It started with an e-mail from my editor: "Get yr (sic) camera ready. Online Dating Minus Ugly People is coming to Japan. Thinking Lifestyle page trend piece. Ready for the money shot?"

Online dating minus ugly people is the premise behind, described by a spokesperson as "an elite online social networking tool for beautiful people." The Web site was devised in Denmark in 2003 as a way to weed out the bad-lookers that bedevil other dating sites. The concept has since spread to 12 other countries, including, since September of this year, Japan.

The application system is ruthless: submit a photograph, write a profile, then wait 72 hours while members of the site rate your attractiveness on a four-point scale ranging from "Yes, definitely" to "No way." Nature's finest specimens receive a welcoming e-mail and can begin networking with similarly agreeable people; meanwhile, the vast majority are mercilessly erased from the site. It's Facebook plus Darwinian selection multiplied by beauty pageant.