Lonely Japanese Women Sleep With 'Boyfriend Pillow'

After a long night at work as a radio DJ, Junko Suzuki likes to snuggle at bedtime — and she says she's found the perfect partner: a man-shaped pillow.

Linen maker Kameo Corp.'s new "Boyfriend's Arm Pillow (search)" — which consists of a headless torso and a stuffed arm that curls around the sleeper — might make some people uneasy.

But not Suzuki, or about 1,000 others in Japan who have bought the pillow, which Kameo says is the first of its kind. The product went on the market last December.

"I like to sleep holding someone's hand," Suzuki, 34. "And this pillow makes me feel relaxed because I can hold the arm and feel something warm at my side."

Kameo, based in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka (search), says the pillow is not only an emotional comfort, but that its shape keeps the body balanced by supporting the sleeper from both sides.

Sleepers typically curl up in between the body of the pillow and the crooked arm, with the sleeper's head resting on the pillow's "bicep."

"My grandmother used to say that there is nothing more comfortable pillow than human," said Kameo President Tomoki Kakehashi. "So, I thought that maybe women would want to sleep on an arm-shaped pillow."

The pillow is only on sale in Japan, where customers can buy one for US$80 (Japanese Yen 8,500). Covered in a shirt-shaped pillow cover, it comes in blue, pink or green.

For Suzuki, who is estranged from her husband, the pillow has definite advantages: It doesn't squirm or thrash in the night, and you know it'll be there in the morning.

"It keeps holding me all the way through," she said in her home outside of Tokyo. "I think this is great because this does not betray me."

One-size pillows do not fit all.

So Kameo is working up new models: muscular pillows for sleepers who like their pillows well-built; slender models for those after a more sensitive, vulnerable partner.

The company also has a prototype for its next big project: a female pillow for men. This one will be shaped like a woman's lap, with a "skirt" cover.

"I always thought someone's lap would the best pillow for me," said Kakehashi.