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Japan: It's faketastic

From fake European villages to sex dolls, how Japan creates imitations that are even better than the real thing.

“My theory is that it's the Disneyland effect,” said Adam, in a cafe in Yokohama, with his priest robe in a suit bag next to him. “[The] majority of people in Japan love going to Disneyland.”

Both Disneyland Tokyo and Western-style weddings, he says, tap into the same romantic fantasy.

According to Yu Moriyama, a marketing specialist from Osaka, Japanese people love to fantasize and dream of living in a perfectly romantic world. “They see nicely photoshopped images of Europe in magazines and online and create their own fantasy world looking at the photos,” said Moriyama. “And it sometimes disappoints them when they actually visit the country and see the real thing.”

This acute state of disillusion, or “Paris Syndrome” — coined by professor Hiroaki Ota, a Japanese psychiatrist working in France — affects many Japanese tourists who visit France every year, but about a dozen each year have to be hospitalized with severe symptoms such as hallucinations and anxiety coming from delusions of being a victim of prejudice and hostility.

Moriyama said his countrymen like to take the best parts of Europe and recreate them in Japan partly for that reason. “If it's artificial, everything's clean and beautiful,” he said. “It doesn't ruin the fantasy world and one can keep dreaming.”