When Ayumi Saito was 22 she broke up with her boyfriend.
But the Tokyo resident found an easy way to fill the void left by her ex lover's departure.
She downloaded a romance gaming app onto her phone, and became one of the millions of women in Japan to swap real life intimacy for a fantasy.
"I felt lonely," says Ito, now 31. "Japanese men are shy and not good at flattering women. But girls want to hear 'I love you'."
The virtual boyfriends she found in games like "Metro PD: Close To You" -- which sees a female detective discover a life-changing romance while fighting crime -- did all the things her former partner hadn't.
在戀愛游戲《Metro PD: Close To You》中，一位女偵探在探案時收獲了一段改變人生的戀情。亞由美西戶在這個游戲中找到了自己的虛擬男友，他能做所有她前任不會做的事。
"When I was tired at the end of the day, before going to sleep, I was so relieved to hear his sweet and gentle words," she tells CNN.
Saito is by no means unusual.
In 2014, the romance gaming industry in Japan was worth $130 million.
In a society where 44.2% of women - almost half of Japan's millennial singles aged between 18 and 34 - are virgins, this industry has seemingly tapped into a deep desire for simulated intimacy in Japan.
The birth of romance gaming
Dating simulation apps first appeared in Japan in the 1980s. Known as "bishoujo" they would generally focus on a male protagonist pursuing pretty anime-style female characters.
In 1994, a team of female coders at Japanese gaming company Koei broke with tradition, launching the first romance game for women, "Angelique". Based on the quest of a blonde teenage girl, who is a candidate to be the next "Queen of the Universe", to choose her perfect suitor, it was wildly successful.
Japanese businesswoman Nanako Higashi and her husband, Yuzi Tsutani, saw a niche in this lucrative sector. So, in the mid-2000s the duo pivoted their punk gaming business, Voltage, to cater to the female audience, debuting their first dating app for women "My Lover is The No.1 Host" in 2006.
Today, Voltage is a world leader in female romance simulation apps, catering to female "otaku" -- intense fans of popular culture, such as anime and manga -- and other curious women.
"It doesn't matter what your type of male would be, you'll find a man that you'll really like (in these games)," says Kukhee Choo, assistant professor of comparative culture at Sophia University, in Tokyo.
"What's unique about the female romance genre is that there are so many men in each game," says Choo, noting that few female characters aside from the protagonist are introduced.
"The strong and selfish men are the most popular," says Higashi. "The most popular characters are strong on the outside and only sometimes sweet for you."