In Japan, wakaresaseya is a term that translates loosely as “the breaker-upper” or “the separator.” Operating as an unusual offshoot of the detective business, he will – for the right price – end an affair, destroy a marriage, or break off an engagement. Parents who don’t like the person their child is dating, spouses who tire of marriage, or lovers who want to best a rival are all potential clients.

Corporations, too, have increasingly turned to these shadowy businessmen as a means of firing someone without a face-to-face encounter. Even TV has gotten in on the act, with a sitcom depicting fictional cases of the shadow men at work.