Rejoice, single travelers.
Traveling alone during the Christmas holidays can be less gloomy -- provided you take the advice of Keisuke Jinushi. Earlier this year, Keisuke, a 28-year-old freelance Japanese photographer and writer, gained Internet fame with a set of curious Instagram photos capturing him in various settings with his "girlfriend."
The images depicted a young lady feeding Keisuke and even lovingly wiping ketchup from his face.
The twist? "She" was actually Keisuke.
All the photos were single-handedly shot by the unattached Keisuke, with no girlfriend or anyone else involved.
How -- and why -- he did it
Keisuke was sick of seeing people with lovebirds in tow. So he invented his own.
Keisuke started blogging about how to create fake couples photos two years ago. He calls the practice the "hitori date" or "one-man date."
In an early post he wrote: "Photos (one takes) while traveling alone may make one feel lonely and sad when you look at them. So I recommend the 'hitori date photo' technique. Looking at these photos makes me feel blissful."
Anxious to uncover the secrets of his bizarre success, CNN tracked down Keisuke. In the process, we found an engaging spirit who may just be the most amusing and honest blogger in Japan.
CNN: Where did the idea for the "one-man date" photos come from?
Keisuke Jinushi: Sometimes I go to cafes on my own, just to kill time.
When I look around, I see couples spoon-feeding each other. I then have a strong feeling -- I want this too!
In order to have that, I needed a girlfriend, but I didn't have one. I was distressed.
The platform (Daily Portal) where I started my blog gathers lots of writers who write on their interests.
I asked myself, what's my interest? "A girlfriend!"
Since then I have been blogging my feelings about it. Unexpectedly, it's been well received -- everyone wants a lover!
CNN: What kind of responses do you get?
Keisuke Jinushi: Most readers comment it's "interesting" or "fun." Some people want to copy my style.
Some say, "I hope you can get a real girlfriend."
Although there are female readers leaving comments, none of them have said, "Let me be your girlfriend."
What a grim world!
CNN: What do your friends and family think?
Keisuke Jinushi: My male friends say, "You seem happy!"
But my grandma said she burst into tears after reading my blog because her grandson seems pathetic in these photos.
CNN: What are the essentials for one-man date travel photo?
Keisuke Jinushi: First of all, don't be shy.
I include a step-by-step, pictured guide on my blog.
I have to bring a tripod with me. That's embarrassing and my heart still races whenever I [take hitori date photos].
Taking a picture on your own may be embarrassing, but think about all the jealousy you'll get after uploading it on SNS -- for that sake, just bear the embarrassment.
You should also observe what couples do, then practice at home on your own.
But in order to take the perfect "hitori date" photo, the biggest trick is not having a girlfriend in the first place. You won't have to take "hitori date" photos if you've got a girlfriend.
CNN: Anything embarrassing ever happen during a shoot?
Keisuke Jinushi: Once I was taking "hitori date" shots in a café. A man asked me, "What are you doing?"
I didn't know how to respond, so I told him, "It's art."
He tilted his head after hearing what I said.
It was embarrassing even though I didn't start the conversation.
CNN: Wigs are a big part of your "art."
Keisuke Jinushi: I'm always taking pictures with wigs, so I stock a lot of wigs at my place.
Recently I started calling them "my girlfriend."
CNN: Are you a traveler? Which way do you prefer to travel -- alone or in group?
Keisuke Jinushi: I travel mostly on my own or with my editor.
I want to go on group travel! That would be my goal for next year.
CNN: What are the most ideal places to travel for singles? The worst?
Keisuke Jinushi: The most suitable place [for loners] would be Japan.
Many Japanese couples are so shy so they only hold hands.
The worst place for singles is France.
Couples are kissing everywhere. It makes you feel so jealous and it's even more painful for you to be on your own.
If you are single, please come to Japan!
CNN: Any Christmas photo tips?
Keisuke: The best way is to get a real girlfriend!
This is hard for me, so I'm always thinking about "hitori date."
Now I'm experimenting with "kissing photos," but most likely I can't get it done by Christmas. So it's going to be a lonely Christmas for me.
In fact, even if I find the way to take "kissing photos," I'm still facing a lonely Christmas on my own.
CNN: Any message for single souls around the world?
Keisuke: Don't be ashamed of being single.
Rather, you should be puffed up with pride and say, "Yes I am on my own."
You should act like it's normal to be alone. Then the world will be slightly brighter.
And stay out as long as possible to avoid feeling lonely at home.