A lonely Japanese man has been arrested for allegedly calling directory assistance thousands of times because he liked to be scolded by operators.

Takahiro Fujinuma - who is 37, single and unemployed - reportedly would whisper "darling" as he tried to start a conversation and then pleaded with female operators not to hang up.

He was arrested yesterday in Tokyo on charges of obstructing the business of service operator NTT Solco, part of telecom giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone.

He placed 2,600 calls to directory help - reached in Japan by dialling 104 - between early June and mid-November, a police spokesman said.

But Japanese media said he is suspected of starting his habit in 2004 and calling 104 more than 10,000 times.

He reportedly told police that he was lonely and grew to enjoy annoying the operators.

"I would go into ecstasy when a lady scolded me," he was quoted as saying by Jiji Press.

Telephone operators - who in Japan are almost always women - nicknamed him the "don't-hang-up-man".

His calls usually came late and sometimes exceeded 200 times a night, Jiji Press said.