Hiromi Fukuda, 26, meets her married prey in the Tokyo district of Shinjuku in the late afternoon. Her uniform is "anything short and shiny," to show off her long legs, and a large heart-shaped hairpin that holds back her glossy bangs — and doubles as a tiny camera she operates with a remote in her pocket, snapping photos of her target as he takes her to a seedy hotel. Two more agents hiding nearby click away with telephoto lenses.
Fukuda is a wakaresaseya, a professional "breakup artist." Working for a Tokyo-based detective agency called Secret Shadow, she is hired by wives who want to entrap their husbands and ensure a better divorce settlement. Women initiate 75 percent of Japanese divorces — 27 percent of marriages end in one, a rate that has doubled in the past 15 years — but unless they have hard proof of infidelity or some other wrongdoing, they risk being awarded pitiful payouts by the courts. "Women have had enough of being treated badly," says Fukuda, a psych major who took the seducer job for "the excitement" and the $200,000-a-year salary. "It's the norm in Japan for husbands to cheat, so I don't feel bad about tricking them on behalf of their wives." For $2,500 a week per client, she engineers an innocent first encounter with the husband — sitting next to him in a noodle joint or asking for directions — and then follows through with a second "coincidental" meeting in the street. "I tell them I'm thrilled to see them again, and then suggest we go to a bar," explains the glamorous Fukuda. "They rarely refuse."
The entrapment business is booming. "Ten years ago, there were about 10 wakaresaseya agencies in Tokyo, but now there are too many to count," says Secret Shadow's gruff-voiced owner, Michio Hasegawa. The industry recently made international headlines when a male agent went to prison for killing his mark, a young Tokyo mother with whom he'd fallen in love and begun an affair in earnest. When she found out who he was and tried to leave, he strangled her with a piece of household twine.
Fukuda claims she never allows herself to get emotionally involved with her clients, but admits she has sex with them when necessary. "It's just part of the job," she says. Still, despite the great pay, she wishes her work were a bit more challenging. "You don't need brains to be a professional seducer," she laments. "All you need is for the man's brains to be in his pants, and nine times out of 10 they are."