The late all-reality-TV network Fox Reality Channel used to have a family-themed variant on Cheaters called Sex Decoy: Love Stings. In the show, a mother and her daughters, all of whom worked for the Arizonan PI firm Mate Check Private Investigations, would try and trap men who were thought to be cheats into flirting, or maybe some light making out. (The uncomfortable “mother pimping out her own flesh and blood” overtones aside, I have to say that watching the squirming men can be sort of fun. But I like Cheaters, too.) In Japan, a similar service is performed by people known as “wakaresase-ya” (splitter-uppers), only there’s one crucial difference, which is in part brought on by the country’s adversity to the idea of a no-fault divorce: These people are not afraid to really go there when it comes to shaking a client free of someone undesirable.
The function of the wakaresase-ya is the direct opposite of a dating agency: with great ingenuity, and the right fee, they will prise apart human relationships. Do you have a troublesome ex-boyfriend who won’t leave you alone? A beloved son who is getting engaged to an unsuitable girl? A dead-loss employee who refuses to take the hint and retire? All of these difficult situations can be resolved by the splitter-uppers.
The broken-hearted ex will be visited by the girl’s “new boyfriend”, a muscular gangster-type who explains why he would be wise to nurse his broken heart alone. The undesirable daughter-in-law-to-be will be lured into a drunken one-night stand with a handsome and mysterious man who appears from nowhere – photographs of their tryst will find their way to her fiancé. The stubborn employee will find himself confronted with evidence of gambling debts, or nights in massage parlours – and resign to avoid embarrassment. In each case, the dirty work – of threatening, seducing and investigating – has been done by a splitter-upper.
The wakaresase-ya profiled here has some 150 employees of all ages and walks of life, including porn actors (who take the entrapment all the way to the bedroom, another thing that their U.S. counterparts would not do on camera) and homemakers. Surely there is at least an aspiring screenwriter or two on staff as well, because man would this make for quite the HBO drama in which each episode is a self-contained story arc, no?