Breaking up with your lover can be tough. What's even tougher is trying to win back the heart of a lost love who's moved on with his or her life without you. Is it possible?
"Give us three months or so, and we can certainly give it a shot," said Yoshiko Okawa, the president of Ladies Secret Service, a private detective agency in Tokyo.
A decade ago, a 30-something Japanese housewife wanted her husband to break up with his mistress. She hired Ladies Secret Service.
The detectives provided evidence of the affair, thinking it was part of an effort to win a higher divorce settlement. But the client added a twist.
"She said to us, although our job is over, her battle has only begun," said Okawa.
"She said her wish was not necessarily to break up with her husband, who was the father of her child," said Okawa. "She wanted to live happily with him -- as we often say in Japanese, to live together until their hair turns gray, meaning forever."
That incident led Okawa to a new line of work: reuniting couples. Some shy Japanese find their way to services like Okawa's to be reunited with their ex-partners -- someone they find difficult to let go of.
Many of Okawa's clients are women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. "Some people just find it hard to move on after a tough breakup, and they would do just about anything to have another opportunity with that special person," Okawa said.
"Sometimes you don't realize how important someone is until that person is out of your life," she said.
When someone turns to the agency to win the heart of a lost love, it selects agents from its pool of more than 200 and tailors a scheme to bring the client and his or her former partner, or "target," together.
Each scenario is crafted carefully to suit the individual. "No scenario is like any other," said Okawa, who once was an agent. "We spend a lot of time -- up to one month -- studying the client and their target. We then try to come up with a way to create a natural setting for reunification."
The trained agents often approach the target and become friendly.
As the target and the agent get acquainted, the agent starts to work his or her magic -- drop a good word about the client or create a "happening" with the client and target running into each other.
The target has no idea that the agent, or new friend, is actually hired by a former partner. The agents stress good points about the client to make the target regret the breakup.
The agents are hired for the duration of a project, which can last for a few months. The fees can run up to about $7,000 a month.
"We once had a woman who spent a little more than $20,000," Okawa said. "That was money she had saved for her wedding. I am not sure if she had the wedding she wanted, but she did get the guy back and they eventually got married."
Okawa said the ages and background of the agents vary. "We train them for up to one month. We basically want them to be personable."
Maintaining one's composure is another trait often looked for in agents.
"We sometimes send our trainees to a busy department store with a big lion's statue," said Okawa. "We tell them to stick their hand in the lion's mouth and keep standing for a few hours."