushi says he loves doing what he does, but that it doesn’t come without its dark moments.
“When I am editing the photos at night, a dark shadow comes over me. I see photos on Facebook of my friends’ real lives, with their real children and I ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’ ” he says. “But I can’t turn back now.”
Having been single for three to four years, Jinushi says he’s still looking for a girlfriend, though he acknowledges that his current job and lifestyle is not exactly attractive to women. In fact, he admits that women often find him “creepy,” while his few friends say they can’t tell which parts of his online life are true anymore.
Instead of calling it quits, however, he expresses excitement about the successful future of his imaginary life.
“The definition of a successful life to me is not just about having a girlfriend but also building your own home, having a family and becoming the president of a company — so I will continue taking pictures that make it seem like I’ve achieved those things,” he says. “I know people might say, why don’t you try and actually do something about it, but the fact is, for me it’s too much of an effort.”